Activity Trackers – Fad or Actively Useful?

activity trackers


Get on board and join the Body Refinery team in the challenge to move 10,000 steps a day for 28 days, starting on 4 September.

You’ll get fitter, sleep better and feel great. So put on your activity trackers and be part of Steptember.



Want to do more? Register at and turn your steps into dollars by getting friends and family to donate to you, raising funds towards supporting kids and adults with cerebral palsy.

This month, make every step count!<


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This event made us wonder if the activity trackers were fad or actively useful? Susan Cottrell, physiotherapist and owner of The Body Refinery and The Body Refinery Online, led the investigation.

Activity trackers are all the rage at the moment – as I look around The Body Refinery studio, I see at least 1/3 of our clients wearing them… and now I do too! I am often asked what benefits an activity tracker has over a basic pedometer, which is significantly cheaper. Here are some of my thoughts.


How I discovered activity trackers

I first started wearing an activity tracker about 4 years ago, specifically to track my sleep. At the time, I was sleeping about 7 hours a night, but waking up feeling as though I could still sleep another 7 hours (this was prior to discovering my hypothyroidism and other hormonal imbalances that appear to have been the cause of my fatigue). Due to my fatigue, I wanted to see if it was the quality of my sleep that was the problem. Tracking the quantity and quality of sleep is an important additional feature of most activity trackers. Sleep is vital overall health, so better awareness of it can be an important part of understanding your own wellness.

When I began tracking my sleep, I wasn’t really using the activity tracker to monitor the number of steps I was walking each day and would often forget to wear it during the day, for a range of reasons including that the model I had wasn’t waterproof, needed regular charging, and wasn’t good-looking enough to suit every occasion. Eventually, it just stopped charging altogether and I just didn’t bother to get another one – FAIL!


Which one should we buy?

>About 2 years ago, I was attending a lecture by Brent Anderson on the importance of activity. I felt inspired to limit my sedentary behaviour, and this leads me to reinvestigate what movement trackers were on the market, and to buy one that suited my specific lifestyle and interests. There are now numerous types on the market and each of them has slightly different functions. If you are going to get one, consider how you want to use it. I first start using one called Bellabeat and I am now using an Apple iWatch. I like it because all my data and results are synchronised with my phone. So, as with anything, it is important to research your product and identify your specific needs prior to purchasing.

It wasn’t until a few months ago when I was re-reading a book by one of my favourite authors, Katy Bowman, called ‘Move your DNA’, that I started to fully appreciate that even if you go to the gym for an hour each day, then spend the rest of the day sitting at your desk, you are still considered ‘sedentary’. Humans are moving less and less and even though the idea of exercise is becoming more prevalent, it isn’t really changing our long-term health outcomes. Chronic disease is still increasing… More on this in another blog at another time


Track your steps

So, I finally started wearing my activity tracker every day, and despite going for a 40 minute walk each morning, doing Pilates regularly, going to the gym, and having a job that requires me to stand for much of the day, I usually wasn’t hitting the recommended 10,000 steps a day for basic wellness!

My Activity tracker alerted me to how little I was moving – not exercising – moving.  So I have set myself a goal to move 15,000 steps a day and to do this I have to practice what I preach, and walk instead of drive, and get up from my desk regularly and move around. I have to change my mindset and not think of walking as time-consuming, but rather a necessity for my long-term health.


I believe activity trackers can be very beneficial, even if just for the purpose of giving me a shock (not literally) into how much more sedentary I am on most days that I realise. This awareness gives me the power to change.




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