Just like gym memberships, fitness trackers are all super exciting and shiny when we first get them. We wear them every day, and it’s easy to think it’s going to change our lives and zap us into shape. So, how to make the most of these tech-trinkets that are all too often discarded in a bedroom drawer?
It’s a tragic state of affairs, but abandoning a fitness tracker is something that happens a lot. Research from management consultants Endeavour Partners suggests that one-third of people who buy a wearable will stop using it within the first six months. Here’s a look at how to avoid becoming part of this unfortunate statistic.
1. A Fitness Tracker Is Not A Magic Wand
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Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that strapping a tracker on will make you a fitness fanatic overnight. This little bit of tech isn’t going to kick anyone out of bed at eight on a Saturday morning or chain them to their yoga mat. The desire to succeed remains a crucial ingredient. A wearable is a tool: nothing more, nothing less. But, if used correctly, it can be a brilliant aid for motivation and data collection.
2. Don’t Rely On Calorie Counters
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Fitness tracker calorie counts are inaccurate, as the majority base their readings on a few stats like age, gender, weight, and height, which isn’t representative of what bodies actually burn during exercise.
Using a device alongside a heart rate monitor, or buying a wearable with a built-in BPM sensor, can improve accuracy, but the count still should not be taken as gospel. With that in mind, don’t use calorie counts to calculate how many calories you should consume, or whether or not to have that ice cream for dessert. It’s better to underestimate burnt calories rather than overestimate them.
3. Set Your Own Goals
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A lot of today’s wearables come with pre-determined goals. These generic goals, however, don’t take into account current fitness levels. For example, if used by an already avid gym-goer, the targets set by the tracker may be met with ease, while professional couch potatoes may be disheartened if they don’t reach their goals.
The best thing to do is to use a fitness tracker for a week or two and compare initial results with the tracker’s pre-set goals. If they’re too easy, then make them more demanding. After all, no pain, no gain. Some of the modern fitness bands will adjust the goals for you given your average activity level.
4. You Are What You Eat
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Writing a diary of daily food consumption makes it easier to keep track of food habits. After tracking food for a week, people soon realize that they tend to underestimate how much they really eat on a daily basis. MyFitnessPal, Lifesum, and a few other apps are great free tools that work as food diaries and calorie counters that synchronize with most fitness trackers that are available on the market.
5. Create Mini-Challenges
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Wearables can also help to identify times when wearers could be more active, whether that’s during a lunch hour or when they get home. Once this has been figured out, it’s possible to start setting mini-challenges throughout the day. This could mean trying to walk 1,000 steps during lunch or walking at least 1,000 steps per hour. Challenges like this make it easier to focus on improving, rather than just monitoring fitness levels.
6. Get Social
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Arguably one of the most difficult aspects of using a fitness band is keeping it interesting. The best way is to dive headfirst into the social and community aspect of fitness trackers; working alongside other people is a great way to maintain long-term fitness goals. The motivation provided by fitness apps — either as encouragement or competition — makes the whole process much more enjoyable.
7. Step Up
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Making a difference to health means focusing on regular movement, not just counting steps. Remember, it’s important to avoid being sedentary for too long. Sitting for extended periods of time can increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancer.
With that in mind, the desk-chained masses should really focus on this as the number one habit to change. Moving for just five minutes each hour has been proven to aid overall wellbeing and fitness. Many fitness trackers come with a handy reminder to move when someone has been sat down for too long — just be sure to turn these on and take note.
8. Don’t Take It Off
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Taking off a tracker can result in less than usable data. It’s all too easy to take a quick shower while charging a tracker, only to remember putting it back again on the way to work. Doing this too many times will result in gaps in data that detract from the use of wearing a tracker full stop. To avoid this, it’s best to choose a tracker that doesn’t need to be charged as regularly as other models.