Fitbit fitness tracking motivates athletes, professionals

By Elyssa Kaufman

Fitbits, however, have been gaining popularity among college-aged students. In fact, USA Today reported in January that Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma will require students to wear Fitbits and meet daily step standards.JT

“The general college student population tends to spend a lot of time sitting and studying or sitting in class,” said Liz Evans, Carle Foundation Hospital physical therapist and athletic trainer at the ARC. “Your physical fitness or activity level can go down, so the bands are a good reminder for students to stay active.”

On the move

Lucy Avila, sophomore in Education,JT is a member of the synchronized ice skating team at the University and works to balance school with athletics.

With practice four times a week, the ice skater’s Fitbit provides a personal tracking system that helps her manage her fitness. For an hour a week, aside from skating, the team alternates between abdominal, arm and running workouts.

“Because a lot of the workout is doing sit ups and squats, it’s not about the steps. It’s about seeing my heart rate and how it goes up or down during a workout. My Fitbit checks active minutes during a workout even when I’m not taking steps,” Avila said.

In addition, Avila said that she finds her Fitbit beneficial while skating because it can monitor her water intake.

“When I’m practicing, I sometimes forget to drink water. My Fitbit has an option to track water and to check how many ounces you drink a day,” she said.

Educating the public

The fitness tracking devices are also striking interest among fitness professionals. Elizabeth Frasca, exercise physiologist at McKinley Health Center,JT explained that Fitbits are best utilized by people who are “motivated by electronics and gadgets.”

“I would have a patient use a Fitbit if they feel as though they need some extra encouragement, or if they would like to keep track of the physical activity,” she said.

Even with the benefits, Frasca said she questions the accuracy of the calorie count feature on the bands.

“I’m not sure how quite accurate the calorie count is because it is only taking information from movements and not taking information from sleep levels, stress levels or anything else that can play a role in your calorie needs for the day.”

Frasca’s position at McKinley involves working with patients and students to educate about exercise programs. She critiques current exercise programs and figures out ways to motivate them to exercise. The exercise physiologist defined exercise as getting your heart rate up and keeping it up for the duration of 20 minutes.

Frasca said the heart rate function on the Fitbit is a positive feature for runners or individuals who are not on pieces of equipment that could help calculate your heart rate, when exercising.

“I think Fitbits are a great tool to track physical activity. When I talk with patients, I talk about physical activity being your general movement throughout the day,” Frasca said.

Despite the benefits the bands might provide, Frasca said poeple like herself might use the band for a month and “think it is cool but then think it is not for me.”

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