We all want to lead a healthy lifestyle but can too much technology be problematic? This past Tuesday, Erica and I covered 12 personal health monitoring devices for the health 2.0 lifestyle. In today’s post, let’s talk about real user experience: the good, the bad, and the gimmicky.


In an article posted on AllThingsD.com, Andy Smith, CEO of IAC-owned DailyBurn, told reporter Lauren Goode that today’s fitness tracking devices border on gimmicks: “I feel like these are not quite a gimmick, but are close to it...You get people to spend $100 to $150 bucks on something that’s just a glorified accelerometer—which, by the way, you have in your phone, too.”

Smith’s company, the Daily Burn (once upon a time known as Gyminee), is a fitness-data-tracking company that pivoted to focus primarily on fitness content because data tracking just wasn’t all that effective.

“[Data tracking devices] do help a small subset of people,” Smith said. “You find that there are type-A personalities that like to track everything, and that’s great. For others, it might give them a little jump start. But the value proposition of those devices after the first few weeks goes way down.”

Speaking of type-A, what happens when fun (or possibly gimmicky) technology becomes an obsession? We’ve all seen the classic signs of smartphone addiction, so it’s not too far of a stretch to predict that even this well-meaning, seemingly beneficial health monitoring technology can become almost destructive. Beth Teitell, writer for the Boston Globe, writes that her Fitbit does more than just track her activity, it rules her life. “On days I don't walk enough, I've caught myself saying ‘Fitbit is not going to be happy,’ as if the $100 gadget is my supervisor in a sales job, its compensation based on my success,” she writes.

And, what was once a perfectly amiable husband-and-wife partnership has turned into a serious competition of who can amass more steps. “I've gotten to the point where I don't even feel that I've worked out unless Fitbit is there to measure my efforts,” Beth laments. “It's the modern version of the old question about a tree falling in the woods, I guess. If a woman spends an entire day walking around the San Diego Zoo with her children, but forgot to charge her Fitbit, did she get any exercise?”

However, Retrofit CEO Jeff Hyman and panelists from Retrofit, WeightWatchers.com, FitBit, University of Miami Health Systems, and MapmyFitness say an addiction to being healthy isn’t always a bad thing. They believe a holistic approach to weight loss can positively drive healthy behaviors.

“With two-thirds of the nation overweight, we need to look at what we can do to create sustainable results,” said Jeff Hyman. “Technology gives us the tools for our teams of experts to analyze data and assist our clients on their journeys to health."

Personally, we’re bit gaga about all these health 2.0 gadgets. As fitness and technology nuts, we love seeing all these monitoring devices. However, we’re also huge proponents of evidence-based practice. Thus, we’d really like to see some research to back up all the pomp surrounding the gadgetry. Hopefully, they’ll hit the journals soon—maybe before it’s time to make our New Year’s resolutions. (If you’ve come across any studies, please share!)

What do you think of the debate around health monitoring devices? Are they gimmicky, obsession-causing, or just plain useful?

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