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Do Fitness Trackers Work?

If there’s anything Kassy Pajarillo learned about fitness trackers and apps, it’s that you shouldn’t take it too seriously. She learned it only later on, though, and the hard way at that. The PR and marketing head of startup app Honesty Apps and athlete got her first wearable watch—a Garmin Forerunner—10 years ago. She used the sport-specific gadget mainly to monitor her running and walking, essential for her first venture into marathons. Within a year, she ditched the watch and downloaded MyFitnessPal into her phone. This made her more serious about weight policing so much so she became a vegetarian. It lasted for a good five years until she found herself succumbing to temptatition: “It was January 7, 2015, I met bacon and steak. Ang sarap talaga nya!”

 

 

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Kassy has always been into fitness, like many Filipinos recently joining the bandwagon. Remember athleisure (which isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, if you ask us)? The fitness tracker and the fitness-monitoring app are just two innovations fronting this revolution, two things that we highly predict wouldn’t budge in the next years as well. The fitness tracker—which traces its roots back to, yes, the police’s lie detector—measures your heart rate, sleep hours, and even blood oxygen levels. The fitness app is similar in a case, only that it is more of an app than a gadget; it collates your data and comes up with a diet or workout plan you can view and then follow from day to day.

The past years have seen the tremendous growth of these fitness-monitoring technologies. A June 2017 article by The Irish Times’ Marie Boran reported that 60% of Americans are now into trackers, apps, and fitness in general; Fitbit has just peaked at 23.2 million active users since February this year; and the world will see around 485 million wearable units by 2018.

Does their growth necessarily translate to a healthier, fitter community? Ideally, says UP College of Human Kinetics lecturer and fitness instructor Natalia Uy-Chan, as fitness trackers and apps have always been considered substitutes for human trainers and nutritionists. She says they do work best for those who can’t afford the luxury of time and money for it. "Knowing and monitoring your workout is a big advantage especially if you are aiming for something. It can also be your source of motivation, inspiration resulting to personal discipline."

 

 

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But it wasn’t always about necessity, say, for the fitness-conscious Kassy. She was a track and field player in her teens, a little insecure that led to her being ultra-conscious and unreasonably careful about what she ate. “It came to a point when I’d know how much calories one cup of rice contained,” she recalls. “I was 17, and was in my ideal 100 lbs. goal from 120 lbs.” She saw no fitness trackers in the market then, yet she was as calculating about everything.

With what her first fitness watch laid out for her as an adult, Kassy would train twice a day. With her vegetarian “plan” on her app, she avoided chicken, pork, and beef and subbed it with tofu. She remembers rocking a killer bod then, sure, but along with it came the migraines and feeling “worn out” every time.

“I felt pressure—‘pag di ko matapos yung mileage, or if I cheat on my diet,” she says. “I always had a goal, and I always felt pressured to follow it.”

Especially after learning how tofu and soy caused the inflammations and the migraines, Kassy eventually turned her back against it all. She has since subscribed to the Ketogenic Diet (significantly low carb diet) and now counts her macronutrients everyday instead of just calories per meal. She has gotten herself a new Fitbit, too, only to help her make sure she walks her average steps of 8,000. She has since relied on online training via My PT Hub, an app where American coach Amy Victoria monitors and customizes friendly workout plans for clients like Kassy.

“No gadget is really going to tell what is really healthy for you. Everybody has her own ‘health quotient.’ Whatever works for your works for you—just try to know your food and body better. Educate yourself with what makes your body and self happy,” Kassy musters, before she goes on to reveal more about how she’s confidence she has gone about her body.

“I’m 140 pounds. I stand at 5’ 2 ½”, so I am 20 to 25 pounds heavy for my ideal weight. Mataba pa din ako! But I learned that I also have to enjoy food. Now, I have a life!”

Uy-Chan agrees, "Use your fitness tracker as a tool that can help and inspire you to work out more and feel good about yourself. Again, know what you want and choose what's best for you."

 

This article was originally published as “Talking Body” by Barry Viloria in the Metro Magazine August 2017 issue.