Brooklyn-based boxing instructor Nancy Chen said her Apple Watch was able to increase the effectiveness of her workouts.
But it wasn’t until the watch broke that she said she realized it stopped some unhealthy behaviors.
“I really struggled with disordered eating, a lot like land and throughout college,” Chen told ABC News. “I realized that after three months of not wearing [the watch]It really helped to confirm that I was like moving over my eating disorder.”
Chen’s experience is not uncommon among users of such devices, according to medical experts who point out some of the potential disadvantages of relying on the devices and data.
“There is a disadvantage for some people, and we find that this is more common in individuals who seek perfection in many aspects of our lives,” Dr. Rebecca Robbins, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, told ABC News .
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Many users may benefit from knowing their fitness levels, sleep quality, and other general health metrics.
In August 2021, Christopher Oakley, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, said that readings from his Apple Watch were able to convince skeptical doctors that he was having a heart attack even though his heart appeared to be calm between the time he left. his home and got to the hospital, according to ABC affiliate WLOS.
Apple did not provide comment to ABC News when asked about its devices.
The company’s website said Apple’s ECG app cannot detect heart attacks, blood clots, strokes or other heart conditions and users should consult emergency services or a medical professional if they are not feeling well.
While some of the tech companies behind the devices said their goal is to help their users get the best information about their fitness, they said they were working to strike a better balance. to create.
“Being able to have visibility into what your body is doing and how your health is going. I think that’s good,” Shelton Yuen, Fitbit’s director of research, told ABC News.
Sarah Madaus of Brooklyn told ABC News that she started tracking her fitness and health with a Fitbit.
“For a while, I succeeded because I was like looking at my weekly stats and it was like, ‘Look you crushed it,'” she said.
She later asked her parents for an Apple Watch which she now admits is a chokehold for her.
“It would be like, ‘Oh, you didn’t close your rings today.’ And I’m like, ‘You better hustle. I’m sorry, guys can’t come to the party, can’t go to dinner,'” Madaus said.
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A 2017 study of college students published in the medical journal “Eating Behaviors” found that using a fitness tracker is associated with a higher rate of eating disorder symptoms in some people, but does not necessarily lead to he the behaviors.
Consumables concerns aren’t limited to food, according to studies.
In one case study, a woman diagnosed with atrial fibrillation developed health concerns after running nearly 1,000 ECG recordings through her smartwatch.
“When you have all this constant information about your heart, your sleep, your weight, your fitness level, all this stuff … I think we get into a lot of trouble sometimes at put a lot of that understanding. or hope to understand the individual,” Dr. Tom Hildebrant, associate professor of psychiatry at the Ichan School of Medicine, told ABC News.
Several technology companies are taking different approaches to the trackers.
The Oura Ring sits on a user’s finger and does not have a screen that shows their exercise and health information. Users can check the data on their phone or computer.
Shyamal Patel, head of science for Oura Ring, told ABC News that his company’s devices and apps are made with user control in mind.
“You want to calibrate your activity goals or you can turn off calorie tracking,” he said.
Yuen also told ABC News that Fitbit devices allow users to stop tracking certain metrics.
“We try to meet our users where they are so we can help them establish and meet their goals,” he said.
Hildebrant said if anyone is feeling overwhelmed by the trackers and apps they should stop using them for a week or two and see how they feel mentally and physically.
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Chen and Madaus told ABC News that they were able to get better workouts when they stopped using their Apple Watches.
“I think I was able to really focus on the workout and be very private,” said Chen,
“It’s really because you can focus much more on the mind-muscle connection and like how you’re actively feeling,” said Madaus.
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