The Perils of Real-Time Health Data

A fitness tracking app on someone's phone

The role of real-time health data has grown significantly over the past decade. In fact, the wearable fitness device industry now exceeds $42 billion a year! What began with Apple smartwatches and Fitbit bracelets has now expanded into all kinds of fitness-tracking apps. For the most part, Americans have assumed these gadgets and platforms offer significant health and wellness advantages. But like everything, there’s always some bad mixed in with the good. And it’s important to realize the perils that are associated with this recent craze related to real-time health data.

(Check out this list of the top ten fitness apps, curated by Project Bold Life!)

With this in mind, the following details some of the risks associated with real-time health data. Risks? Yes, because the constant feedback that fitness-tracking apps and devices offer can sometimes do more harm than good. Monitoring your health data can become obsessive at times, and it can also encourage some negative behaviors. Thus, it’s important to appreciate the role of real-time health data as it relates to your own wellness goals. Finding this happy medium is essential when you’re truly trying to be your very best.

  • Peril #1 – Excessive Dependency

Surveys of people wearing fitness devices show that nearly nine out of 10 people wear them constantly. That means that they are constantly receiving reminders, feedback, and information about their wellness, except when it’s recharging, of course. In the process, some become overly dependent on the information they receive. In fact, a quarter of those using fitness-tracking apps and devices say they’re less likely to exercise when it’s off. Because they won’t receive digital credit for the workout, they put off the workout for another time. The role of real-time health data to motivate us is an important one. But when we rely on it too much, its absence could have the opposite effect.

  • Peril #2 – Technology Distraction

It’s not uncommon to walk down a busy urban sidewalk and see people buried in their smartphones. They’re so immersed in text conversations and social media that they barely notice those in front of them. Unfortunately, fitness-tracking apps and devices can cause the same type of problem. They might not distract us while walking downtown. But they can consume our attention during exercise or when they send us alerts. If we’re so attentive to our devices, we miss out on some of the natural benefits fitness activities offer. Thus, the role of real-time health data shouldn’t be to distract us from the present. Instead, it should simply supplement our ability to truly engage and appreciate the activity at hand.

  • Peril #3 – Negative Feedback Effects

The power of positivity is a well-known phenomenon. Research studies now demonstrate that positive thinking and feedback empowers us, boosts our mood, and leads to better physical wellness. In contrast, negative feedback is often associated with the opposite effect. When we are told that we didn’t reach our goal or that our stress meter is too high, we can become dejected. Believe it or not, this is a real peril associated fitness-tracking apps and wearables. Surveys have reported that many people feel pressure or even guilty when they receive such negative feedback from their trackers. Not only can this undermine motivation, but over time, it can actually cause depressed or anxious moods. This is certainly not the role that real-time health data is supposed to serve. Therefore, it’s important to appreciate the potential harm that negative feedback might have. Sometimes, less feedback is better.

  • Peril #4 – Responding to False Information

One of the common pitfalls related to fitness-tracking apps and devices involves the assumption that all the data is accurate. While much of the real-time health data provided is valid, some of it is often not. In fact, those who have worn multiple fitness wearables at once routinely report getting different information from each. Also, information about calorie consumption is often inaccurate on these devices because of data input errors. And regardless of formulas that predict metabolic rates and calories burned per step, individual variations still exist. When it comes to fitness-tracking apps and devices, not all the information you receive is reliable. Therefore, when assigning the role of real-time health data for yourself, be sure to take this into account.

  • Peril #5 – Privacy and Security Risks

It’s no secret that cybersecurity breaches are common in today’s digital world. As healthcare systems and hospitals have embraced electronic records, the same risks exist here too. But not everyone appreciates that privacy and security risks also exist when it comes to fitness-tracking apps and devices. Think about it…these platforms collect all types of data from millions of people across the globe. And they may also contain personal information as well. Understanding this, it’s clear that security breaches of these devices and apps as well as their parent companies pose risks. Thus, it’s important to appreciate how well your health data is when it comes to using these fitness-tracking wearables. The role of real-time health data should be one that serves the user, not companies or cyber-thieves. Taking adequate precautions against such security risks is therefore important.

Balancing the Good with the Bad

Without question, fitness-tracking apps and devices can result in a number of benefits when it comes to health and wellness. They can provide us with information that allows us to make better choices about exercise, diet and more. Likewise, they can also serve as motivational tools, encouraging us to be more active. But the role of real-time health data has its limits. Fitness-tracking apps and devices are not meant to be a comprehensive solution to a healthier life. They’re only an aid that we should use with discretion to help us meet our wellness goals. By knowing both the pros and cons of these real-time fitness technologies, we’re much more likely to reap their benefits.

 

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Through timely and thoughtful articles, the book Project Bold Life: The Proven Formula to Take on Challenges and Achieve Happiness and Success, and other media, we deliver engaging content that educates, motivates and inspires you to live a Bold Life.
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