Footloose and Fitness Tracker-Free

In June 2014, I bought a fitness tracker. I got myself a Fitbit One to wear on my hip rather than a wristband tracker because I really liked wearing my watch.

Snazzy watch, much nicer than any fitness tracker.

I wore the tracker all day and all night, every day and every night. In 2016, hoping to shake things up by increasing the intensity of my exercise (coincidentally, this was also the upshot of Fitbit’s advertising at the time), I added a Charge HR to the mix. I wore the new tracker for daytime activities and the One for sleep tracking and felt confident that positive results would follow.

If you believe the reports, many people only wear their fitness trackers for a few months, but not me. I wore one fitness tracker or the other twenty-four hours every day for three years, even under my dress at my brother’s wedding. Gotta get credit for the Chicken Dance! (N.B., There was no Chicken Dance at my brother’s wedding.)

And then today, I deleted my Fitbit account.

Deleting my account was quick and easy, but the build-up took a while. There are three main reasons I fell out of love with my Fitbit(s), and with fitness trackers in general.

  1. They didn’t help me get more fit. I was fairly fit to start with—I walked every morning, did Fitness Blender workouts every day, and complemented those with yoga and meditation—but after moving to the suburbs, I’d developed some not-so-healthy habits related to the driving culture and lack of sidewalks or anywhere good to walk. I hoped that a fitness tracker would help me develop new, suburb-friendly habits and that maybe I’d lose the extra five pounds I’d gained along the way. But the net result was in the opposite direction. In the three years I wore a Fitbit, I gained ten pounds. I know that weight isn’t the only indicator of fitness, but…ten pounds?
  2. They stopped working properly. I moved back to the Fitbit One full-time when my Charge HR wristband became uncomfortable (no interchangeable wristbands on that version). This worked okay for a while until my Fitbit One began shutting itself off randomly, causing me to lose step or sleep data for hours at a time. Last month, I did three and a half hours of intense yard work, and when I took off my gardening gloves and checked my One, it had shut itself off, apparently very soon after I started working. “To hell with this,” I said. I decided to punish the tracker by not wearing it anymore, but I found that I really liked being tracker-free.
  3. They encouraged behaviors in me that increased anxiety and didn’t support fitness. After I started wearing a fitness tracker, I quickly found that some activities showed up as steps better than others. I could spend an hour lifting weights, but I’d only get credit for the jumping jacks I did between sets. The steps I took up a mountain counted the same as the steps I took around my relatively flat neighborhood. My step total became my primary goal—first 10,000 a day, then 20,000 a day—and I found myself scrapping my weight training and yoga in favor of more step-intensive activities just so I could hit my step goal. And once I started food tracking, I tapped into a whole new level of obsession. I’d never been a calorie tracker, but soon after I started tracking calories on the app, I couldn’t finish a meal without recording every bite I’d eaten and comparing it to the recommended total for the day to determine how much I was allowed to eat at my next meal. I became fixated on calories and on food in a way that felt distinctly unhealthy to me, and the scale reflected that. To be fair, I’m prone to obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. But while the fitness trackers didn’t cause these things, wearing a fitness tracker triggered my obsessive tendencies in a way that increased my anxiety and didn’t help me get more healthy.


I liked the fitness trackers a lot for a while, but after three years, I had to admit that they weren’t doing what I’d hoped they’d do for me. I had been trying to fix what wasn’t broken, and in the process, I taught myself to trust a number rather than trusting my body. I boxed up my Fitbits to give away and got my plain old comfy analog watch out of the drawer and back on my wrist, and I feel much more free now.

And although it’s been only about a day since I deleted the app, I’m already adjusting to the new arrangement of icons on my phone.

Now to get rid of my scale.*

*Not really. I’ll just hide it for a while.

