Fitness bands- Is there a flip side?

2 weeks ago I wrote a post about how buying a fitness bad has helped me remain committed to my fitness regime, so much that its become a part of my daily routine just like sleeping or eating. I do feel more energetic, optimistic and can see the visible change in my body. The aim was not as much to lose weight as it was to get more resilient and make exercise a part of my routine given the sedentary lifestyle I otherwise lead.

Today I wanted to talk about the seldom talked about side of being a fitness enthusiast and using fitness bands to motivate you keep up your routine. Surprised? How could there be something negative about using a device thats constantly motivating you to do your best? I too would have shrugged this away a few months ago. But slowly and surely I realised that there is indeed a hidden side of fitness devices where not all is optimistic.

Let me start with a simple example. The aim of the device is to ensure one exercises daily, stands and walks regularly throughout the day and burns calories with all the walking, exercising, running. The more you do , the more rewards you earn- the watch will send you some super awesome messages saying you did so well by smashing all your goals, you earn awards for meeting the 3 goals (exercise, calories burned and stand goals) each day. If you close your 3 rings throughout the week with no break day you get some brownie points in the form of awards which glow on your watch and make your feel great. But it doesn’t stop there- there are monthly goals too. Go hit them. Like I had a goal in November 2020 of burning 17,560 calories which was roughly 580 calories a day. Thats pretty doable for week days but weekends is when I usually take it slow, at least one day out of the 2. Then there are days when I have to meet friends, or go the bank or take my daughter out. Though not frequent , with Corona and the rarity of going out, but there is a day at least a month or two sometimes when I step out. Add to it the body not feeling at its best, which is again rare but I do experience it once a month at least when I have my periods and exercise is the last thing I would want to do. It would be pushing myself when my body is not ready and its important to respect the boundaries of our body and listen to it.

So coming back to the 17,580 calories I managed to achieve the goal in fact about 6 days before the deadline as I ended up burning 700+ calories a few times during week days. I was thrilled! I had pushed myself further and isn’t that how its supposed to be- break your own record, challenge your limits and up your fitness quotient.

Come January 2021 and I was eagerly waiting for my new Monthly goal from Apple. This time it was about burning 20,800 calories in Jan which sounded insane. It was about 680 calories per day. I braced myself up, given I had never failed at any monthly goals so far in 2020, this being the first year of the month, I had to ace it. But I fell sick, I was down with body ache after a body massage which went horrible wrong. Then I had some cough and felt sick. I had to stop exercising completely for a few days and when I got back it had to be slow. I had lost a few days and to achieve the goal it meant an insane amount of calories to be burnt each day for the rest of month, something like 750. For the first time I gave up, I chose my sanity over the goal which seemed a bit mindless to be honest. I got back my usual vigour and started exercising, walking and being active per my usual routine but I had the Monthly burden off my chest. I knew I was not making it and it helped me feel less anxious.

I did not get lazy, as I have said earlier I am a self motivated person and do not need to share my activity with others or work out with friends or family at a gym to feel motivated. My biggest motivator is the one whom I look at in the mirror and wink at! So the realisation that I do not need to work towards the goal did not make me slack. I continue to work out each day with the same and at times more intensity than usual. And there are days I take it a bit light, meet my goals but also take time to rest and recoup. I realised the fitness band is meant to push me further but its me who should be in control and decide whats the limit or how much do I want to push my body further. Certainly not to the extent of fatigue and not at cost of my mental peace.

The days when I was not in my best health in early Jan were the most anxious days and the reason for my anxiety was not so much my health but the fact that I was not meeting my goals. It made me sad to the extent that I tried to make up for the lack of exercising by waking more steps. However there was little I could do as exerting myself was coupled with the fear that I may get still more sick. This is when I got curious and started researching about the ill effects of fitness devices and I wasn’t surprised. The internet gave me all the symptoms which I was currently experiencing. It spoke about how these devices aim to alter our lifestyle by making us more active but they are not without their side effects. I read about people who wear these bands to track their sleep and should the band show them a result next morning that they did not sleep well, they are bound to feel fatigued and its very likely affect the next night too. I have used my Apple watch to track my sleep just once and then abandoned the idea as I know for myself how well I slept or did not the night before. I wanted the band off for a few hours.

So do I no longer pay heed to goals? I still do and work towards achieving them as long as I can challenge myself physically when my body is up for it but not at the cost of my mind having to grapple with anxiety. I do feel a bit upset should I have to miss or compromise on my exercise hours due to some other commitments due to which I have to step out of the house early but I do try to get in 30 minutes of exercise and make up on other days. I still have work to do to train myself better at not letting the device influence my mind , I hope to get better in this aspect over time.

If you are a fitness enthusiast and/or use a fitness device have you found. similar pattern? How do you deal with not meeting your goals? I would like to hear your views in the comments section.

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