Over the past few years, fitness trackers have evolved from a mere pedometer (device that counts your steps) into a basic fitness partner for the average person. I have yet to see a professional athlete use one of these during a race or while training, however that may yet change.
A fitness tracker, as the name implies, tracks your daily physical activities and some even track your heart-rate. Knowing how many steps you’ve actually taken in a day, how long you’ve slept and how much time you’ve spent on exercising is great. However, most people I know who own a fitness tracker only look at their daily readings and the time. Just because you’ve join a gym and you wear an expensive fitness tracker, doesn’t mean squat if you are not improving on your actual fitness.
A fitness tracker only starts to be useful when you start to look at you activities thru the weeks. See how you have actually performed in comparison to the previous week would motivate the average person to gear up and do better. As you improve, you can gradually increase or intensify your physical activities; from walking 10,000 steps a week to 6,000 steps in a day, then going into 20 minutes jogs and stepping it up to 40 minutes runs 6 weeks later. That is what a fitness tracker is supposed to do for you.
How Should You Use It?
Each fitness tracker have many features and some more than others. There is the pedometer, the calories counter, sleep tracker, heart-rate monitor, call and message notifications, reminders, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. There are just too many to go thru all of them. So, let’s talk about the more common and useful features in fitness trackers.
This is a basic step counter. It is generally assumed that you need to take 10,000 steps a day in order to stay fit. This is pure bollocks if you already have other physical activities. The pedometer however, is a good way to look at how much time you would rather spend walking than taking the car out. It is a good way to stay fit and looking at your daily steps can actually guide you in that direction. All you need to do is ensure that your weekly average increases each and every week. Now at this point, I have to bring to your attention the weakness in this activity. Just counting your steps is not enough. That is quantity over quality. Just because you took 8,000 steps today, doesn’t mean much if you we doing it in high heels or sandals. You could easily take 500 to 1000 steps while browsing thru a clothing store and trying on dresses. Firstly, there is no prolonged increase heart-rate and no actual physical effort. This means that that 1,000 steps is as useful as a pair of flippers is to your car. Walking 10,000 steps in high heels or sandals is also counterproductive to your overall health.
I don’t know about you, but I actually know how much sleep I do or do not get. That being said, some people do need to look at the figures to realise that they haven’t been sleep much, or as in most cases, sleeping way too much. You don’t have to get 8 hours sleep each day but you do need your rest. Some people work efficiently with 6 hours sleep while others need the full 8 hours. Whatever the case, your body will tell you if you have had too much or too little sleep. Too much sleep and you will constantly feel tired and lethargic. Too little sleep also have the same symptoms but it also makes healing and recovery difficult for your body.
This one is purely useless unless you are training for something. If you are fat, overweight or obese, you need to cut back on your food. If you are slim, slender or skinny, you just have to watch what you eat and not how much of it. Now here is another problem in today’s society. I have heard a 156 cm tall lady weighing at 44 kg saying, “I need to lose weight”. In case you can’t picture it, that is a skinny woman saying that.
Check your Body Mass Index (BMI) and see where you actually are in terms of body weight. It is not an accurate method but it is a good guide if you are not physically active. If your BMI is 25 and over, you need to start exercising and controlling how much you eat. If it’s under 18 you need to build muscles and eat properly. It is that simple.
Visit http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/BMI/bmi-m.htm to check your BMI.
This is a really good feature for you lazy bums. Fitness trackers generally can set targets for you to achieve in order to stay relatively fit. Achieve those targets and you will see some improvements in your fitness. As your fitness improves further you can adjust those targets for higher goals. I use this a lot.
I am surprised to discover that many are yet unaware of heart-rate monitors and how to use them for training. I suppose that’s ignorance on my part, not realising how fitness trackers have come into the market promoting heart-rate monitoring without explaining how it can help a person to improve their fitness levels.
In order to get the most out of this you need to understand Training Zones and maximum heart-rate (MaxHR). I’ll explain this further in a future article. For now, I’ll just say that the average person should be have a resting heart-rate of around 70-80 beats per minute. When you exercise, your heart-rate should be around 120 to 130 for a period of 20 to 40 minutes for that workout to be effective. If you exercise in this heart-rate zone twice to three times a week, you will see improvements in your fitness levels within the first two to three weeks.
Call & Message Notifications
Do you really need this? Seriously?
Is this the reason you spent RM1,000 on a fancy fitness tracker?
If your answer is “yes”, then what you need is not a fitness tracker but a kick in the buttocks. If it is too much of a hassle to just pick up your mobile device and actually go thru your messages and such, then you are obviously a very lazy person. What you really need is a personal assistant who can not only go thru your messages and screen your calls but he/she could also reply for you.
For your information this feature is there to make your life easier when you are exercising and may not want to stop to check if your friend is buying the red top or the green one. People who are serious about their health and fitness, prioritise during a workout. They don’t chase Pokémons on their runs. They just run.
I don’t believe that a fitness tracker is as accurate as their more reliable counterparts but that being said, fitness trackers can be a great fitness training buddy for the average person. Unfortunately, the fitness tracker seems more of a fashion statement than anything else. Get a basic fitness tracker to help you achieve a better fitness level. Keep constant track of your activities on a weekly basis and improve on it. However, if you are already fit as a fiddle, then maybe you might want to look into a proper heart-rate monitor or a more sport specific device.