Four times a week Jessica Dubois motivates a reluctant group of college kids to break a sweat. Five times a week she runs through campus. Twice a week she resistance trains. Through all of this, Dubois consistently checks her Fitbit.
Dubois, an Indiana University exercise science major and fitness class instructor, is one of 60 percent of people who track their weight, diet or exercise routine, according to Pew Research Center. Tracking methods can include wearable fitness trackers, an app, a journal or “mental tracking.”
You don’t need to workout 11 times a week like Dubois to get the most out of your fitness tracker like she is. However, you do need to approach tracking carefully if you want to optimize your health.
About 46 percent of trackers say that monitoring fitness has changed their overall approach to maintaining their health or the health of someone for whom they provide care, according to Pew Research Center.
Simply buying an app or putting a device on your wrist will not get you there. It is all in the approach. You must utilize the fitness tracker and to the best of its and your body’s ability. Here are three easy ways to get the most out of your fitness tracker.
It’s on you.
Your Fitbit is not going to put a dumbbell in your hand, nor is it going to push you up the hill. Therefore, you cannot leave the work up to the tracker. It is on you to put in the effort.
“The heart rate isn’t always accurate and when I do cycling, it doesn’t account for my active minutes so I don’t get any credit for performing the task,” said Dubois. Not getting credit on your device does not mean that task does not count towards better health.
Fitness trackers are tools. They are not magic, and they are not perfect. There can be a 10-15 percent margin of error when counting calorie-burn in trackers, according to a study by Iowa State University.
Don’t let these numbers discourage you. In the long run, your progress will show in your performance. Your tracker is meant to aid you as a tool. Your body is the only thing that knows the true progress.
“It’s really what we can do with those stats that makes fitness trackers different from old-school pedometers,” said Sarah Jacobsson Purewal, a Los Angeles consumer tech blogger who understands that it’s not about the device, it’s about how you use it.
Whether it’s “before” and “after” pictures, a victory pose or the data from your morning run, posting on social media about your workout is a great motivator. If you post a “before” picture, your followers will be expecting an “after.”
This does not mean you must become another one of those Instagram fitness bloggers taking over your feed. Annie Merritt, a Carmel, Ind., runner and Fitbit user, created a private Instagram account to document her workouts.
“I feel like I need to keep up,” said Merritt. Even if it is not a completely public media, it can help you keep yourself accountable. In Merritt’s case, she can invite whomever she wants to follow her account.
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and even Snapchat are all outlets from which you can choose the type of way you would prefer to post. For the hesitant poster, Snapchat may be the best route because the pictures only last a few seconds. Visual posters may prefer Instagram to creatively post their workout.
By posting, you are recognizing the fact that your viewers are going to be reading your posts, following your fitness journey, and then eventually expecting to hear from you to see your next workout or progress picture.
In a 2017 study, runners were more motivated when they saw the posts of other runners who shared their run details on digital media, according to Nature Communications. So, not only does it help you as an individual, but it also can help your friends or followers. By building a community of accountability partners, you can all help each other reach towards better health.
Make it a game.
A little friendly competition can go a long way, especially in Natasha Valk’s family.
Valk, Rye, N.Y., comes from a family of fitness trackers. Her mom recently bought a second round of fitness trackers for the family. First, it was Fitbits. Now, it’s Apple Watches.
If Valk checks her device in the afternoon to see that her mom attended a pilates class that morning, Valk said she feels more inclined to head to the campus gym because she does not want her mom to win that day.
Valk said fitness tracking works when it comes to improving her health.
Whether it’s your mom’s pilates class, your neighbor’s morning jog or your coworker’s CrossFit, you can compete with them through a fitness tracker.
“I love Strava because I’m very competitive,” said Craig Randall, a Boulder, Colo., trail runner and road cyclist. “It can essentially turn every run into a competition, against yourself and your previous best times or against your friends or strangers.”
People are more incentivized to exercise when they are competing with peers in a social environment, according to a study from the Preventive Medicine Reports. By having other people hold you accountable, there are more people urging you to workout than just yourself. Competition also can make exercise more fun because it gives the sense of playing a game instead of just physical activity.
Jumpstart Your Health With Fitness Trackers
Growth in the wearables market is expected to increase 35% by 2019, according to Business Insider Intelligence. So, if you plan on buying a fitness tracker, or if you already own one, these tips can help you make that fitness tracker an effective tool on your journey to good health.