You’re delighted to have received an activity tracker as a holiday gift. Your first impulse is to put it on and rack up as many steps — and burn as many calories — in as short a time as possible. But wait! Before you charge out the door, there are a few things you should to know in order to get the most out of wearing a tracker.
First, make sure that your tracker is attached securely to your body or clothing. We’ve heard too many stories from novices about losing trackers their first or second day because they didn’t put them on right. Check out important information on how to wear your new tracker.
Second, you will want to understand what the tracker is actually tracking. Many people think of a tracker as nothing more than a glorified pedometer or step counter. Of course, any “smart” tracker can count steps, but today’s trackers monitor something that may be even more important: active minutes. This measurement alerts you to how much time you spend sitting. As any health conscious person knows, sitting for hours on end increases the risk for a wide range of serious conditions, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and many forms of cancer. Keeping a close eye on your active minutes is every bit as important as watching your step count.
Third, be realistic when you set your goals. We recommend wearing the tracker for a day or two to get a baseline — that is, to understand your current activity level before making any changes. Once you start tracking your numbers, you can figure out ways to improve upon them. Our experts recommend adding about 500 steps daily to your count until you reach your goal. Similarly, try to improve on your total amount of active minutes by about 10% a day. Shooting for too much too soon could backfire. It could result in injury, or prove to be so difficult that you simply quit. Here’s where you can figure out how many steps is right for you.
Finally, don’t get obsessed with numbers. Think of your data as the ongoing story of your life. If you have a bad day when you miss your goals, you can “rewrite” the ending the next day and do better. The point is, tracking is about recognizing your trends so that you can make the appropriate interventions in a timely manner to maintain a healthy lifestyle.