A man checking the progress of his fitness tracker on his mobile phone

How Does a Fitness Tracker Work?


Written by fitness expert Chris. Last updated:

A fitness tracker is a wearable device used to keep track of your physical activity and body stats. The device works by using a three-axis accelerometer to track your various movements in all directions.

Various other sensors in the device constantly monitor the acceleration, duration, intensity, frequency, and patterns of your movement. Some advanced trackers also have optical sensors that measure pulse and heart rate through your skin.

A fitness tracker will monitor activity such as walking, running, or even being motionless and store data regarding it. The more sensors your tracker has, the more data it can collect, and the more accurate the data will be.

For your fitness tracker to be able to present you with accurate information, you need to program it with your physiological information. For most fitness tracker models, information such as your height, weight, and gender will suffice.

The tracker’s algorithm will use this information to make sense of the data its sensors collect from your body and store on the device. You can view the data by linking the tracker to a smartphone or computer that carries the app associated with the fitness tracker. The app will process the data and present it to you as easy-to-understand stats. The app’s personalized algorithm will process the body movement data and interpret the implication of each recorded movement. Each movement will then be categorized into different activities, expanded on, and stored under relevant headings on the fitness tracker app.

Now that the fitness tracker app has processed the data from the wearable tracker, you can view a report on the app. Using all the acquired information, the app will show you how many steps you took, how fast you moved, how many calories you burned, and more.

How much information you can view and how you can interact with the information will depend on the fitness tracker and app. For instance, certain apps let you set fitness goals, such as how many calories to burn or how many steps to take in a day.

What’s the Benefit of Using a Wearable Fitness Tracker?

Multiple people doing push ups while wearing fitness trackers

The largest benefit of using a wearable fitness tracker is that you can monitor and measure your daily physical activity and rest time. It can also give you an idea of the number of calories you burn in a day and more. If you’re looking to improve your fitness levels, such information can be useful for setting and achieving fitness goals.

For this to work, though, a fitness tracker and its app must provide you with the features needed to achieve your goals. It must also present data to you in a way that you can easily understand.

Some fitness tracker apps have features that motivate users. This is done by showing the user their progress and what they need to do to achieve their set goals.

For example, the app may show the number of calories burned in a day, how many more need to be burned to reach the day’s goal, and how many steps need to be taken to reach that goal. If you reach the goal, the app rewards you with a celebratory message or something more.

Other apps let you share your stats on social media, allowing you to brag to your friends about your fitness progress. The positive feedback from your friends can be a very powerful motivator.

Are Fitness Trackers Worth it?

A woman in the gym checking her fitness tracker

Fitness trackers are worth it for people who want to set and achieve fitness goals. How many calories each person burns doing the same activity usually varies from person to person. The factors that cause this difference is something fitness trackers can’t yet compute.

For example, a person with higher muscle mass or higher testosterone levels will burn calories faster than someone with less of either. This is something that most fitness trackers can’t factor into their calculations, but this doesn’t mean that a fitness tracker is useless.

If your goal is simply to monitor your physical stats and daily calorie output, a quality fitness tracker can be of tremendous benefit. On the other hand, if your goal is to achieve a specific weight, you’ll need to combine fitness strategies with your use of the fitness tracker.

For some, a fitness tracker’s calorie calculations are sufficient for serving their needs. It will make you more aware of various aspects of your health and can help improve certain areas of your life, such as guiding you towards getting more rest or being more physically active. Just understand that your body does far more than a fitness tracker can measure, which means that the information the device can provide you is limited.

For the best results, use a fitness tracker to manage your calories. You will also need to improve your diet and find ways to boost your body’s metabolism. This will put you on a more certain path to achieving your fitness goals.

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