Tracking your fitness, one step at a time

Posted by Janet McCann, R.D.
September 30, 2016

Blog_fitnessTrackI recently purchased a fitness tracker so I would have a better awareness of my activity levels each day. My new tracker recommended a goal of 10,000 steps a day. That wouldn’t be too difficult, I thought. I move a lot during the day. Day one was about 3,000 steps, and day two was not much better. How could that be? Day three was a Saturday, and the steps finally reached 10,000. Wow, I was quite sedentary on work days and needed to come up with a plan to move more.

Inactivity can lead to chronic health problems, weight gain and overall fatigue. A fitness tracker can help you set realistic goals and get you moving each day. It might be difficult to reach 10,000 steps initially, but you can set the tracker with your own personal goal, and then reassess that goal in a week or two. Maybe you decide to get up 15 minutes earlier each day for a short walk and find ways to fit in more steps at work. Perhaps you can enlist the help of friends or co-workers to help you move more.

Now that you have a goal in mind, the rest becomes much easier. You will begin to challenge yourself to get more steps each day and to go beyond the goal you set. If your tracker is linked to your phone or email, you can get inspiring messages letting you know how great you are because you met the goals set each day.  

Some trackers also can help determine how well you are sleeping based on your movement during sleep. Getting adequate, good-quality sleep is important for all of us and also can help ward off health problems. Without the tracker, you may not have known you were restless 12 times during the night. This data might help you make some changes to your bedtime routine, such as turning the TV off sooner, checking emails at an earlier time or tuning out social media at least one hour before bedtime. You can, hopefully, go to bed more relaxed and have a better chance for a longer night’s slumber. 

Some fitness trackers can be used as a weight loss tool, heart rate monitor or food record.  It just depends upon the features that meet your needs. Many smartphones also track steps and help you set health goals, so an extra device may not need to be purchased.

Personally, the tracker has helped me reach my goal of 10,000 steps at least five days a week or more. I check my heart rate to determine if I am in a good range for my age, take the stairs whenever I can and am trying to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night. My fitness tracker has made me more accountable to move more and motivates me to be less sedentary.

Janet McCann, R.D.N., is a registered dietician at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire.

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