As a motivated athlete, I never felt the need to track my fitness. I played sports in high school and have been active in college. I never got on the Fitbit train or really wondered how many calories I was burning from a workout. That is, until I took a class on kinesiology, the study of human movement.

Part of the class requirement was to track our exercise for ten days. The point of this activity was to demonstrate how active (or inactive) we were on a daily basis. Each student received a fancy Polar watch (Polar M400) to use for the course. After inputting basic measurements on my online account, like height, weight, age, and daily level of activity, my Polar watch set a daily activity goal. This activity goal could be reached by just walking around a lot, recording exercise, or a combination of both.

When I exercised, I would wear a heart rate monitor that would sync directly to my watch to get better accuracy of the intensity of my workouts. The watch logged numerous statistics, including calories burned, training benefits, and time needed to recover. There was even a GPS feature that allowed me to map my hikes and bike rides. 

The Pros

I used the Polar watch during a variety of activities. I went hiking, did resistance training, and rode a spin bike. During all of my activities, I definitely noticed myself checking my watch to see what heart rate zone I was in. It didn't take away from my workout, but rather made me aware of how hard I was working.

If I had a day where I didn't work out, I was surprised by how much I walked to reach my daily activity goal. I tried to walk to more places so I could get my steps in. I would have to walk around four miles daily to reach my daily activity goal if I did no other activity. There's another side to that, though. On a lazy Sunday when I binge watched Netflix all day in my bed, I only reached 30% of my daily activity goal.

The coolest part of tracking my exercise was looking at my statistics afterwards. After uploading my workouts to the Polar application, I was able to see a full run-down of my workout.

Samantha Aronson

Tracking your fitness can be helpful in a number of ways. It motivated me to hit the gym or just get up and walk around. When I was at the gym, I was determined to take fewer breaks and work harder. If I were to continue doing this long-term, I think it could be helpful to track my progress.

The Cons

I do have to admit that there are some dangers with fitness tracking. It can be really easy to become obsessed with the numbers—how many calories I burned, how high I could get my heart rate, or even just how long I was working out. It's really important to keep in mind that it's not about the exact numbers, but more about being active and healthy. 

Should You Track Your Fitness?

Julia Gilman

It depends on your goals and the type of person you are. I'm still thinking about whether or not I will get my own fitness tracker. Tracking your fitness holds you accountable for being active. It reminds you to lead a healthy lifestyle. But because of the type of person that I am, I don't think I need that reminder.

While there are many benefits to seeing fitness tracking progress, I'm not sure if the numbers are all that important to me for my purposes. I'm not trying to become an elite athlete; I want to continue to be strong, fit, and healthy. The watch could certainly help me with this goal, but I don't think it's a necessity.