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The dark side of quantifying our health

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
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Weekly nuggets of pain science news and insight, usually 100-300 words, with the occasional longer post. The blog is the “director’s commentary” on the core content of a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.

Timothy Caulfield on the evidence that fitness trackers and other health measurement gadgets might not be a pure force for good:

“Don’t let the flashy marketing or the intuitive appeal of the quantification trend fool you. More data is not always better and can, in fact, be harmful. It can also suck the joy out of your day.”

It can suck. I have seen that. But I wear an Apple Watch full time, and it seems mostly useful and happy. I am not a “ring closer” precisely because I think it does get oppressive. I have used my watch almost exclusively for calorie counting, for the “energy math” that I need to do to prevent myself from becoming too rotund. I find it super useful as an endless source of disheartening but needful reminders about how few blueberry oatmeal muffins I can eat (very few). And I don’t think I will ever stop marvelling at how far I can run powered by just one chocolate croissant or a single slice of cheesecake (farther than I want). Our metabolic efficiency is truly astounding! Well done, nature!

That’s what I get out of my fitness tracker, anyway. I am a data dork 🤓 and endlessly curious about physiology. That might be the secret to my own tracker happiness.

But Tim’s point is well-taken: it’s not all good for everyone.

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