(Fit)Bits and Bobs

Since the dawn of society, humans have been conscious of their well-beings. Through different methods of tracking and calculation, people labeled and numbered their health. As time progressed, these modes of monitoring became more accurate and scientific through the growing use of technology. Today, society continues to expand health tracking opportunities, even stemming into user-friendly devices available to all consumers. These devices, commonly known as fitness data trackers, calculate a person’s daily steps, calorie intake, heart rate, and sleep pattern, all from the comfort of the user’s wrist. While the implications of these devices are noteworthy, allowing anybody to become more aware of their personal well-being, the technology’s influence through major scopes of life may reveal some flaws. Using the context of medical, professional, and ethical standards, fitness data trackers are still new devices that require improvement and are not best for all people.

From a medical standpoint, fitness data trackers encourage a healthier society, but the methods of doing so are not best for the majority. With the devices’ rise in popularity and other medical advances, the digital health care sector has seen a forty percent growth in recent years. Since the technology is still very recent in its fruition, the concept behind the trackers could expand even more to become more personalized for individual needs. Those who rely solely on their fitness trackers to measure their overall wellness may not be gaining the best perspective on their health. These people could also develop an unhealthy relationship with their tracker, obsessing over achieving certain numbers. Medically, fitness trackers measure everyday physical signs of a healthy life, but they cannot measure mental and emotional well-being, both of which are crucial aspects of a truly well-rounded state. To achieve optimal health, medical professionals must advise patients to not only wear a fitness tracker, but to also learn how to pay attention to their individual bodily cues and needs that a wearable tracker cannot provide. People focused entirely on a device for medical information can lose trust in their own bodies, if they may not function best according to a tracker’s standards, and in turn lose touch with their well-being over a piece of technology. In order to avoid abuse of a fitness tracker, individuals must set guidelines for themselves that place emphasis on traditional forms of health care, including annual physicals and potentially psychological therapy, and utilize a tracker not as a primary source of information. Health is not cookie-cutter, and through medical support, society can learn to both appreciate and criticize fitness data trackers, balancing both physical vital signs but also an immeasurable healthy mental state.

For some professional settings, the fitness data tracker has become a new staple incentive, but relying on collected numbers to provide employees with different benefits is unfair to those not using the trackers or not accurately representing their overall health, potentially affecting workplace morale. For many people—over sixty percent in one survey asking about the interest in wearing a fitness tracker to earn health care benefits—the chance to receive insurance premium discounts whilst providing employers their fitness information is very enticing. Companies can also keep track of how their employees might use a provided wellness program. Without proper consideration of those against fitness trackers, however, the devices bring about consequences hindering the workplace and relationships between employers and employees. Fitness trackers cannot identify specific medical conditions, and employers may easily disregard those situations if their sole goal in using fitness trackers is to lessen company insurance costs. Employers also need to provide participants with privacy rights and legal protections to prevent misusing data and overstepping (ha, puns) boundaries, potentially losing their employees trust and affecting their work ethics. Again, because fitness trackers do not determine overall well-being, employers should not use them as the only measure of their employees’ health. Employers providing wellness programs also need to prioritize giving workers other health care services beyond fitness trackers for the best service possible. Fitness data trackers have the capabilities to allow employers a greater insight into their workers’ livelihoods in and out of the office, but such capabilities come a greater need to redefine legal boundaries and accurate factors of optimal wellness.

Fitness data trackers encounter several instances of ethical questioning, especially regarding the accuracy of calculations and privacy of information. Technology is as flawed as the people creating it, so people must recognize that mistakes in the system are unavoidable. Most fitness trackers on the market are fairly accurate, but the numbers are not specific enough for the devices to give users an overall accurate portrayal of health. For example, if a device measures daily calorie intake without considering the type of calories consumed, such as those from nutritious foods compared to processed foods, the device may be painting a picture of external health while disregarding internal upset. From a utilitarian perspective, each individual must make their own decision to decide whether a tracker’s benefits outweigh its harms. Additionally, even consumers purchasing a fitness tracker outside of the professional sector may still be subjected to privacy violations. As with most software today, companies are constantly taking anonymous information to assess their products, but this fact may make many people feel paranoid, especially when that data pertains to their personal health. A fitness tracker, without any moral virtues, is very honest with the data it collects, and people who desire to keep their daily physical activities private cannot seek refuge. By choosing perhaps to wear the tracker occasionally rather than on a daily basis might alleviate some of this uneasiness, but fitness tracker companies do not endorse this practice, leaving consumers at an ethical dilemma. While every person is different, from an ethical perspective, the choice to support fitness data trackers or not is dependent upon an individual’s values of privacy and honesty, all of which are sensitive topics when involving personal health.

Indeed, from examining fitness data trackers using various scopes of everyday life, such as medical, professional, and ethical perspectives, this new technology is one that requires further innovation and consideration of individual needs. Technology continues to delve into different parts of society, but humans must still maintain their traditional values and practices for achieving wellness. Like any facet of life, balance is key. A fitness tracker is a great tool for mindful awareness of physical health, but other tools should also be utilized to remain mindful of emotional and mental health. Medical professionals, employers, individuals alike must remember to trust their own instincts and best judgments to create guidelines keeping technical and human qualities in mind. Fitness data trackers will not be leaving the marketplace any time soon, so consumers must gain a proactive attitude for deciding their own personal measures of health because wellness has no price tag.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie


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