For those who love the thrill of a challenge, fitness trackers are a great way to stay on track with your goals. Not only do fitness trackers give you benchmarks for your progress, but they also give you regular reminders for things like moving, drinking water, and more.
However, while fitness trackers can be a valuable tool in your fitness journey, they can also become problematic. If you’re a fan of fitness trackers but are starting to see some negative effects from using them, here are some tips for creating a better relationship with these devices.
1. Listen to your body
For fitness enthusiasts, the thrill of seeing the numbers add up can be addictive. Whether it’s calories burned, minutes in the zone, or daily steps, increasing the number can give you a rush.
While it’s always good to build your ability to do more, it’s also important to listen to your body and notice when it’s time to stop. For example, if you’re on vacation with your family or having an unusually stressful time at work, it’s okay if you’re tired and don’t meet your fitness goals the next day. If you’re wearing an Apple Watch, see more tips for managing your activity rings on vacation.
After all, it can be worth missing the usual number of steps if you’re feeling tired after enjoying a night out with friends you haven’t seen in a while. Although you can push yourself to reach a certain number of steps, it is important to give your body enough time to rest and recover.
While consistency is beneficial, learning to listen to your body when things aren’t normal is key to a sustainable fitness journey.
2. Talk to the pros after your fitness break
If you are returning to exercise after a long break due to health or personal reasons, it is recommended that you consult with a professional before setting your fitness goals. For example, if you took a long break from the gym due to an injury, ask your physical therapist or doctor for approval before returning and set unrealistic goals on your fitness equipment.
Athletes returning from a break may be prone to a range of injuries, as their abilities may have changed. That risk can be exacerbated by fitness trackers that remind them how strong they were before the unintended break.
Building your strength, endurance, and agility after a break can take weeks, months, or even years. Although it can be a frustrating experience, you shouldn’t shock your body by overloading it. Focus on building a sustainable routine and avoid unnecessary risk of injury to get back into a healthy fitness habit.
3. Realize that every body is different
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the constant exposure to Instagram bodies and unrealistic standards. In this world of endless media consumption, you can easily be manipulated by filters, lighting and other editing tricks. It’s important to remember that everyone’s body is different, including yours.
Additionally, if you suffer from medical conditions that cause problems like fatigue or muscle weakness, you can’t expect to have the same fitness tracker goals as someone who is perfectly healthy.
It’s best not to put so much weight on the numbers on your fitness tracker, especially when you may have underlying conditions that add a level of difficulty. Ultimately, while fitness trackers are valuable, they only address a small part of the fitness equation.
4. Know the limits of exercise
For most people who use fitness trackers, the focus is often on increasing movement. Although exercise and movement are necessary components of overall health, they are not everything.
It’s important to manage your expectations of what you can achieve just by practicing. For many people who want to lead a healthy lifestyle, nutrition is just as critical, if not more so. Fortunately, there are many apps you can use to help you eat healthier.
If possible, consult with a professional nutritionist or doctor to help you lead a healthier lifestyle, taking into account your specific nutrient deficiencies.
5. Avoid useless communities
In reality, another person doing the same type of training as you at the same intensity may see completely different results. For this reason, you must not blindly follow people who lead based on personal experience alone.
Your body and limitations are often influenced by things outside of the gym, such as genetics that affect fat distribution, muscle-building capacity, and body shape. While shaping your body by building muscle and losing fat is usually possible to some degree, it’s not feasible to specifically target problem fat areas, no matter what influencers or celebrities tell you. Scientific research in this area—such as a 2011 Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research study (PubMed)—found that targeting fat loss to specific areas is not practical.
Be very discerning about the fitness communities and fitness trackers you follow on apps or on social media. While some communities may seem helpful, not all are run by trained experts whose advice is backed by science.
6. Be kind to yourself during lifestyle changes
Unfortunately, fitness is not a permanent condition; it’s a lifestyle. For this reason, people cannot stay at their peak fitness levels forever. You will naturally have periods where your fitness levels fluctuate, and that’s okay.
If you’re going through big life changes like moving to a new country, starting a new job, or becoming a parent, it’s normal to put fitness on the back burner until you establish a good routine.
For those who are or have recently experienced pregnancy, it is recommended to work with trainers who specialize in pre- and postnatal activities to reduce the risk of injury. In cases like these, fitness trackers may not be equipped to measure much of the progress that’s happening below the surface. Alternatively, there are several exercise apps designed specifically for pregnant women.
Keep a holistic view of health with your fitness tracker
If you’ve ever felt pressured to overexert yourself or frustrated because you’re not meeting your fitness tracker goals, take a step back and remember why you have that tracker on your wrist in the first place. To build a healthy relationship with your fitness tracker, you need to be firm about how safe and sustainable exercise is for you.
With a holistic view of health, it’s possible to make your fitness tracker work for you, not the other way around. Fitness trackers are tools and you decide what to do with them.