Could technology be ruining your health motivation?

Alert Alert! Get off your bum and get moving! How many of us find this motivating, and how many of us want to shout expletives at our fitness trackers as we are sat down finally resting for the day?  

Reports demonstrate an annual growth rate of 18.6% in the health tech industry, but what is it about these little trackers that get us spending pounds to lose pounds? 

Questions have surfaced around the effectiveness of health trackers such as fitness watches and calorie-tracking apps. When it comes to achieving our goals are we rebranding the old-fashioned fitness drill sergeants and early 00s weight loss gurus’, and gently packaging them into a device we wear on our arms. Or, are we making strides forward on how best to motivate our fitness journeys? The jury is still out on that one.  

According to UK tech news, a whopping third of Brits now wear some form of fitness tracker. Yet reports state that 71% of the UK population do not reach their daily 10,000 step target.  

So, how do these work?  

Each app or device is different, but the app allows you to choose your goals to work around your current lifestyle. It then takes body data, such as height and weight and calculates daily calorie input and output. From there it sends alerts and reminders directly to a watch, wearable fitness device or phone. These alerts act to remind the person to move or inform them they have not met their fitness or calorie goal for the day. 

Benefits of Health Tech 

  • They are with you 24 hours a day 
  • They help to keep you accountable 
  • They allow you to track other health data like heart rate and sleep 
  • They are personalised to your goals 
  • A great way to begin a health journey 

Drawbacks of Health Tech 

  • Some people become obsessed with their goals to an unhealthy degree 
  • They are not always accurate 
  • They serve as external motivation only 
  • It’s easy to lose track of the goals  
  • They are expensive 
  • Without professional guidance, the goals set could be unhealthy or harmful 

Capturing Internal Motivation 

What motivates you to stay fit? Is it how it makes you feel, how it makes you look, the compliments, or a nagging device?

What this boils down to is internal vs external motivations. External motivations are those we are most familiar with these are validation or motivation that is sought externally – compliments, fitting in a new clothes size, or a technological alert. Whereas internal motivations are those sought from yourself – post-exercise euphoria or reaching a fitness/strength goal. It’s difficult to switch one off and solely focus on another, but it’s important to focus on internal motivation where you can. Why? I hear you ask. Let's think of a scenario where you have lost weight. In this scenario, what's keeping you motivated are the compliments - ‘You look amazing’ ‘ you look the best you have ever looked’. What happens when people stop complimenting you? Where are you going to get your serotonin fix? This is where some may ‘fall off the wagon’ as the old saying goes. So what keeps you going? The same goes for technological motivations, at first those alerts to keep moving or reach your goal help to keep you accountable. But what happens when you take that watch off or become complacent at the ever-present ringing of notifications? Guilt creeps in and motivation wanes - right!?

Conversely, let's take the example of learning to love exercise, appreciating the buzz it gives you, learning a new skill or setting a healthy strength goal to work towards. Finding an exercise you love is definitely not an easy task – but not impossible. Even if all you love is walking, there is so much you can do with walking. Alternatively, you may develop a love for weightlifting, or pole fitness. Aim to take note of how it makes you feel. If it makes you feel, joy, pride, achievement, elation or a want for more – you’ve hit the internal motivation sweet spot! Great job!

This motivation is one that is unwavering, as there is always another high you can chase to keep you motivated. Whether that’s the pursuit of an elusive lifting goal, being preoccupied with learning a new skill, or simply feeling strong and healthy.

You can motivate by fear, and you can motivate by reward. But both those methods are only temporary. The only lasting thing is self-motivation – Homer Rice 


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