Kenzai Explains Why Fitness Trackers Don't Make You Fitter

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Kenzai analyzes why fitness trackers can fail to help trainees get results.

Kenzai | Why don't fitness trackers make you fitter?
You can't out-exercise a bad diet. - Patrick Reynolds, Kenzai Founder and CEO

To kick off an earlier training season, Kenzai ran a #nogimmicks campaign on social media. The idea was simple. People sent in photos of the products they'd bought but which failed to get them in shape. Each person received a discount for Kenzai Body.

Now that the campaign is over, Kenzai reviews the kinds of things people submitted and why they aren't resulting in the desired fitness outcomes.

A ton of people submitted failed fitness trackers. In "No Gimmicks : Why don't fitness trackers make you fitter?" we talk about why these expensive gadgets don't get results!

Here's a preview of some of the insights:

1. Data needs context

The wearable activity tracker market has ballooned in the last 5 years. Most of these devices track your daily step count, heart-rate, sleep patterns, or a combination of all three. Tracking your activity isn't a bad thing. We should never fear data. But data needs context.

8,140 steps on Monday with a heart-rate of 135 and 9,620 steps on Tuesday with a heart-rate of 128 is not particularly valuable data without the right context.

With trackers, individuals might learn a few things about their activity patterns, and they might be inspired to move a bit more, but they'll mostly be getting data for data's sake. To actually get an improved fitness result people have to have a mission, with identifiable steps along the way. Then and only then does tracking data start to become interesting or useful.

Most people don't have that plan for their fitness. They buy one of these gadgets thinking it will move the needle and end up tracking nothing more than the bad habits and poor choices that inspired them to buy the tracker in the first place.

2. Pedometers

Let's get real about step counting. We are human beings. We excel at three things. Thinking, manipulating 3D objects, and walking. In our sedentary world, there's a lot of encouragement to "get out there and walk!" as if walking was an activity to be proud of. Walking is not exercise. Our entire musculoskeletal system is designed around being able to walk long distances while expending minimum energy.

3. Heart-rate tracking

There's a lot of back and forth about leveraging your heart-rate to maximize fitness results. We spent the 90's trying to keep our heart-rates in the "fat burning zone" of 50-60% of our top heart-rate, and these days it's all about getting a super high heart-rate with HIIT style workouts that alternate between moderate and extreme exertion.

The truth: the effects of different heart-rates on fat burn and fitness results is exceedingly marginal. By paying close attention to your heart-rate you might juice an extra 1 to 3 percent of effect from your exercise. This type of micro progress will be wiped out for the entire week by an errant cookie or glass of wine. The only types of people who need to worry about their heart-rate are those competing in the last 5 yards of fitness where incremental gains are meaningful because every other variable has been maxed out.

4. The elephant in the room

Trackers will continue to proliferate, promising glossy hi-tech solutions to the fitness woes. But what they absolutely don't want you to think about is how your physical activity is the least important part of your health spectrum. When it comes to results, your diet and nutrition is 80% of the battle. Exercise is a secondary concern, and has the most margin of error. If your diet is on point, it doesn't really matter what kind of exercise you're doing, you're going to look and feel great. If your diet sucks, you can exercise all day long and see minimum improvement. You can't out-exercise a bad diet.

Check out the Big Ideas section of to read “No Gimmicks : Why don't fitness trackers make you fitter?” and other tips on how to stay fit and healthy in the modern world.


About Kenzai, Inc.:

Kenzai is a Berkeley, California based health and fitness company that offers comprehensive online training programs that help people around the world connect and get into great shape. Every Kenzai program focuses on four key areas (exercise, nutrition, education, and community) to get trainees into the best shape of their lives and sustain the results.

Kenzai offers three entry level programs: Kenzai Body, a 90-day program that focuses on fast efficient bodyweight based workouts; Kenzai Run, a 56-day program that helps new and experienced runners learn to train in a more structured way with better nutrition and full body conditioning to improve performance; and Kenzai Silver, a 56-day program for seniors, ages 60 and up, who want to be more active and have more energy to do the things they enjoy in life.

Entry programs start on the first Monday of each month from January through September. Visit the Kenzai website to learn more and inquire about the entry level programs:

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Todd Musgrove
Kenzai Inc.
+1 415-712-6181
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