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Is Your Fitness Tracker Affecting Your Mental Health?

Fitness trackers may help to measure your physical health, but they can take their toll on your mental wellbeing. That’s the finding of a new study into health-tracking technology (eg Fitbit, MyFitness Pal, Strava), published in the journal Social Media & Society.


This is the first research of its kind to explore how self-tracking tech and self-representations of healthy identity on social media, in particular Instagram, effect the health of a user offline.


Lead study author Dr Rachael Kent said: ‘Users become pressured to perform identities and be a healthy “role model” on Instagram and these traits become addictive, which, in turn, cause users to become highly competitive and comparative to other people they see online.


Here are some tips to help manage that minefield and help you put the focus back on your mental health and general wellbeing.


  1. Time for a digital break


If your attitude to your fitness tracker has become unhealthy – do something about it. Maybe a friend or family member has mentioned this many times already, but it’s even more reason that action is now required.


  1. You feel pressurised to train harder all the time


Follow a proper schedule and remember that even the great Arnie in his prime forced himself to take it easy when he had to. Every day doesn’t have to be PB’s and records. People don’t always need to know about all of your performances either.


  1. You’re checking your online fitness stats at antisocial hours


Set social media cut-off times. For example, no checking of your device before 9am or after 5pm. Boundaries and rules are required to keep your mind free of any unwanted distractions.


  1. You feel anxious to train without your fitness tracker


Commit to doing at least one workout a week without your fitness tracker. Once you get out the door, you may be surprised how great it feels. Like pre-smartphone times, if you’re old enough to remember those!


  1. It’s distracting you during times you should be doing something else


This is common already with mobile phone usage when people use them when they should be at work, eating or socialising with their friends and family or generally just doing something more important that requires their full attention. Make more of a conscious effort to pay more attention to people with you and your surroundings.

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