I saw this article posted, and believe it's important to address the assertions made here.
While I agree with this article in principle, I disagree with the fatalistic view of the fitness tracker space. It’s true that companies like Fitbit focus on intrinsic rewards that, by nature, decrease extrinsic motivations. However, this problem is not in the product itself, but rather the implementation of the product. I have spoken about this at length here.
Research has demonstrated that fitness trackers, such as Fitbit, can have positive effects on short-term exercise behavior. The article agrees with that point—for most people, increasing awareness of physical activity patterns can help to increase exercise behavior. However, once the initial novelty wears off, these products do little to encourage long-term exercise adherence. That doesn’t mean we should give up on them wholesale.
The same applies for people interested in initiating exercise behavior. 10,000 steps is a great place to start, and to compare yourself to. But setting the goal for 10,000 steps, day after day, with no personalization, variety, or fun is a recipe for boredom and discouragement. And without knowing what to do with all the information you’re receiving, it can become overwhelming.
It’s true that the industry is on the precipice of change. However, rather than giving up on it entirely, as this author seems to do, we need to take the next steps, to determine how fitness trackers can help encourage long-term exercise behavior. They can be a powerful tool, but just like any other tool, if not used properly, they can backfire.