When trying to improve their health, many people on portable fitness trackers look to measure their progress and help them set goals. Recording your steps can help you increase your exercise frequency, noting that your heart rate can help control stress and monitor your sleeping patterns can help ensure that you do not experience burnout or fatigue. But a new University of Notre Dame study says you might also consider your relationship with your friends and family.
The researchers say analyzing your social group structures along with your portable data can provide an even more complete picture of health. The study, published in Public Library of Science Journal (PLOS ONE ), showed that there was a strong correlation between social network constructs, heart rate, number of steps, and levels of activity. In assessing the health of these social network constructs, the researchers examined connection, social balance, reciprocity and proximity. The researchers used data on the subject's social structures to improve predictions on the health of the subject, according to a press release on the study.
Certain beliefs, opinions, behaviors and attitudes can spread through social circles. But it is important to remember that our social circles also have a great influence on our physical well-being ̵
While this study was specifically focused on how this works out in terms of workplace benefits, it is useful for anyone who has been too obsessed with their tracker or who wants to consider the social life role in their health. I don't use a fitness tracker, but the results on the importance of social structure and health surely hit my home. Having moved 2,000 miles away from my family and friends, I noticed that I experienced many more health problems: painful anxiety symptoms, weight gain and complex migraines. Although I moved to Colorado, known to be the most physically active state in the United States, the loss of my reliable social network physically hit me much more than I thought it would.
It is also important to remember that the use of worn fabrics can actually cause more damage than good. A study in the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology journal showed that trackers did not improve their subject's health, and the people who used them were actually – health – worse than those who didn't. And some experts say that using portable fitness trackers can make technology addiction worse, and increase feelings of guilt when goals are not met. Analyzing behavior patterns of 493 college students, another 2017 study published in Elsevier showed a link between fitness trackers and disordered eating.
In a world that sometimes seems almost obsessed with numbers, these results encourage us to take a moment of reflection. When you take a holistic approach to your health, it is important to factor your relationships into your analysis. Sometimes you can sit in the park with a good friend make you better than trying to reach a certain number of steps.