If you want to be more active, fitness trackers can help — but they can also ruin all your fun, according to new research from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.
For one of six experiments in the study, which is set to be published in the April issue of the Journal of Consumer Research, 100 subjects were given pedometers, some with tape covering the displays. To the shock of no one, more than 70 percent of the people with visible displays checked them regularly, which was both good and bad. According to a release:
“… participants who could see how many steps they had taken walked farther but enjoyed it less. They also reported walking seemed more like work, and were less happy and satisfied at the end of the day.”
Lead author and Duke assistant professor Jordan Etkin told USA Today she wanted to investigate how trackers affect motivation after giving one to her engineer dad. “He seemed very focused on those quantitative outcomes and as a result he became much more stressed about how much he walked.”
But trackers won’t be a buzzkill for everyone — some might relish in all this data and find it encouraging. If you’re the sort of pessimist who reacts to seeing a number like “3,000” by thinking only 3,000?????? then you might be better off with a band that communicates step counts via an app, so you’re not constantly confronted by your, um, failure. Either way, if your gadget no longer sparks joy, you know what to do.