fitness

8 ways to get the most out of your fitness tracker.

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When fitness trackers arrived on the market – those clever, ‘wearable-without-looking-like-a-douche’ tech-sessories (sorry Google Glass!) – we wanted in.

THIS would be the Holy Grail to motivate our fitness. Once we got around to taking it out of the box, obviously.

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But like the kale slowly wilting in the fridge and the exercise ball gathering dust in the corner, we’re a fickle bunch. 42% of us lose interest in fitness trackers after six months, according to new data from market research company NPD. Which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t invest – on the contrary, it means you’ve got six months to show that tech band who’s boss. Here’s how.

1. Follow your goals, not the pre-sets.

Most actors have a goal of winning an Oscar. But if an actor is currently starring in a TV commercial, the Oscar probably isn’t going to come tomorrow.

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Ditto with achieving the standard fitness-tracker goal of 10,000 steps a day. If you’re currently averaging 4,000 steps, it’s better to aim for 5,000 and slowly build up – rather than not make 10,000, feel frustrated, and give up.

2. Look for vibration settings.

Not for that purpose, naughty! But getting recognition for meeting a goal – such as a vibration going off, receiving a notification or earning points – turns fitness into a game. And we like games. Not as much as we like cake, but still.

3. Wear it on the hand you don’t write with.

Your writing arm moves more, and fitness tech can’t tell if that movement is you taking a step – or you swatting a fly. Using your non-dominant hand ups the odds of getting an accurate step tally. (And, FYI, wearing tech on your wrist beats waist for accuracy, according to a study in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise).

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4. Enter as much personal data as possible.

You wouldn’t get useful job matches on LinkedIn if your profile only included your name and location. The same is true of fitness trackers: the more information you give it, the more it will give you in return. Update it as you progress, and be truthful with your stats. It’s impossible for it to judge you.

5. Actually wear it.

We know what you’re thinking: well, obviously! But it’s easily done. You take it off to charge it, forget to put it back on, days of no data collection go by, and then you think, pah, there are so many gaps, what’s the point. The point is… consistency! Leave a note, charge it next to your phone so you grab it before work, redirect the fear you have of leaving your hair straighteners on to a fear of leaving your fitness tracker off.

6. Keep it clean.

You won’t continue to wear a tracker if days of 24/7 sweaty wrist action (ahem) have turned it into a smelly biological health hazard. Clean it regularly with a cotton pad and mild soap or a cleansing wipe.

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7. Get social media involved.

Connecting with your tracker’s social community is the equivalent of crowdsourcing motivation. Jawbone users who share activity data with at least three ‘teammates’ take 1,000 more steps per day than those who don’t. Fitbit reports that users with one friend on their system take 27% more steps.

8. Finally, accept that it’s only so accurate.

Before you call it a liar and throw it the bin in disgust after it says you only burned 30 calories in pilates, remember this: trackers are 15-40% inaccurate at totting up calorie burn, says Iowa State University research. (The best? BodyMedia Core, then Fitbit Flex, Jawbone Up24 and Nike Fuelband SE – all with accuracy between 15-18%). Unless your tracker has a built-in heart-rate monitor, it will probably underestimate calorie burn during low-intensity exercise (ie yoga) as it struggles to detect your movement. So if the figure it gives you is way off – let yourself off.

Have you gotten good results with your fitness tracker?

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