Using a Fitness Tracker.

The use of activity trackers to monitor fitness has been all the rage as of late, from the Fitbit to the Apple Watch. Today, various wearables provide even more data you can use to track your progress and achieve goals.

While smartwatches and their health monitoring features have seen many advancements over the years, many people striving to lose weight, gain muscle or simply become more active eventually give up on their fitness tracker. They may become frustrated by the amount of data provided and stop wearing it entirely.

Have the Right Tracker

In some cases, newer doesn’t always mean better. Extra data that adds little to your overall progress and goals can become distracting. The wrong tracker can torpedo your efforts from day one, so before purchasing any model, it’s important to do your research.

Consider what you will track: Do you want to count steps, monitor heart rate or are you seeking activity-specific data? Also ask yourself how many reminders you’ll need to stay on target and how you wish to track your progress. Some may benefit from a more basic fitness tracker designed to count steps and active minutes, while those with a more detailed fitness plan may want additional features.

Be Consistent

If you don’t put on your fitness tracker at the start of each day, you’re not seeing the full results. Unfortunately, according to a 2016 survey by Gartner, close to 30 percent of users eventually stop wearing their devices, primarily because they no longer find them useful.

Even on your slowest days, steps will always count. Particularly for a tracker using aggregate data, this information helps paint a picture of your overall activity. This can also offer insight into why you may not be reaching your goals of increased activity or dropping weight.

Establish Clear Goals

Another major obstacle, many who start using a fitness tracker do not create clear goals. Rather, they simply want to “get fit” or “lose weight” and passively use the device, observing their data without considering the insights.

A fitness tracker is simply a tool for measuring progress, rather than the end-all-be-all of your routine. As such, you’ll want to begin your fitness journey with defined yet reasonable goals: Taking a certain number of steps, getting a specific number of minutes per activity or losing a number of pounds. Start small and periodically adjust your goals through the data observed from your fitness tracker.

When setting goals and using a fitness tracker to reach them:

  • Don’t set unattainable goals right from the beginning. Your fitness tracker will consistently report you’re missing the goal number, which can disappoint and encourage you to give up.
  • Begin with small, reasonable goals. Especially if you’re not a very active person, it’s not realistic to say you’ll walk five miles or get 10,000 steps every day. Instead, begin with a smaller amount you can easily fit into your schedule, be it a 15-minute walk or 5,000 steps a day. Once your fitness tracker says you’re hitting these markers, you can slowly increase them.
  • Gradually adjust your weight loss expectations. Some individuals may drop more pounds in the beginning before hitting a plateau. Especially as your body adjusts to your routine, you might not be losing pounds at the same rate or burning as many calories as when you first started tracking your progress.

Determine What You’re Tracking

Not all data is created equal and, while fitness trackers have continued to offer more information over the past decade, some of it can get muddled and confusing. If you’re using a wearable to monitor steps and physical activity, be sure to differentiate between the two, in terms of what counts as a step and how you’re burning calories.

Certain devices also let you track activities and steps separately. Implement this feature if you have it and establish goals for your preferred activities and daily steps. You may also want to ignore certain types of data that won’t add meaningful insight into your progress.

Many wearables let you customize the features being tracked. If your fitness tracker offers a degree of customization, consider omitting the aspects you don’t plan to monitor from this interface for a more streamlined experience.

Create a Log to Manage Long-Term Progress

While fitness trackers can tell you if you’ve hit your goal, it may be up to you to track your long-term progress. In conjunction with your tracker, create a log to record your step and activity milestones and any pounds lost. On a monthly basis, you can see what’s working, where you’re improving and if you’ve hit a plateau.

Furthermore, as fitness trackers can work in conjunction with various apps for meal and calorie tracking, consider recording information from these programs. Over time, observe how your nutritional and activity habits have changed and how they impact your progress.