3 Mistakes You're Making With Your Fitness Tracker

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Activity monitors help track physical activity and evaluate lifestyle behaviors. For many users this information can help them lose weight. But fitness monitors are not a guarantee for weight loss. If you want to lose weight with your fitness there are 3 critical habits you need to practice when you use it. If you don't practice all three, you're missing out on the weight loss benefits of your monitor.

3 Activity Monitor Mistakes to Avoid

Make sure you practice all of these habits to get the best weight loss results from your activity tracker.

  • You wear your monitor occasionally. To get the best results, you need to wear your activity monitor all the time. This tip seems obvious, but it's easy to remove your monitor and forget to put it back on - for hours, for days and maybe even indefinitely. A recent study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that that "more than half of individuals who purchased a wearable device stop using it and, of these, one-third did so before 6 months."  So the most important thing you can do to lose weight with your monitor is to wear the device on a daily basis.

    To make sure your monitor stays on all day, minimize the number of times you remove it. Keep it on when you shower (if it is waterproof) and wear it during most nights when you sleep.  For best results, charge your device at a time when you are either completely sedentary or sleeping so that the time lost has the least impact on your overall calorie burn profile.
  • You ignore important trends. The data collected by your monitor will not be perfectly accurate, no matter which model you buy. The JAMA study acknowledged that monitors don't always collect accurate information. I've also tested several monitors and found discrepancies between the data collected by different models. 

    But even if the data isn't perfect, you can still use your monitor to evaluate trends. These trends should illuminate important lifestyle changes you need to make to reach your goals. For example, your monitor might show that during most days of the week, you are very active during your morning workout, but sedentary in the hours following the exercise session. Perhaps your workout is too hard. Or maybe you have simply gotten into the habit of sitting once your gym session is done.  Either way, you can fill in that "inactivity gap" with NEAT to burn more calories and reach your weight loss goal.
  • You don't change your caloric intake.  Smart fitness monitor users record all of the food that they eat - even the little nibbles between meals. This helps to provide a complete picture of their caloric intake. But even if you record your food intake perfectly, the data could still be wrong. Why? Because some of the calorie data provided by online sources is input by users (not by paid diet experts) and the numbers can be added to the database incorrectly.  In addition, the actual calorie data on Nutrition Facts labels can be off by as much as 20%, according to the FDA. So at the end of the day, you’ll probably have a good estimate, but not a perfectly accurate assessment of your caloric deficit.

    So should you ignore the calorie data altogether?  No. You need it to evaluate your energy deficit.  But again, you should look for trends.  Use the numbers gathered by your tracker as a starting point. If you are not losing weight after 2-3 weeks, then recalculate your caloric needs and adjust your food intake to get results.

    Lastly, remember that wearing the activity monitor, alone, does not create weight loss. The activity monitor simply provides the most accurate data possible to help you change habits and lose weight. If you don’t change your habits, your weight isn’t likely to change either.

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