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Healthy You

Fitness Trackers: Doing It the Right Way

Friday, December 29, 2017 7:45 AM

With New Year’s resolutions for better health and weight loss on everyone’s minds, fitness wearables and trackers are a popular choice to help one’s quest for success. Fitness trackers and wearables – such as FitBit, Jawbone, Garmin, Misfit and even our phones – can help us count our steps, watch our caloric intake and challenge our friends in who can get the most steps. Their increased use of fitness trackers across all age groups is believed to help give us that extra motivational push we need to stay on track with our New Year’s resolutions.

The suggested goal of 10,000 steps a day – encouraged by many fitness trackers – comes from a study done by Dr. Yoshiro Hatano in the 1960s. The study found that walking an estimated 10,000 steps a day would be enough to burn off about 20% of the average daily caloric intake and promote health benefits. This goal is in line with the US Surgeon General’s current recommendation of accumulating 150 minutes of activity per week, which translates to about 30 minutes, 5 days a week. The average adult takes only 3,500-5,000 steps a day, so striving to reach 10,000 steps is certainly a step in the right direction!

Carrie Jaworski, MD, Directory of Primary Care Sports Medicine at NorthShore, believes that a fitness tracker can be a great way to jumpstart your fitness routine and improve your overall health.

Dr. Jaworski offers some tips when using a fitness tracker:

  • Find what is right for you. A 2013 study found that over half of the participants stopped using their fitness tracker after 6 months. Finding a fitness tracker that fits your lifestyle is important and will enable you to continuously use it. If you are looking for convenience, most phones come with a built-in step counter. If you cannot carry a phone all day, look into a tracker that is also a watch or a device that can be slipped into your pocket. There are many very inexpensive options, including free apps on your phone, so it may make sense to start small and then upgrade to fancier models once you determine your true needs. Remember, the easier it is to use, the more likely you are to stay with it.
  • Make it a social process. When you combine your efforts with friends or social media, you have a built-in support system. Your friends can help keep you accountable and motivate you to get those extra steps in. Some fitness trackers allow for challenges between you and your friends to see who can get the most steps in a few days. Positive reinforcement is a great motivator for yourself and your friends!
  • Don’t just focus on the numbers. While 10,000 steps a day is an admirable goal, don’t get bogged down with the numbers or feel defeated if you can’t reach your goal every day. Give yourself credit for trying as lifestyle changes, such as exercise, take time. Even those with the best habits have bad days where they “fall off the wagon.” The most important thing is to start moving, as we know that even baby steps can make a big difference in one’s health.
  • Before making any big changes, Dr. Jaworski stresses that it is always a good idea to speak with your doctor first.

Do you have a fitness tracker? How has it helped you with your New Year’s resolutions?