Get fit: 5 ways to put your fitness tracker to work

Get fit: 5 ways to put your fitness tracker to work

If you’ve jumped on the fitness-tracker bandwagon, you’re not alone. Millions of people have purchased wearable fitness trackers. These devices, such as the Fitbit, Jawbone UP and Garmin vívofit, monitor statistics such as your heart rate, activity levels and the number of steps you take.

Alas, while it’s fun to watch your daily step totals pile up, that alone won’t get you to your fitness goals. You still have to do the work. These five tips will help you get the most from your wearable device.

1. Wear it! It may seem obvious, but according to technology consulting firm Endeavour Partners, more than half of U.S. consumers no longer use their trackers, and a third stopped using them within six months of acquiring it. Make it a habit to wear it daily – put it in a logical place so you’ll grab it each morning, for example. If your battery dies too often or you forget to put it on after a shower, look for fitness trackers that hold charges longer or are waterproof.

2. Set it up. You can usually download an app on your phone or computer that prompts you to plug in details such as height, weight and gender. Most trackers use this information to calculate your likely energy expenditure and stride length, making calculations more accurate and personal. Some trackers go further by letting you calibrate the actual length of your stride. Once you’re up and running, explore the app to discover your device’s features.

3. Use it for food tracking. Tracking your steps and exercise sessions is great, but you can also use your device to keep a food diary and add up calorie counts throughout the day. According to wearable-product company Jawbone, users who log 75 percent of their meals on their UP fitness tracker are more likely to meet weight-loss goals. That said, don’t get too caught up in the numbers. Researchers for the nonprofit American Council on Exercise tested five popular trackers in 2015, and found them less reliable at measuring calories burned than, say, steps taken. That means your calories-in-calories-out calculations might be off. Still, it’s a good way to get a sense of what you’re consuming.

4. Make it a competition tool. Many tracker companies offer built-in opportunities to go head-to-head with other users. Appealing to your competitive side can help push you to work out longer or harder. Jawbone UP users, for instance, can challenge friends to an activity “duel.” According to the company, users average 50 percent more steps on duel days.

5. Use it for other health information. Logging 10,000 steps a day is a great goal, but your tracker can do much more than that. Wearable trackers can monitor your sleep quality, detect different types of physical activity, check your heart health and alert you when you’ve been sitting too long. Yes, you might actually have to read the user’s manual, but it’ll be worth it to get the most out of your fitness tracker.

Can’t get enough self-monitoring? Learn how to keep a training log on your road to health and fitness.

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