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Reviews |  Even the best smartwatch could be bad for your brain

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Reviews | Even the best smartwatch could be bad for your brain

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Add a social or competitive component, like in the Strava fitness app or Peloton’s community features, and the feelings of control and empowerment that fitness can foster can quickly turn into the opposite. Halfway through a marathon training cycle, I discovered a new trick: my watch could measure my overall fitness level, assign it a number, plot its progress over time, and tell me how my levels compared to those of others, sorted by gender and age. I implored his approval.

If it sounds like an addiction, that’s because it can work the same way smartphones and other digital addictions do. Addiction is what these devices are designed to promote.

“These technologies have, in essence, drugged even exercise,” said Anna Lembke, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University, and author of “Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence.” , which explores addictive behaviors. “You might be thinking, ‘A wearable device that keeps track of my actions can’t be bad because it’s just a watch, and I’m just, for example, monitoring my heart rate, regarding my physical well-being.’ But in fact, we may very well become compulsively obsessed with these wearable devices – in a way that is akin to addiction.

These devices don’t just record your behavior, they influence it and keep you coming back. You become dependent on external validation. It’s nothing new: Like weighing yourself on a scale, or calculating your body mass index, or measuring your step goals, it’s easier to read a number than to instinctively know if you’re healthy. . But you can’t quantify your path to good health. The reality is much harsher.

For a while, my smartwatch probably helped me be healthier. I know I got in shape. But I began to feel that my health was no longer rooted in my own body, or even in my mind. I didn’t know how my workout went until I opened the app.

I used numbers — and the success they validated — as a shortcut to feeling pretty good overall. The exercise no longer helped me bounce back from the pressure; it added to it.

Sure, these watches can come in handy: for health data, reminding you to move more or maybe even that emergency call if you end up falling in the woods. Many of us make better choices when we know we’re being watched.

Reviews | Even the best smartwatch could be bad for your brain

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