Once embraced with enthusiasm and worn with pride, fitness trackers are now winding up in the bottom of a drawer months later.

Researchers at the University of Washington wanted to know why so many people abandon their tracking devices. So they found more than 100 former self-trackers and asked them why they quit and how they felt about it.

Relief, guilt, and indifference were among the emotions people expressed about breaking up with their fitness trackers.

In a paper to be presented at this week’s Association for Computing Machinery conference, the scientists surveyed 141 former Fitbit users, according to a University of Washington news release.

Half of them said they felt guilty about no longer tracking, and almost all of them said they’d like to resume tracking for fitness. A handful said they’d gathered enough information from their Fitbits to build healthy habits and didn’t need to track any longer.

A small number — 21 people — said they quit because they found tracking annoying, useless, or because they didn’t understand how to use the data to change their habits. Still, 45 others had mixed feelings about no longer health tracking.

The researchers also noted that some people didn’t like what their devices revealed about their health and activity levels.

Interestingly, most preferred data presented on their trackers in a way that made them look better than their peers, University of Washington officials said.

For example, “you walked more than 70 percent of people,” instead of a negative comparison such as “30 percent of people walked more than you.”

In other words, when it comes to fitness trackers, people find bragging better than nagging.


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