Well, 2016 is almost here, and for many of us, getting healthier and shedding those extra holiday pounds is our top resolution. In the fight back against turkey, drinks and dessert, a lot of us like to monitor our calorie-burning progress on our wrists with fitness trackers. But according to research, if we want our workouts to be as enjoyable and chore-free as possible, we should probably leave our FitBits and Apple Watches at home.
In a new Journal of Consumer Research study, Duke assistant professor Jordan Etkin states that monitoring our exercise progress on fitness trackers can hurt our workouts because they remind us that cardio isn’t fun, but rather a sweaty chore. As Ekin explains, “Enjoyable activities can become almost like a job, by focusing on the outcomes of things that used to be fun.”
In the study, researchers divided 95 people into two groups and asked them to record their thoughts while performing the simplest of daily exercises, walking. One group was asked to carry pedometers and was given the option to look at them freely. The other group also carried pedometers, but their displays were taped over and only the researchers were able to check their accumulated distance. The results revealed that the group who was free to look their pedometers walked farther on average than the taped-over group, but reported that their walking experience was far less enjoyable.
“We’re curious creatures and tracking information is very seductive, even for enjoyable activities,” says Etkin of the research results. “Simply making it available made them (the walkers with the pedometers) want to look at it, but the very people who self-select into measurement are the ones who are hurt by it.”
In other words, monitoring our workout progress pushes us to do more, but it makes the experience feel like a dreadful chore.
So how do we get the most out of our New Years cardio, without hating it and cancelling our gym memberships a few weeks into January? Moderation.
“We need to balance that increased productivity against our underlying enjoyment,” Etkin explains. “For activities people do for fun, it may be better not to know.”