By Stephanie Fong

Technology can be a double-edged sword: technological advances that make one part of our lives easier can actually create problems in other areas of our lives.

For example, in today’s world, technology has cut out so much of the physical work faced by generations past that—unless we are purposeful about a fitness routine—many of us don’t naturally get the exercise we need to stay fit and healthy.

Luckily, technology also affords us great tools to help combat sedentary lifestyles. Fitness trackers such as the Fitbit or the Apple Watch are forms of technology that can have a positive effect on our health.

Measuring Progress & Meeting Goals
Sara Rhode, registered respiratory therapist in the cardio & pulmonary rehab program at CHI St. Alexius Health Dickinson, uses a fitness tracker daily.

“I started out with the simple Fitbit that clipped onto your pants just to make sure I was getting 10,000 steps a day. I’ve had updated versions of Fitbit until I got my Apple Watch last summer.”

Sara uses her Apple Watch to track her workouts, from walking her dogs to doing high-intensity interval training (HIIT) classes, and everything in between.

“I used to focus on getting 10,000 steps a day; now with the Apple Watch I focus more on meeting my exercise minute goal, calorie goal, and active goal (standing every hour).

“I think fitness trackers are accurate if you have your correct information synced and calibrated, and you keep them updated. Even if they aren’t spot-on at times, I feel like most people use them as motivation to meet certain goals. I’ve learned if you have goals or something measurable, you’re more likely to hold yourself accountable to reach those goals. Fitness trackers do just that.”

In the cardiac rehabilitation program, Sara finds that fitness trackers are helpful to patients who need to be aware of their target heart rate range.

“The trackers allow our patients to do a quick heart rate check to see where they are at. It’s also helpful if there is a step tracker or exercise minute tracker to help them set goals. Once they reach an initial goal and they see it, it’s easier to set another goal to push further.”

Hands-Free Helper
As a runner, Ashley Hepperle started using a Fitbit when running while pregnant, utilizing the heart rate monitor often.

“I love it for running and the constant encouragement, no matter how silly it is,” Ashley explains. “I enjoy the GPS and heart rate tracking. And I am able to use some of the workouts it offers if I am in a pinch.”

And when Ashley’s hands are full caring for her four young children, she says her Fitbit Blaze is truly a hands-free asset.

“It allows me to leave my phone on the shelf and read text messages and only feel the need to respond to the ones that are important.”

As for her choice of brand in a Fitbit, “It is really easy to use, which was important to me.”

Employer Support & Work Life
Many companies are embracing the need for proactive wellness initiatives for their employees, and fitness trackers can help employees tap into company-run wellness programs. Robyn McChesney is proud to be the “Wellness Champion” at CHI St. Alexius Health Dickinson.  

“Our wellness program does encourage trackers, and the first one was the Fitbit. Employees could get a discount if they decided to purchase one,” she explains.

The CHI Wellness Program has ongoing challenges for employees to meet, such as meeting goals for daily steps taken, which helps them earn financial incentives. Robyn points out that trackers make participating in the challenges even easier.

“Most trackers can now be synced to our wellness portals so participants don’t have to log in and manually track their steps anymore.”

While motivating fellow employees to tap into their fitness tracker’s capabilities is part of her job, Robyn also utilizes a tracker herself.

“I do love my Fitbit. One of my favorite features is that it reminds me to move every hour. I could probably sit at my desk eight hours straight, so the reminder gets me moving and using my standing desk more. I think it makes me more conscious of my lack of activity at work.”  

Stephanie Fong lives in Dickinson with her husband, Carter, daughter Sydney, and son, Parker. Originally from Powers Lake, North Dakota, she has lived in southwestern North Dakota for over a decade.