By MISSY CORRIGAN
“Statistics can be misleading,” says 62-year-old Harriet Stewart. “For years, or decades it seems, I was tracking my food and water intake, calorie intake and output. Feeling like I was doing everything right, no matter what tweaks I made, program I followed or exercise my trainer suggested, I never really got the results and satisfaction I was searching for. For Christmas, I received a fitness tracker, and this changed everything for me.”
Fitness trackers have been a growing trend for the past decade. With a variety of trackers that perform different functions for whatever your goal, the idea behind them is to motivate the individual to improve his or her habits. They provide information on different metrics that can make goals more specific, supporting better health outcomes, although there has yet to be any study that has proven that fitness trackers actually motivate kids and teens to be more active or healthier.
Harriet comments, “Other than the heart rate and calorie burn and the other incredible functions, I was truly fascinated with the step-counting feature. While I knew that walking and movement every day was good, I never really paid close attention to my own daily step count. Ten thousands steps was the goal it said on the display. So, I put it on my wrist and went about my day just knowing that I would make that in no time.”
Studies have shown that taking 10,000 steps a day can improve weight loss, reduce blood pressure and improve glucose tolerance. The idea behind the magic number of 10,000 steps dates all the way back to 1965 when a Japanese company released a step-counting device. Since then, it has become the standard goal number for categorizing activity levels. Individuals who take less than 5,000 steps a day are considered sedentary, those who take 10,000 steps or more are considered active, and 7,500 is somewhat active.
“To my surprise, and disappointment,” she shares, “I did not meet the goal. I wasn’t even close. By 5 p.m. when I got off work, I had reached a little less than 5,000 steps. I work out every day, in the morning, but I do have a full-time desk job. I assumed that my daily workout and decent eating habits were enough, but my tracker showed me otherwise. I just wasn’t moving enough during the day.”
Fitness trackers may not actually improve your health, but they can help boost your motivation to move more than you already are. Depending on the brand of tracker, they can provide information about your sleep quality, calories burned, heart rate, run pace and more. Although having this information doesn’t spark improvement in behaviors, you must use the tracker in a way that will motivate you to move more.
“I decided quickly that I was going to fix that. I added 15 minutes of walking during my lunch break and found that walking around my block once was about 500 steps. So, after dinner, whatever steps I have left, I walk around the block until my tracker signals to me that I have made it.” Many trackers have competitions and challenges or hourly reminders to move more making it less of a hassle to track yourself.
Harriet continues, “Meeting the daily goal gives me an ego boost, a sense of accomplishment. For anyone needing a quick goal and wants daily gratification, I recommend a step counter. Mine vibrates and tells me ‘Great job!’ celebrating my little victory with me. I look forward to that every evening before bed. I smile knowing that I have done something good for myself, and I feel that the day is complete.”
Missy Corrigan is executive of community health for Sumter Family YMCA. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (803) 773-1404.