By Suzanne Duval d'Adrian
If you’re like me, you think you’ve got a good handle on your health and activity level. You know you need to force yourself to get up from the desk a little more often, but generally you think you’re not doing too badly. Those perceptions are easily shattered the moment you strap on a fitness tracker.
It’s been three months since my husband and I purchased and began wearing our UP24 trackers from Jawbone and we’ve been amazed. The truth is, there were a lot of things that surprised us:
- Neither one of us recognized how sedentary we really were. I’d always considered myself moderately active during the day, but some days I was only taking a total of 1,700 steps! That’s essentially walking to the car in the morning, walking from the car into the studio and then back again. Scary — especially when you consider that the recommended daily goal is 10,000 steps per day, roughly 5 miles. I needed to change that and fast. Now, I make sure I get up early enough to spend some quality time either with the treadmill or pounding the pavement.
- We didn’t realize how many calories we were actually taking in. One of the features that attracted us to the model we purchased was its ability to sync with a large number of other programs, including a food log. The tool allows us to easily enter (and in some cases scan the UPC of) the food items we’re eating. By accessing a broad database to retrieve the nutritional facts, we’re able to track how many calories we actually consume and weigh that against our activity level for the day.
- Sleep is tremendously important — and we weren’t getting enough. Many of the trackers currently on the market will keep an eye on your sleep patterns too, letting you know how much light and deep sleep you get every night. The goal can be customized to fit the user’s needs but on average, it’s recommended that you get 8 hours per night. I’ve only hit the 8-hour goal twice so it’s definitely still a work in progress.
- To add to the list, I wasn’t drinking enough water. In fairness, I knew this information going in, so it wasn’t a huge surprise. But I was caught off guard by the stark difference between what I was and should have been drinking when it was put into an infographic. Now, I am much more conscious of grabbing a glass of water and taking sips throughout the day.
- While my husband and I usually challenge each other to do better, we weren’t consistent about it. Each day, a little window pops up in my app offering ‘Did You Know’ tips, closer looks at my performance and daily challenges. These little gems inspire me to drink more water, get to bed a little earlier or even just move a few more steps than I did the day before. Since I tend to be competitive, it’s just what I need to push myself, and I’ve seen improvements on my tracker’s trendlines as a result.
There are many devices out there, so selecting the one that’s right for you is key. Make sure you do your homework and look at each brand, then at each model within the brands. Select the features that match your goals and lifestyle — some models just track your steps, others can tell if you’re climbing stairs and can even monitor your heart rate throughout the day.
Remember to take a good look at the app or interface as well. There are differences in functionality and appearance between each of them and you might find some features more important and useful than others. That might help you to narrow your selection.
Don’t be shy about asking your friends for their recommendations – several trackers actually allow you create and participate your own support community. Now, you may be like me and not want to reveal your data in the beginning but I’ve got to tell you, peer pressure is a VERY powerful tool.
All in all, I highly recommend that everyone at least consider incorporating a fitness tracker into his or her life. While I was skeptical at first, I’m a true convert and enthusiast now — I can’t imagine not having this vital information every day.