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Americans are tracking their health, but forgoing fitness gadgets

fitness treadmill at gym

According to a new study conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, nearly seven out of ten Americans are tracking their exercise routine, diet or weight on a regular basis. However, Americans have been slow to adopt digital fitness trackers and prefer to use less accurate methods of keeping track. Of the people that tracked at least one of the health indicators, approximately half simply try to keep track of progress in their head and a third write down progress within a journal or on sheets of paper. A smaller percentage of people used a spreadsheet, Web service, mobile application or digital fitness tracker like the Nike+ Fuelband or the Fitbit One. 

Fitbit OneBeyond tracking broader metrics like exercise, food intake or weight loss, approximately one third of Americans track health metrics such as quality of sleep, blood sugar levels, specific body pains and blood pressure. In addition, approximately twelve percent of respondents track those metrics for a loved one. 

Regarding the usefulness of tracking health data, nearly half of the respondents stated that the act of tracking has modified their behavior when attempting to manage weight levels or stick to a specific diet. In addition, the tracking data has helped users frame questions for their general practitioner or actively seek out a second opinion from another doctor. Approximately one third of the respondents stated that the tracking data altered a decision on how to treat a medical condition or serious illness. 

In an interview with USA Today, cardiologist James Beckerman indicates that digital records are more likely to be used by doctors over handwritten journals containing notes about changes in weight, food intake or more granular data. Dr. Beckerman recommends digital fitness trackers and wears one himself to monitor his daily running routine. However, digital fitness trackers have continued to evolve over the past couple years. Most recently, the announcements of the Basis band and the Amiigo band have introduced new features such as tracking heart rate, blood flow, types of exercises and core temperature.

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