The Navy wants sailors to hit their fitness goals with a new accessory: wearable trackers.

In 2016, sailors will test Navy-issued fitness trackers with a few ship crews to see what works and helps themsailors monitor their workouts, diet and yes, steps. The chief of naval personnel wants sailors to be able to monitor their own fitness with wearable trackers, so a pilot program is coming in 2016 that will let commands test out the devices and report back with their findings.

The plan is to give trackers out to a few ships and track their findings for a year, as part of a push for year-round fitness awareness, rather than twice-a-year tests, said Vice Adm. Bill Moran, the chief of naval personnel.

"I think [Pacific]Pact Fleet envisions doing two to three ships at the waterfront so that we get a large enough swath to have meaningful feedback," he told Navy Times in a Dec.165 interview.

Officials haven't detailed the commands to test them or which devices will be used, which could include bracelets like the Garmin Vivofit HR, Jawbone UP2 or Fitbit Charge HR.

Moran and sports a FitBit himself, as does CNP Fleet Master Chief (SW/AW) April Beldo are Fitbit converts who say it has boosted their activity., and both told Navy Times it has increased their awareness of their activity.

"The whole idea behind this is to hold yourself accountable, right?" Moran said. "When I look at this at the end of the day and ... I go it tells me how many calories I have probably burned based on what I have done and then I weigh myself every week and I go, 'I am not losing weight.' Well, what is the message there? I am burning more calories, but I am not losing weight, so maybe I am not eating right. Probably not." 

The Navy trial pilot program would provide trackers to sailors free of charge, he added, but they would be able to use their own if they have them. The idea has been to have a few commands in Pacific Fleet and a few in the reserves, but those details are being worked out. not yet nailed down.

Fitness trackers can give the wearer a better picture of their health, but they're not perfect, experts say.

They work by estimating your calories burned by taking your height, weight, age and monitored heart rate. They can track steps and distance well, but won't measure workouts done on a stationary bike or elliptical, for instance.

The idea, Moran said, is more to get sailors' minds on their every day fitness, and give them a tool that might help them get into shape if they're not measuring up, in combination with the Navy's other guidance about exercise and nutrition.

"I mean,I know that if I eat less and I work out more I will stay within standards. I know that, but I am not as savvy on what it is that I eat," Moran said. "So, I think you have to learn your own body and how it reacts to different intakes."

Giving sailors the tools to track their own health is part of the Navy's recent re-imagining of the physical readiness program, which begins in January with looser body-fat standards and more support, but fewer chances for people who fail.

"[If] you do not care about your physical health, I do not need you as a professional in my force," Moran said.

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

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