March 13, 2018

Would your kid benefit from a fitness tracker?

It seems like wearable fitness trackers are everywhere now, even on kids’ wrists. While the kid versions do everything from encouraging them to exercise in order to feed and care for a virtual pet to ones that allow them to actually help feed kids across the globe, the premise is the same as the adult versions.

And, just as with adults, knowing what motivates your kids can help you decide whether a wearable device is right for them. The concern with fitness trackers for kids is expense (chances of losing them) and comfort. Many kids find the band on their wrists uncomfortable. More importantly, some kids want fitness trackers because they look cool, not because they are interested in what the device actually does. And while some adults want them for similar reasons (to be a part of a trend), kids and adults can benefit from wearing them but it takes some thought to decide whether it is right for your situation.

What motivates your child?

I would recommend a wearable to parents if their child had a . Purposeful fitness personalities are those who don't want to compete and play sports (athletes) and are uninterested in being in an activity class like swimming or dancing (social). Purposeful kids need a reason to be active or a task to complete. They tend to be literal, logical and follow the rules. Knowing that getting between 10,000-13,000 steps per day is the recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatricians makes sense to them. Having a wearable helps these kids measure their activity against the standard. Going out to play or going for a walk is difficult for this type of kid. These kids don't choose physical activity in their free time, they choose screens. Purposeful kids could use a fitness tracker to see if they need to move a little more (to get to the recommended 10,000-13,000 steps per day) before they get free time.

Kids that have fitness personalities that are "athlete" or "social" may not need a wearable since they like to be active in sports or classes. Most kids will be active if it is competitive, fun or logical.

The toughest kids to motivate are the "couch potatoes." These kids are gamers, sometimes their parents are gamers too. They may not have any role models for physical activity and have been unsuccessful in gym class. They would prefer to use screens than be active. These kids may benefit from the technology aspect of the wearable, but will need some structure/supervision to increase their step count.

Choosing a fitness tracker

If a wearable device seems like it would be a good match, the next step is to have kids research the different brands to determine which software support and apps they like the best. If they are involved in the decision making and purchase they may be more invested in the use of the device.

Once you do get a device remember that the benefit of wearing it comes from consistency. When your child uses it daily, it's possible to see progress over time. And don't give up. Just like for adults, change doesn't happen overnight. Kids need to be patient and over time they'll start to reach their goals.

Once the novelty wears off, it may take some creative thinking and family incentives to keep wearing it. Try a family fitness challenge to keep kids engaged. And in the end, what really matters is the movement — finding enjoyment being active, not the heart rate, that is important for sustaining activity.