Wearable trackers can amplify your fitness

(Image Credit: iStockPhoto/BsWei)

Stop kidding yourself. Simply wearing a fitness tracker for a couple of months was never going to make you reach your health goals. In order for your new gadget to have any meaningful impact on your health, you need to know how to use it as effectively as possible.

1. Establish a Baseline

You might be raring to try out your new toy, but if you want to track your fitness level accurately you’ll need to establish a baseline first. Let your device measure your resting heart rate and typical step count by going easy on the exercise and the caffeine for the first couple of days.

2. Take a Long Hard Look at the Numbers

People tend to overestimate their activity levels, so seeing some hard numbers might be a bit of a shock. An average sedentary person takes only 3,500 steps a day, roughly half the recommended amount, so if your numbers are close to this level you know that it’s time to take some serious action.

3. Set some Goals

It’s all too easy to set yourself a goal of 10,000 steps a day and give up by the end of the week. Goals should be realistic, so if your current step count is 3,500, start with a smaller target and work your way up. Remember, even a modest improvement of 300 more daily steps nets you a weekly improvement of 2,100.

4. Analyse the Data

Fitness trackers tend to monitor your steps, miles, calories and heart rate. But the numbers don’t mean much if you don’t have anything to compare them too. Check the American Heart Association’s target heart rates to see if you’re in the right ballpark.

When it comes to burning calories, it takes roughly 30 minutes of mild to moderate exercise to use 250 calories. If you’re struggling to find those 30 minutes every day, try to incorporate more movement into your everyday routine. Cycling to work or walking to the shops instead of driving will make a real difference to your daily total.

5. Stick to Your Target

Sticking to a target is much harder than setting one, and 33% of people ditch their fitness tracker in the first six months. However, it’s been scientifically proven that people are much more likely to reach a particular fitness goal if they have someone working to support them, whether that means enlisting a friend, family member or even a personal trainer. Set up a positive feedback loop by sharing your fitness milestones with like minded people on social media. A little praise can go a long way when it comes to feeling better about ourselves.

6. Reward Yourself

People can be irrational when it comes to health and fitness. We all know that people who exercise feel better about themselves, get more done and even live longer - but most of us don’t even do the bare minimum.

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, individuals are often motivated by past experiences and future rewards. One way to take advantage of this fact is by putting some cash on the line. Give a small sum to a partner. If you meet your fitness target for the month, you get to spend it on something just for you, but if not, they get to keep it for themselves. The ‘anticipated regret’ of losing out can be an excellent motivator!

7. Recognise the Limits

Fitness trackers can tell you how much you exercise, but the much more important question of how to exercise needs to be answered by a fitness professional. Not only that, but it should be remember that when it comes to calorie counting, fitness trackers are up to 40% off the mark at any given point. In other words, a fitness tracker shouldn’t replace the advice of your doctor, nutritionist or personal trainer, especially if you have a medical condition that might make exercising unsafe.

Trackers are getting smarter every year. But it’s important to remember that it’s not the technology that counts - it’s how you use it.

Do you think wearable trackers are being used effectively? Let us know in the comments.


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