Chicago Health | Homepage
Wearable fitness tracker can build your motivation to exercise

Wearable fitness tracker can build your motivation to exercise

Source: University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health

You see them clamped to the wrists of people everywhere: restaurant servers, office colleagues, fellow gym rats, the teenager next door. Fitness trackers seem to have become de rigeur among the fitness conscious. They’re becoming so popular that companies are even producing ones that look more like fashion jewelry than fitness monitors.

As with many trends, it can be hard to tell whether this is just a passing one, or the start of something more.

Jackie Kuta Bangsberg, a clinical exercise physiologist and University of Wisconsin Health Fitness Center manager, has also noted the increasing trend of fitness trackers among the center’s members. And, she thinks, they offer a lot of great potential if they are actually used.

“A lot of people who currently use trackers are already fit. They love technology, love being able to track and download their workouts,” she notes. “Trackers can be really beneficial, but only if you use them consistently. And for those who don’t want to or can’t join a class, the wearable devices may be a great way to stay motivated.”

WILL YOU ACTUALLY WEAR A TRACKER?

If you’re considering buying a device, Kuta Bangsberg recommends asking yourself, “Am I someone who is going to actually wear and use this, or is it just a novelty?” She also suggests talking with others who actually use trackers to find out what they think.

Mary Werner, a lifeguard at the U of W Health Fitness Center, began wearing a tracker thanks to her mom.

“My mom really liked the one she wore, so she got me one for Christmas,” said Werner. “It’s a great subtle reminder to myself to try to incorporate more activity into my day and to reach my daily goal of 10,000 steps. I would highly recommend getting a device.”

Kuta Bangsberg says that’s one of the nice things about trackers: You can see your progress, which can help maintain momentum when positive changes aren’t always obvious.

“We know it takes about six weeks of maintaining a behavior change for it to actually stick. If we can help people reach that point, then they actually start to miss the behavior when they don’t do it,” explains Kuta Bangsberg. “With the trackers, we can see those changes quickly — more steps than the previous day, or consistently reaching those steps each day — that can be the positive feedback people need to keep going.”

Werner’s device syncs with an app on her phone. She can receive weekly emails with a summary of activities including information like calories burned and how much time she spent being active. She can even compete with others who have similar devices.

“I’m a competitive person, so if I’m in a competition with someone I have more incentive to try and go above and beyond my step goals,” comments Werner.

HAVE PATIENCE

Even with the additional motivation of competing against others, research shows that approximately 50 percent of those who start wearing a tracker stop within a year. It’s difficult to turn external motivations — like competing against others — into internal motivators. That’s why Kuta Bangsberg encourages wearers to be patient.

“If you get a tracker, give yourself at least eight weeks and watch yourself. If nothing else, you’re going to learn something about yourself in that time. And it’s important to be realistic about your goals. You’re not going to go from a sedentary lifestyle to walking 10,000 steps in a single day,” she comments.

After putting the device on, Kuta Bangsberg recommends having a few “normal” days so you can establish what a typical day for you is like. Then slowly, over the course of time, challenge yourself. Try for 100 more steps the next day. If you don’t make it, aim for 50 more steps. Or, see if you can do the same number of steps at least five days in a row.

Over time, she notes, you’ll eventually have made progress because you’re doing more than you would have otherwise done in a normal day. And she points out that setbacks are common, and make it easy to think we’re off track. But we’re often not as off track as we think we are.

“We are impatient by nature and want to see change quickly. And we get easily distracted. But, if we plan for setbacks and realize we’re still making progress, we can continue to find a positive way to move forward. Behavior patterns are so ingrained, it’s really challenging to establish new ones,” says Kuta Bangsberg.

THE BENEFITS OF CONSISTENCY

A common complaint about trackers is that they’re not always accurate in recording activity. Kuta Bangsberg points out that the benefit they offer is consistency. Using the device daily offers an opportunity to see the trends over time. So focus less on specific details and more on the bigger picture.

And, as companies continue to refine the accuracy of the devices, trackers may offer benefits we haven’t even discovered yet.

“As the technology continues to evolve, they could offer significant advantages in helping people not only maintain healthy habits, but actually identify health concerns,” says Kuta Bangsberg. “It’s exciting to think of the possibilities.”

WhatDoctorsKnow is a magazine devoted to up-to-the minute information on health issues from physicians, major hospitals and clinics, universities and health care agencies across the U.S. Online at www.whatdoctorsknow.com.

(c) 2015 WHATDOCTORSKNOW.COM DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

Similar Articles

Encouraging Innovation in Technology that Helps Older Adults

Encouraging Innovation in Technology that Helps Older Adults

By Tom Mullaney Less than a decade ago, the field of aging was a sleepy sector

Chicago Tech Start-up Spurs Weight Loss

Chicago Tech Start-up Spurs Weight Loss

By Tom Mullaney At the start of every new year, Americans’ number one resolution is to

Customized Coaching

Customized Coaching

Personalized wellness plans target health and fitness By Megy Karydes Often, a doctor will dole out a recommendation

Wearable Medicine

Wearable Medicine

New devices tackle heart disease and diabetes By Tom Mullaney Above photo: CardioMEMS pulmonary artery sensor. Courtesy of St. Jude Medical,

Make your diet more nutrient-dense

Make your diet more nutrient-dense

Environmental Nutrition By Matthew Kadey, M.S., R.D., Environmental Nutrition Newsletter There is only so much food you

Articles By Category

Family Health

In The Know

CH Lifestyle

May 2017
Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
April 30, 2017 May 1, 2017 May 2, 2017 May 3, 2017 May 4, 2017 May 5, 2017 May 6, 2017
May 7, 2017 May 8, 2017 May 9, 2017 May 10, 2017 May 11, 2017 May 12, 2017 May 13, 2017
May 14, 2017 May 15, 2017 May 16, 2017 May 17, 2017 May 18, 2017 May 19, 2017 May 20, 2017
May 21, 2017 May 22, 2017 May 23, 2017 May 24, 2017 May 25, 2017 May 26, 2017 May 27, 2017
May 28, 2017 May 29, 2017 May 30, 2017 May 31, 2017 June 1, 2017 June 2, 2017 June 3, 2017

Categories

Recent Comments

Fund a Cure Night | The Griffith Family Foundation

Fund a Cure Night | The Griffith Family Foundation

Enjoy a great night of baseball at Peoples Natural

VIEW ARTICLE
Swing for the fences in the fight to Sideline Pancreatic Cancer

Swing for the fences in the fight to Sideline Pancreatic Cancer

Enjoy a great night of baseball at Peoples Natural

VIEW ARTICLE

Archives