"Have you hit your 10,000 steps today, shipmate?"

That's likely to start being a question for the[number or estimate] lucky sailors who are about chosen to get cool new wrist wear, on the Navy's dime.

The Navy plans to issue these sailors [IN LOCATIONS] Fitbit fitness trackers to help them measure their physical activity and set health goals, as part of the Navy's latest push to promote a fitness culture.

Fitness trackers, for the uninitiated, monitor a person's steps taken a day, sleep patterns and heart rate, and can persuade users to be more health conscious. Many also include diet tracking, allowing wearers to compare calorie intake with calories burned. Among the leading brands are Fitbit, Garmin, and Jawbone. 

The program is in the very early stages, chief of naval personnel spokeswoman Lt. Jessica Anderson told Navy Times.

Right now, the Bureau of Navy Medicine and the Navy Health Research Center are reviewing data from an Army study, while evaluating several devices already on the market to figure out which one will best track sailors' physical activity, she said. 


Fitness trackers are also limited to making estimates of these activities; but they are notoriously limited. If you run on a treadmill or elliptical, for instance, that distance won't be logged.   In an effort to promote a culture of fitness in the Navy, the Physical Readiness Program is getting ready to deploy fitness trackers to the fleet to see how they can help sailors measure their physical activity and set health goals.

For these reasons, experts, however, are dubious about not only their accuracy, and but how useful they are for inspiring action.

"They are an interesting piece of information, but they're only a piece of the puzzle," health studies professor Brian Schilling told Navy Times.

A standard fitness tracker like the Fitbit or Jawbone UP can monitor a person's steps taken a day, sleep patterns and heart rate, but they are notoriously limited. If you run on a treadmill or elliptical, for instance, that distance won't be logged.

You can enter your distance on your computer manually after the fact, however. And when it comes to diet, another Navy focus, it's also on each sailor to accurately enter what they eat everyday.

A test of five types of different fitness trackers and got five different measurements, according to a January study by the American Council on Exercise. 

However, the study also found that for those already inclined to take good care of themselves, a fitness tracker helped keep their diet and activity at the front of their minds.

On the other hand, Schilling said, even an adequately active person who needs to drop some weight or clean up their diet might not get anything from wearing a tracker.

"Just because I'm highly active, it might not give me the resolution to actually cause a change in fitness," Schilling said.

A fitness trackers' role for sailors is still being figured out. hasn't been determined yet, however. For now they're part of research the Navy is conducting to see if there's a better — but still inexpensive and easily administered — way to measure fitness than the current three-event and height/weight physical fitness assessment, Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Bill Moran told Navy Times in August.

"We have to measure it, track it for a full year, but the notion is rather than two annual tests, it's a focus on, are you making improvements and are you meeting standards for weight control, blood pressure cholesterol? Instead of a discussion of, are you inside your height-weight levels and can you pass the PRT? — which is where we are today," he said.

Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.

In Other News
Load More