Sunday, March 18, 2012

Do GPS Running Trackers Cause More Harm Than Good?


Photo by Kyle Cassidy via Wikimedia Commons

There are a lot of different parts to the world of GPS. From handhelds to automotive or motorcycle devices, GPS trackers, and fitness GPS units, they’re all very different. However, I think that pretty much everyone can agree that the market is changing. Smartphones are causing steady declines in the automotive segment (although it’s still holding on, contrary to all of the dire predictions of analysts in the last few years) and the fitness tracker category has grown to soaring heights of popularity. Heck, there are more fitness trackers that I can keep up with and they run the gamut from professional runner level statistic trackers that do everything but run for you all the way down to glorified pedometers. But, one has to wonder, with the GPS fitness industry growing so fast, what is the effect on users?

Well & Good published a fantastic article last month arguing that GPS trackers are actually doing most runners more harm than good. The article suggests that due to our competitive nature, having everything recorded and shared on sites like Strava is actually detrimental to runners’ health as it not only pressures runners but also makes it harder to listen to your own body. Much like the way smartphones have made few people bother to memorize numbers, a GPS tracker might make some people less likely to be able to listen to their own body and determine pace or warnings of potential injuries.

However, it does seem like pretty much any new or up-and-coming technology always gets the same warnings: overuse can lead to dependence. I mean, just look at how people thought radio was terrible or how MTV was going to rot out our brains. Smartphones are the current culprit, and while I can agree that all of these technologies can have bad effects, perhaps moderation is key.

The article is fantastic and I highly recommend giving it a read if you use any kind of GPS tracker. Definitely puts things into a good perspective and it’s a view of GPS running devices that few people really stop and consider.

So, for those of you who use GPS trackers in your runs or rides, what do you think? Do you find yourself pushing harder than you normally would because the stats are being tracked and published? Is it helping or harming? Share your thoughts with me below!


  1. Folks, this photo is not in the public domain. It was taken by Kyle Cassidy, and he owns the rights. Please contact him about permission.

    • That was my mistake; I’ve updated to include the attribution. Thank you for pointing it out so it could be corrected. 🙂

  2. thanks for your post. Now it’s a big concern about gps trackers. So, I never use GPS tracker.

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