Lifestyle

TMI, Apple Watch: Why you don’t really need all that data from wearables

In other words, the device alone will not make your workouts easier or improve your sleep cycles. But it can help you identify trends in your exercise regimen and track your progress if you are trying to improve.

Researchers who have studied the impact of wearables on behaviour have indeed found a correlation between using them and increased movement. But, Prof Bassett added, there is a sense of accountability when researchers are around.

“Wearables are very good at changing behaviour if they are done in the context of a physical activity intervention study,” said Prof Bassett, who has long studied wearables.

That desire to impress people could also be beneficial, according researchers.

The Strava app, which tracks workouts and allows users to share their activities, has become ubiquitous for just that. Competitive runners and cyclists often joke: “If it’s not on Strava, did it happen?”

Can they make you a better athlete?

The challenge for athletes looking to up their game with data is finding the type of information that is most helpful, and determining how often they need to reference it.

For professionals and those who are new to working out, less is more.

“A beginner and a professional athlete often use the devices incredibly similarly,” said Mr Darian Allberry, head of user engagement at Coros, a Global Positioning System (GPS) watch company.

They want to know how far they have gone and how fast they have travelled. Beyond that, extra data can be distracting, he added.

Sara Hall, a professional marathon runner competing in the US Olympic marathon trials, recently threw away her GPS watch mid-race to avoid distraction.

Similarly, for beginner runners, it is more important to learn to listen to your body’s signals – fatigue, aches, bursts of energy – than to track your pace or heart rate.

It is middle-of-the-pack athletes – runners and bikers looking to hit a personal best or reach a new milestone – who might get the biggest benefits from wearables, Mr Allberry said.

If you are hoping to run a faster marathon and want to try moderating your pace based on heart rate “zones”, for example, a wearable can help you do so. Bikers who plan their training based on power zones could also use a tracker.

If you buy one, though, be sure it fits your needs.

But if you are just trying to get out the door more, a device’s data dump probably is not entirely necessary, said Dr Ethan Weiss, a physician at the University of California, San Francisco.

“We have this attachment to data. We all love data,” Dr Weiss said. “We love to measure things for the sake of measuring things.”

Sometimes, he tells his patients that a different item attached at your wrist could better pull you towards more activity.

“Have you considered getting a dog?” he said. NYTIMES



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