Is your fitness tracker making you less interested in walking?

Tracking our activities

(WBTV) - If you don't have a fitness tracker the odds are someone very close to you does.

They are great motivators to get your 10,000 daily steps in and try to eat and sleep better.

What if, though, all of that quantifying of your healthy activities is causing you to be less interested in completing them?

That's what one researcher at Duke University wanted to know after she gave her dad a fitness tracker as a gift and he began sending her daily updates on his progress with it.

"I wondered if this is really something he is enjoying.  It was supposed to be a gift but I feel like I created all this work for him," Jordan Etkin said.

Like you'd expect any good researcher to do, she put that thought to the test.

"Can quantifying a behavior, tracking it, how much we do of something, can that make things that were fun feel more like work and therefore we like them less," Etkin wondered.

She didn't just look at walking and sleeping.  Etkin also asked undergraduate students to read or color.  Some were tracked and some were not.

There were a couple of outcomes.

"When you see how much you do and pay attention to it, you do it more," she said.

But she added that students who could see how many shapes they colored were less likely to say the coloring was a fun activity.

"When I asked those who had been tracked whether they wanted to continue coloring when the tracking was finished, they were less likely to say yes," Etkin added.

So many of us, however, quantify how just about every minute of our days are spent.

"It's okay to do certain things just for fun.  We have to protect them.  If we take all of the happiness out of everything, what's left?" Etkin said.

To read the full study, click here.  To see listen to some web-exclusive portions of our interview with the researcher, watch the video on this page.

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