I remember in a PE lesson being shown how to find our pulse to measure our heart rate.  Our teacher showed us how to find it and despite some of my classmates claiming they did not have one, the sports hall eventually fell silent as we counted the number of beats per minute with childlike curiosity.  When the minute was up, my classmates started shouting out various numbers: “I got ten miss!”, “Thirty seven!”, “I’m the winner I got over one hundred!”.  Our teacher proceeded to take us for a warm up, and after running around like headless chickens for ten minutes, she gathered us back around and told us to find our pulse again.  When I found my pulse, I realised it was doing something quite extraordinary-it was beating more rapidly than it had prior to the warm up!  The difference in the frequency of the beats stunned me as I realised our bodies could perform these strange tricks.

A decade later and we are being bombarded with innovative technologies claiming they can help people improve their fitness and performance.  For my 21st birthday, I received a Charge 2 FitBit as a present; knowing very little about the gadget I was curious to find out more.  After having the Fitbit on for just an hour, I became aware of the vast array of features it has; from a GPS tracker which can map my runs, to a sleep tracker which can analyse different stages of my sleep cycle.  Whilst I am fascinated with the ingenious technology contained within the device, it does lead me to ask the question: What is the actual point? Are they beneficial to people’s health and fitness?

A key function of the FitBit is the steps calculation which calculates the number of steps you take every day, whether this be at work, during exercise or in a club.  This piece of simple tracking technology has been around since the 90s, however,  the FitBit has revolutionised the way in which we use this data through Bluetooth by transmitting information to ours phones.  This means friends and family can compete to see who can do the most steps, resulting in people taking extra excursions in their day; whether that be walking to work instead of taking the train or walking to the takeaway rather than getting it delivered to the front door.  Family feuds throughout the UK are breaking out as people fight for the #1 spot in ‘The Battle of the Steps’.  This competitive element has transformed the activity of walking from a mundane endeavour to a rewarding game between friends and family.  I wonder when it will be announced an Olympic sport?  However, it also means that this simple activity is now being measured and scrutinised which can begin to feel like another pressure we are adding to our daily lives.

As well as the steps tracker there are a variety of other devices on the Charge 2 which have caught my attention.  The GPS tracker has greatly improved my running experience, accurately mapping where I have run.  As well as this, it provides information by the kilometre about pace, heart rate and cardio burn-I would recommend this feature to runners as it provides accurate information and allows room for improvement with every run!

Refreshingly, the FitBit designers have not just focused on cardio fitness but have taken into consideration other aspects of health and fitness, highlighting the variety of factors which contribute to a balanced lifestyle.  The sleep tracker analyses the stages in a person’s sleep cycle and creates a graph showing the amount of ‘Awake’, ‘REM’, ‘Light’ and ‘Deep’ sleep a person is getting, allowing them to understand their sleep cycle better.  In an age when busy lifestyles often mean sleep is sacrificed for deadlines and nights out, it is important that sleep is recognised as an imperative function to living healthily and happily!  As well as this, the app provides room for a person to track how much water they are drinking throughout the day, placing an emphasis on the importance of hydration.  Furthermore, with diet being a key contributor to a balanced healthy lifestyle, food intake can also be logged within the app.  Finally, the FitBit Rest function addresses mindfulness with a guided breathing exercise which guides breathing for 2 minutes, allowing people to find calm in their day.

The convenience of the FitBit is next to none, with everything in the same place right at your fingertips.  It has been designed to encompass a variety of aspects which are important to a person’s overall well being.  It provides people with the tools to learn more about their body and reflect upon their lifestyle which can enable people to participate in activities.  However, as with all technology, there should always be a point when you switch it off and put it away.  Despite all the new advancements in sports technology, nothing will ever be better than a game of football at the park with your mates.