Fitness or activity trackers are becoming increasingly popular. If you are trying to lose weight, you might be tempted try one. There are several keys to making a fitness tracker work for you.
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Do they work?
I love my fitness tracker! I almost had a meltdown on a recent vacation when I forgot the charging cable for my tracker. I was planning on getting lots of steps and now they wouldn’t count. But perhaps I am not a normal user.
Some scientific studies have shown that fitness trackers have not helped people lose weight. Many people stop using them soon after they purchase them. However fitness trackers have come a long way since the first generation and offer numerous new features. If you have realistic expectations and take advantage of the ways I list below, you have a better chance of success with the tracker.
Most activity trackers have an indication that you need to move after a certain amount of inactivity. One of the biggest health risks in modern society is sitting too much. So seeing a red bar on your tracker is a good reminder that it is time to get up and walk around.
This is one of the biggest reasons that people purchase an activity tracker. Unfortunately many fitness trackers will set the daily goal to 10,000 steps. This can be discouraging when you find out that it takes some effort to get to 10,000 steps.
A better option is to set your goal lower and adjust it as you get comfortable with it. Even better use the automatic step goal setter if it is available.
Be realistic with weight loss expectations based on walking. If you increase your daily steps from 2000 to 10,000 steps this translates to less than a pound a week. Not significant, but it adds up over time.
Heart Rate Tracking
Many of the newer fitness trackers include wrist based heart rate monitoring. This is a great feature for a few reasons:
- You can use it to see how hard you are working in your workouts. Wrist based monitors are much more comfortable than a chest strap for most women. They are not as accurate, but accuracy seems to be improving.
- Continuous monitoring means that the calories burned given on your watch will be more accurate than calculations using steps alone. Make sure you have entered the correct information when you set up the watch.
- Some watches will use the heart rate tracking to determine how much weekly time you are spending exercising. Ideally you want to exercise at a moderate level for at least 150 minutes per week. If you are doing interval training you may not get an accurate representation of how much exercise you are getting.
- One of my favourite features is the resting heart rate feature. Resting heart rate is a measure of your heart rate when you are complete rest, otherwise a difficult thing to measure. Your resting heart rate will likely go down as your fitness improves. An increase in your resting heart rate can indicate that you are overtraining or even getting sick. A good time to back off.
Most activity trackers include sleep tracking and newer devices are improving the accuracy of the tracking. Your movement and your heart rate (if available) are used to track your sleep. Lack of sleep is now recognized as a contributor to weight gain and numerous other health issues so knowing your sleep habits is important.
Most companies that sell fitness trackers also have apps available to get more detailed logging information than what is available on your watch. You can see if your daily step count is improving. Some even estimate VO2max which is an indication of aerobic fitness.
It is possible to use a fitness tracker to help improve your health and help you lose weight. If you are looking for other ideas for weight loss during menopause download this free guide.