Do you have a Fitbit, Jawbone, Garmin, Misfit or another wearable device?

If you or a loved one is thinking about getting a fitness tracker this holiday season, or if you just got one, there are a few things to keep in mind…something the fitness tracker brands have no real incentive to remind you when you start increasing your activity.

The Fitness of Wearable Tech

The New York Times recently ran an article called “Assessing the Fitness of Wearable Tech.”

The article brings up the topic of sustainable behavior change, as well as the idea that those who have fitness trackers are the people who least need a technological push to improve their health. Experts cited in the article said, “The individuals who might have the most to gain from these devices are likely to be older and less affluent,” they wrote, including those who are currently sedentary or have a chronic ailment that could benefit from more activity.

Too Much Too Soon?

As wearable tech went from fringes to the mainstream, we’re seeing some interesting findings such as those The New York Times brings up. These are especially important to examine as the New Year approaches and people begin to set new, ambitious health and fitness goals for themselves.

As the number of people using digital wearables/trackers increases, I have seen a definite uptick in overuse injuries due to “unfit” people getting a wearable, and then ramping up their activity too quickly, as seen by stress fractures of the metatarsals, plantar fasciitis, posterior tibialis tendon ruptures, Achilles tendinitis, etc.

Other critics have also chimed in, suggesting that sometimes the idea of a health tracker may be good in theory, but in reality, it doesn’t help people actually change their habits for good, or help them necessarily listen to their bodies.

Forget About the Quantified Self…We Need to Get Back to the Basics

This issue of overuse injuries is really a two-part issue. First, many of these people have calves that are too tight as indicated in this article.

Calf stretching is very important for people, no matter the sport or activity they take on. The ultimate goal would be for us all to stretch our calves everyday so that we can prevent the majority of foot and ankle problems before they occur. Your calf muscle and Achilles tendon are a continuous structure on the back of the leg, which in turn causes increased stress on most areas of your foot and ankle when the calf is too tight.

Second, I see many people who pick a level and are hell bent on keeping up with that level of exercise, or that number of steps taken, etc. While tracking our behaviors is certainly a good idea to help hold ourselves accountable, people need the ability to set achievable goal they can slowly build up to.

When you first get a wearable tech devicestrongly consider a ramp-up mode before you harm yourself. 

Although we’ve seen some talk of it on blogs and in community’s online, it’s too bad this notion isn’t more strongly suggested by more of the tech brands so people are more likely to ease into a training regimen more gradually.

Gadgets Won’t Ever Tell Us to Slow Down or Rest

While wearables can give us great feedback, they can’t tell us about our actual state of health and fitness, or if we are putting stress on the body in ways that may lead to overuse injuries. (And let’s face it, many people need to start increasing their activity much more gradually, which no device will tell you to do!) Our recommendation is this: assess your real state of fitness and health, and start slower. Even if you receive texts or alerts that indicate your activity is down, remember the long-term goals you have in place.

Last, don’t forget to stretch your calves, separate from exercise…Otherwise, you get to see me.