Person wearing a fitness tracker tying shoelaces

Wearable tech vs PT vs gym – which will make you more active?

From wrist gadgets to gym memberships, if you’re looking to up your activity levels for a healthier lifestyle, there are plenty of options available that could float your fitness boat.

But how do you choose the one that’s right for you? Three people who’ve embraced one healthy living option tell us why. Writing for LV= life insurance, fitness writer Laura Williams talks to three people who caught the fitness bug in different ways, and personal trainers (PTs) about the pros and cons of each.

  • Fitness options to suit all budgets, fitness levels and lifestyles
  • The pros and the cons of each option
  • You can achieve exercise goals with ‘incidental’ exercise

The case for wearable tech

‘When I first used my tracker, I found it difficult to meet my steps target. But gradually my walking increased and now I tend to exceed my step goal. I frequently opt for walking over driving to get more steps recorded, and I take real pleasure in finding new walking routes,’ says Christine Griffin, 64, a retired teacher, mum of three and grandmother of three.

Personal trainer and fitness writer Linda Melone agrees: ‘Seeing those steps add up and the accompanying calorie burn provides a sense of progress.’

As does PT and group fitness instructor Hannah Lewin: ‘Wearable tech can be a great way to draw attention to your activity levels (or lack thereof!)’

‘Wearables can be an easy and effective way to monitor your activity levels, and 'gamify' exercise. I find the best devices are the ones that assist in determining benchmarks, setting goals and then encouraging activity with a social element,’ adds Dave Thomas, fitness journalist and co-founder of inclusive group training gyms The Foundry.

But beware of the pitfalls, warns Linda: ‘The downside is if it becomes obsessive, which I've seen with some people walking around their bed at night time in order to meet a step goal!’

Third Space City personal trainer Ayden Isaac-George also has reservations: ‘Your smart watch isn’t going to motivate you through that last set, correct your form, or hold you accountable for turning up to the gym on a cold evening.’

Instead, you could think about hiring someone to help motivate you.

It often doesn't occur to me to drive any more - my choice is to walk

Christine GriffinWearable tech user

The case for personal trainers

‘I started having sessions with a PT to increase my strength and stamina to run my first half marathon,’ explains Dena Read, 60, a freelance construction project manager.

‘Having achieved that, I didn’t want to give up. I felt stronger, which gave me more energy for my busy life. Working as a construction project manager means I’m often spending long days on construction sites, so I need to be fit.

‘Weekly sessions now form the core of my exercise regime. The work I do is targeted to all my needs and goals, which include training for a race, managing my weight and staying fit when injured. If you told me at 50 that I’d be much fitter at 60 I wouldn’t have believed it – but I am!’

Dave explains the advantages of training with a PT: ‘The best trainers can provide a level of accountability, support and coaching unrivalled by any other fitness service.’

Hannah agrees: ‘PTs are a great way of providing some structure to your workouts, so that you have a clear pathway to achieving your goals, as well as motivating you on days when you need an extra push.’

But, warns Linda, you have to put in the work: ‘In order for a trainer to be effective, the individual still needs to make a commitment. A trainer can only get an individual motivated if they're determined to change. If they’re unwilling to make that change, it won't be a long-term solution.’

And Dave isn’t keen on the possible dependent nature of the relationship: ‘After several months of quality personal training, even the greenest beginner doesn't 'need' personal training, so it becomes a very expensive dependency.’

He believes small group training is a good middle ground.

‘Training in a small group offers all the benefits of personalised coaching, alongside the social benefits of exercising with others, as well as resulting in significant savings,’ he explains.

If you told me at 50 I'd be much fitter at 60, I wouldn't have believed it

Dena ReadPersonal trainer endorser

The case for the gym

‘I’m 57 years young and I use the gym twice a week,’ says artist Doug Taylor. ‘Apart from the fact that it keeps me fit and helps me manage my weight, it also keeps my mind active. I enjoy working out with other people, so it’s a nice sociable option for me. And I’m that rare breed that actually likes the cardio machines – I really enjoy a stint on the cross trainer and treadmill! I find that going to the gym definitely helps with improving my self-esteem, and my sense of wellbeing in general.’

‘Once you're in a regular gym habit, it becomes second nature and no longer an internal debate,’ says Linda. ‘This is the ultimate goal for anyone striving to be in better shape: wake up, work out, rinse and repeat. Regular workouts become their own motivation.’

Ayden agrees: ‘Routine gives you an anchor, has a knock-on effect in our life and also frees up time.’

But his endorsement comes with a warning.

‘In spite of all the benefits of physical activity, it’s important to remember that physical activity should enhance your life, not become it.’

Going to the gym boost my self esteem

Doug TaylorGym goer
Depending on your free time, preferences and targets, any of the three fitness options above could be for you. Or a combination could work best: for example, a wearable device could help you track and improve your gym sessions. And of course, these aren’t the only three options available – you may be far more comfortable and get better results with group fitness, apps like SWEAT or YouTube tutorials. With all the options available, though, there’s sure to be one (or more) out there that suits your fitness needs.