Before You Buy Those Fitness Trackers

Make sure you research these things — there are surprising downsides

Wearable technology continues to top holiday wish lists. Virtual Reality (VR) headsets and smart watches will likely lead the pack in 2016, followed closely by fitness trackers to help people shed their holiday pounds (and more).

January is always a huge month for a fresh start in health, so it makes perfect sense to stuff stockings with fitness trackers — certainly anything that gets us doing more physical activity is good for us, right? Strapping a pedometer to our wrists could help us track steps throughout the day and stay mindful of our physical activity in general.

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But what happens when that same device causes rashes and makes our skin blister? recently wrote about some of the latest challenges.

The Basis Peak was one of the first fitness trackers to include a heart monitor. Unfortunately, the additional feature also appears to have put extra strain on the device, causing it to overheat.

Initially, Basis — the company that makes the Basis Peak, and a subsidiary of Intel Corporation — believed it could fix the issue with a simple software update. Yet the situation turned out to be much more difficult than first believed, and after several months the company finally acknowledged it would not be able to fix the devices.

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In August Basis issued a full recall of its Basis Peak tracker, including the premium version of the tracker known as the Basis Titanium. Customers who return the recalled device will get the full amount of the cost of the watch, plus tax and shipping.

Related: Rural Moms Need a Fitness Plan, Too

When adults buy fitness gear, we’re aware of “let the buyer beware.” But when it comes to children’s devices, different considerations need to be made — especially when those devices are handed out as free tchotchkes in a Happy Meal.

[lz_bulleted_list title=”Fitbit Recall” source=””]Fitbit in 2014 issued a recall for its Fitbit Force after a list of skin-related injuries turned up, including burns, blistering, peeling and rashes. Customers were offered a full refund.[/lz_bulleted_list]

McDonald’s issued a recall of some 29 million “Step-iT” activity wristbands that it had handed out in its kids’ meals over about a one-week period (from August 9 to August 17). During that time, the company received more than 70 reports about children developing blisters while wearing the wristbands. Given the harm done by the wristbands, the popular restaurant chain issued a full recall.

Those who received the wristbands (or their parents) can bring them back to any McDonald’s restaurant. In return, they will get a different — and safer, one hopes — toy as a replacement, as well as a choice between yogurt or a bag of apple slices.

Do Your Homework
Bottom line: When shopping for wearable tech and fitness-related gifts this year, make sure to do your homework.

  • Don’t buy cheap knock-offs.
  • Check for recalls if you buy your gifts early in the season (or as soon as a product launches)
  • Save your receipts … just in case.

Jonas Sickler, with, coordinates safety campaigns to inform consumers about health alerts and product recalls.

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