Did anyone happen to see the Today Show story on FitBit users who claim the device made them gain weight? I missed it when it originally aired, but it was topic of discussion during an IDEA World Fitness session called Best Practices for Integrating Devices and Apps with Your Clients.
More and more people are using technology to assist them on their fitness journey. In fact, session facilitator Patrick Jak shared that 10% of U.S. adults wear some kind of activity tracker, and that estimates say by 2021, 500 million people will be using fitness apps on their smartphones. An activity tracker or food log app like MyFitnessPal can be a great help in getting more active or facilitating fat loss. The problem is, as with any fitness tool, they are only effective with consistent and correct usage.
If you’re one of the 10% with a FitBit, Fuelband, VivoFit, or a dedicated MyFitnessPal user, but you aren’t seeing results, take a look at these common operator errors:
Don’t forget to charge your device and wear it consistently. No tool works if you don’t use it. Most activity trackers need to be charged at least once per week. If you don’t, the tracker may die during the middle of the day making it highly ineffective. Make charging your device part of your nightly or weekly planning rituals. If you don’t want the hassle, try the Garmin VivoFit, which has a watch battery and should last up to one year with no charging required. Thirty-three percent of activity tracker owners stop using their device aftersix6 months; it’s not going to help you by sitting on your nightstand so put it with yoru keys or by the coffee pot so you never forget it.
You are eating exactly the amount of calories your trackers says you have burned. The FitBit users mentioned above were making this mistake. With a margin of error of up to 500 calories a day, it would make sense that a person could start to gain weight if they took their data too seriously. Instead, take the time to get a more accurate estimate with a MedGem Test. Use the tracker for its intended purpose – awareness of how much or how little you might be moving throughout the day.
You’ve got a lot of data but do you know what to do with it. Activity trackers and food log apps can provide you with a lot of detailed information — everything from sleep patterns to daily macro-nutrient intake. But do you ever take the time to review the data? If you’re logging food accurately, but only looking at the calories, you may be missing insight into one of the keys to real fitness – food quality. Review data on sleep before you decide to commit to an early morning gym class. Review activity patterns to see where you might improve to help you bust through a fitness or fat loss plateau.
Food log apps will also have a margin of error, but the real difference is in the data you put in. If you are eyeballing portions or guessing when you’re dining out you are probably underestimating how much food you are taking in. Use a food scale and measuring cups to make sure you start with accurate information. Try to cook at home and brown bag it more often. Try to limit meals out to occasions when they are absolutely necessary, like business meetings, or a true treat, like your birthday.
Don’t try to be the lone wolf. Social support is crucial on your fitness journey. Get the most out of your fitness apps by connecting with others. Become friends with other Fuelband wearers for a little friendly competition, or join a Challenge for The Most Steps on the Challenge Loop app. Use the technology to connect with friends and family who don’t live close by but want to cheer you on. You can even tweet your progress during a run or race with apps like RunKeeper.
Technology is great, but it’s no substitute for the basics. Exercising in your “target heart rate” zone won’t matter unless you do it consistently. Calories do count but counting them only on “good days” doesn’t help. Don’t force yourself to use a tool because everyone else is. Real fitness can’t be measured in one workout or in a 7-day “jump start” diet. It isn’t about following fads or chasing the next big thing. Real fitness is about the things we do each and every day. It’s about choosing what works in our daily life that also makes us feel and function the best we can.