If you’ve read our recent articles on the benefits of habit-tracking apps or how to habit stack, then you’re likely already on your way to forming good habits that contribute to a healthier lifestyle. However, you may be overlooking a device that could make a difference in your healthy habits journey.
A fitness tracker — a device that tracks your movement, such as a traditional pedometer, other wearable device, or smartphone app — not only monitors your activity but can assist you in building healthier habits overall. Here’s how.
How Does a Fitness Tracker Build Better Habits?
Fitness trackers don’t just count your steps or track the calories you’ve burned. They can also support you in building better habits in a few key ways.
First, as an article from the University of Michigan points out, the main function of activity trackers is to translate your daily existing habits (and all the new ones you’re going to hopefully build) into data. This data is crucial. After all, how can you create new habits if you aren’t aware of your existing ones?
Sometimes, as John Hopkins Medicine points out, this data can be surprising. You might think that you’re getting far more exercise than you actually are, or that you’re sleeping better or keeping your stress levels lower than you are. Utilizing a fitness tracker before you establish any particular goal can make you more aware of your current state, thereby helping you to shift your mindset around your needs and goals. Once you know what your current state is, you may find yourself more incentivized to build better habits based on it — just like you can build better habits off existing habits when you habit stack.
Beyond just providing you valuable data, fitness trackers also provide you motivation and accountability once you’ve established a clear goal for yourself. If you’re lacking an external support system to hold you accountable to your fitness goals, or if you just don’t like to share those personal goals with others, a fitness tracker can be a good stand in for accountability — even if it only holds you accountable by reminding you to get up from your desk on occasion.
How to Pick a Fitness Tracker
Of course, not all fitness trackers are created equal, and you have a lot of options out there. So, how do you choose the right fitness tracker for your health goals and needs?
Obviously, the features you prefer are important in your selection process. You’ll want a device that can track whatever it is you’re trying to improve, whether that’s as basic as daily movement or more complex data points, such as the laps you swim in the pool each morning, or fluctuations in your heart rate or stress levels.
But beyond these small details, it’s also important you choose a tracker made by a reputable brand — one that won’t make outlandish health claims and won’t compromise your health-related data.
In a Medical News Today report on the best fitness trackers, authors looked exclusively at trackers from companies that made no questionable health claims, that operate transparently, that follow safe business practices, and that have received no warnings from governing bodies, among other factors. These are all factors you’ll want to consider while you shop as well.
How to Get the Most Out of Using Your Fitness Tracker
Once you’ve picked out the perfect fitness tracker to support you in achieving your goals, here are a few ways to ensure you get the most out of it.
1. Use it consistently.
It’s important to realize that, as with the formation of all habits, consistency is key. After all, that’s what a habit is, right? An action you’ve built into your routine and that you do consistently.
Make sure you use your fitness tracker daily to gather clear data on your progress.
2. Track activities you actually enjoy.
As you strive to use the fitness tracker to build better habits, try to monitor activities you take pleasure in. For example, if you’re measuring steps, you might want to start with tracking (and then increasing accordingly) your daily walk with your partner around the block after dinner rather than trying to get all your steps in during the workday or when you’re taking the dog on a run. By getting your steps in during activities that feel less like a chore, you might learn to enjoy exercise more.
3. Pair it with supporting technology.
Supplementing your fitness tracking device with technology that supports your overall progress on habits can give you a more complete picture when trying to make positive changes in your life. Habit-tracking apps, like Arootah’s Habit Accountability Tracker, can support you in your journey to ensure you stay on track with your goals. They can also help you increase mindfulness, visualize progress, and see how far you’ve come.
4. Understand that a fitness tracker isn’t enough for real lifestyle changes; you must make a larger commitment.
Lastly, it’s important to realize that just buying, wearing, and using a fitness tracker may not make enough of an impact on your life to enact real change. As a UCLA Health study found, while wearable devices can create positive change in the short-term, additional measures are often needed to create long-term improvement. The study suggested that greater returns are observed when you pair wearing a fitness tracker with personalized guidance and encouragement from an expert, such as a health coach.
The Bottom Line
A fitness tracker can be a great tool in helping you create healthier habits and making it easier to hit the goals you’ve set for yourself.
Whether you’re just starting out on your journey to a healthier lifestyle or making tweaks along the way, remember that small habit changes can lead to big progress.