16 Replies to “Footloose and Fitness Tracker-Free”

  1. I think ‘Fitness Tracker’ is a bit of a misnomer. I think it would more accurately be described as an ‘Activity Tracker’, and I believe that if you find one you like, and are usually a pretty sedentary person, meeting that ‘step’ goal is an encouragement to get up and move, even after the sun has gone down, if you haven’t reached your goal.
    I think for someone who is already pretty fit and active, they’re kind of pointless.
    I asked for a FitBit last year and my husband got me… some knock-off. I don’t really like it, it dies fast and I lose the day’s info for whichever day it dies. However, when I got my new phone, I noticed it had a step counter. Then I checked out the app (Samsung Health), and there are monthly step challenges. Also, every time I open the screen on my phone, I see my steps so far for the day. THAT was what it took to get me off my duff and start making those steps. The thing on my wrist gets comfortable and forgotten about, but I look at my phone several times a day, and keep getting reminded that if I don’t get up and move around, I won’t reach my goals for the day, and as a housewife, the only way I’m making 10,000+ steps a day is by going for a walk. A long walk!

    Congratulations on your newfound freedom!




    1. I agree about it being more an activity tracker than a fitness tracker. Apps and devices that track activity can be real motivators. It’s easy for the focus to be on the tracker results than on the movement itself, but if it gets a person moving and making modifications in their daily activities to incorporate more movement, it’s serving a good purpose.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There’s such a fine line between motivation and irritation, for me anyway. I seem to have found it with the Samsung Health app, but only when I keep the movement as my focus 🙂 the wrist tracker is now an afterthought!


  2. Great post! I bought a fitness tracker when I was training for my marathon, but after that, I realized that it was kind of pointless. I was barely reaching my step goal and it was discouraging me to see that. I had started lifting weights more, so I sold it!


    1. They’re definitely not good at giving credit for weight training. They aren’t bad as step trackers, but they don’t do a great job of tracking fitness for those of us who exercise in less step-intensive ways.
      Like you say, that can be very discouraging.


  3. It’s so crazy how it becomes ingrained in our daily lives like that. I woke up in the middle of the night just this weekend because I had forgotten to put it on. Not sure how healthy that is lol.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Interesting read on the negative impacts of fitness trackers. Not very often you hear about those. Great points! I sometimes feel tied to mine as though my workouts or sleep don’t count if they aren’t accounted for on my app lol.


    1. “Tied” is a good way to put it. Even more than a month after I stopped wearing mine, I still wake up in the middle of the night sometimes because I think I’ve forgotten to wear it. Even my spouse, who never wore one, was so accustomed to mine that when we took a hike last weekend he asked, “How many steps have we got?” before he remembered.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Charity, thanks for the candid review of your three+ year analysis. I am only under a year into a FitBit world and I can see some of things on the horizon: the random turning off during yard work has happened and I have noticed being at the beach I do a lot of exercise swimming/playing in the water with it off and then obsess if I still don’t make my goal on those days. And then there is the part about what it logs and doesn’t log (my wife has that issue as you did). My one positive, other than the “awards”, has been forcing myself to do physical activity later in the day when I have not yet met my goal. My body thanks me for being active at night, so this gave me motivation to be in sync with that positive behavior.


    1. I think that could be a real strength of a fitness tracker: bringing awareness to our activity throughout the day to allow us to address and, if necessary, change our habits. I hope someone’s doing studies about the long-term use of wearable fitness trackers; it would be interesting to see what effects look like over a period of years. Do habits change, and if so, are the changes lasting? And what mental/emotional effects does the type of focus wearing a fitness tracker encourages have over the long-term? How might this differ from the effects of wearing a straight-up pedometer (if anyone’s wearing those anymore)?


  6. It’s so demoralizing not to see hard work reflected in the numbers at the end of the day. And I might have been employing a bit of hyperbole when I said I would hide my scale. At the very least, I don’t want to be surprised when I go to the doctor’s office.


  7. Charity, me too! Mostly I just got tired of the darned things not working properly (I had 3 of them over several years). I haven’t worn one for several months now and don’t notice any difference in how much (or little) activity I get each day. Don’t think I’m ready to hide the scale yet though, as a regular weigh in does seem to help keep me from gaining; I gained 10 pounds during a period of not weighing and it’s still here after more than 6 months (at least it’s not continuing to increase!).

    Thanks for the post.

    ♥ Linda


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