Are Fitness Trackers Effective for the Elderly?
Physical activity is an important aspect of a healthy lifestyle for people of all ages. Being physically active can decrease your chance of premature death and it supports healthy aging.
Older people might have various reasons for not taking action to be physically active. But honestly, even a short daily walk for any purpose can be credited as an exercise.
Take my parents as an example. They prefer relaxation time during the evening by binge-watching on the comfort of their sofa or bed. We might say, “let’s just give it to them as something they deserve at the end of a busy day”. But, do you think there is a way they can improve this habit?
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538433/), physical activity is associated with improved quality of life, emotional well-being, and positive mental health. Isn’t that amazing?
We can take all these benefits without purchasing an expensive health supplement or paying for mental health services!
Physical Activity Facilitated by Technology
Research with older adults was conducted to see if the fitness tracker that they provide for free will be used by them and if, in turn, it increased their physical activity. One finding in this study (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538467/) was that several of the subjects were surprised to see the result of their daily activities showing only very little exercise each day.
When I provided my parents with their fitness tracker, it encouraged them to make small changes in their everyday lives.
Using a fitness tracker not only gave them visibility of just how many, or how few, steps they were taking every day. It also gave them a target to reach. It turned each activity into an opportunity to reach their daily goal and maybe even better their score.
The changes they made were simple, like parking the car a little further from the store where they plan to go to. In this way, they can use the distance to walk to and from the car and add more steps count in their fitness tracker.
Important Fitness Tracker Features
A fitness tracker is a wearable device that monitors your physical/fitness activity and even your heart rate while doing exercise. You will notice that most of the fitness trackers on the market are focused on the younger to the middle-age group.
With that in mind, you must be more diligent in understanding the features of each fitness tracker for a family member who is in old age. You have to think about different aspects from their perspective before purchasing one.
What to look for when buying a fitness tracker for a senior person:
- Is it easy to use and read?
- Does it have a heart rate monitoring capability?
- Is it water-resistant?
- How long does the battery last, does it need frequent charging/replacing?
Is it Easy to Use?
Well, many older adults are interested in digital health technologies but one of the main problems is that they sometimes have difficulty in using technology due to poor eyesight and reduced dexterity in their hands to press small buttons. You should take note of their ability to remember all the instructions on how to use it. The fewer confusing steps on how to operate, the easier it will be for them to use it every day.
Does it Have a Heart Rate Monitoring Capability?
With old age, your capacity to do moderate to heavy physical activity may decline (unless you are doing it daily as part of your routine). Older adults should consult their doctor on what should be their limit in terms of their heart rate (such as target maximum heart rate) when they perform an exercise. Thus, it is important to me that my old man will be able to see if he has already reached his limit and not put himself at risk of injury.
Is it Water-Resistant?
What if your 65-year old mother forgot to remove her fitness tracker one day before taking a bath? If that wearable device isn’t water-resistant, then it will be useless in just a matter of seconds. That’s why this is an important feature than it easy to overlook.
How long does the battery last?
Will my Dad have to charge it at the end of the day to make it functional for another day? Isn’t it nice to have something that has a battery life lasting at least a few days? We should be considering this feature too as a deciding factor.
Fitness Tracker Reviews
Fitbit Charge 2
I have been using this for a while now and it seems perfect for my Dad, too. Setting up is easy for me but needs a little bit of assistance for my Dad. Surprisingly, it only took a few minutes to download the application and pair a smartphone with Fitbit via Bluetooth.
The display is awesome since it is large, and you can adjust the brightness! I like it that when I look at it, the screen lights up without pressing any button.
My Dad doesn’t seem to have an issue regarding wearing it all day. It actually became a form of motivational tool for him to do physical activity every day and just checking the time reminds him of his daily goals.
This device boasts its PurePulse Heart Rate continuous tracking. The good thing about these fitness wristbands is that you omit the need for a chest strap to get your heart rate monitored. This feature is labeled as Cardio Fitness Level in the Fitbit app.
You will be amazed when I say it has a 5-day battery life! Imagine you just have to charge it once a week! This is perfect for my Dad as he just has a routine now to charge it every Saturday night.
Overall, my Dad and I are fully satisfied with our purchase. It also has additional features like Sleep Tracking, Multi-Sport Automatic Tracking, Breathing Mode and Smartphone Notifications (such as calls, messages and calendar alerts).
Garmin Vivosmart HR+
I got interested in this model because of the availability of the device in a nice shade of purple which was perfect for my Mom. She also prefers something that can also be used as a smartwatch aside from fitness tracking capabilities as she loves to keep track of Facebook!
Garmin Connect Mobile is the app you need to download so you can sync your HR+ to your smartphone throughout the day. Usefully, you can choose from which notifications you would like to appear on your HR+. But with the elderly, you might have to assist them in setting this up.
Aside from the step counter, this device is GPS enabled. Meaning, it can detect the distance you have traveled during your workout. And as I previously mentioned, I want my parents to know how fast their heart rate is using their fitness trackers, and that is manageable with this device’s Elevate wrist heart rate technology.
Would you believe that it can go up to 8 days on a single charge? My Mom would never put up with charging anything daily, I know because her cell phone is always going flat when I call her!
Anyone who needs a reminder when you have been sitting still for hours? Well, this device can do that for you! It gives you a buzzing signal when you have been inactive for about an hour or so. My mom has been talking about this feature – a lot! She never realized before just how sedentary she had become.
My mom has worn Vivosmart HR+ during her shower and that tested its waterproof feature! I have read reviews that people even wear them while swimming! No need to be mindful of it getting wet, right?
Now that I have given reviews on two fitness trackers that my parents have been using, do you think one of them will suit your needs too? While technology is being widely adopted, we must still remember that older adults may need in-person assistance with any type of tech device.
You should be able to make them feel comfortable when using it so that they will make use of it every single day. I hope your loved ones will also get motivated with the help of a fitness tracker.
Although fitness trackers can seem like an extravagance, the benefits are really worth a great deal more than it seems.
I hope this article has helped you choose a fitness tracker for your elderly loved ones.