close up of a step tracker

You know the benefits of getting fit and staying in shape. You have made it your goal to chalk up at least 10,000 steps a day. But wait, you are still sitting there?

Perhaps the first step you can take to nudge yourself towards the goal is to get an activity tracker, which may also be known as a pedometer, step-counter, fitness tracker, etc. In fact, studies[1] show that activity trackers help their wearers engage in longer and more frequent activities to reach their fitness goals.

1. What’s Measured, Gets Done

jogger using his phone 

With a little gadget reporting on your activity level constantly, it’s hard not to sneak a peek at them throughout the day and start getting interested in those numbers. Now you know how many steps it takes you to walk to the MRT station. At the end of the day, you have a good idea of the distance you’ve covered.

Over time, you’ll know your baseline activity level and it becomes easier to set a goal for yourself. For example, if you are averaging 8,000 steps a day, you can target to add another 1,000 steps in the following week and progressively work up to your goal.

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2. A Little Nudging (aka nagging) Helps

Many activity trackers work with corresponding apps on mobile devices. They become your friendly workout companions and remind you to start exercising if you have been inactive and send you motivational messages to cheer you on during your workout.

Some trackers are linked to social sharing platforms, where you can motivate your friends by encouraging and cheering them on to reach their goals. Why not engage in a little friendly competition and vie for titles such as “Sprint King” or “Sprint Queen”?

3. Collecting Points and Badges: Don’t We Love Rewards?

Like games that let you earn XP (experience points) and bump you up the levels once you have accumulated enough points, an app-based activity tracker “promotes” you to different statuses and awards you with badges based on how much you have exercised.


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4. Sweating It Out Becomes Fun!

man taking a break from exercising sitting on his bench and using a phone 

Friendly messages from your activity tracker, collecting badges and moving up leaderboards… all these bundle together to make working out fun! Besides, devices with in-built GPS capabilities let you visualise on the map the route you have ventured. You can even try GPS doodling to plan your running route before “drawing” the picture with your feet. Keeping it light-hearted and entertaining helps to keep you on target.

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5. Cultivates a Habit You can’t Shake Off

a woman receives a reminder from her wrist activity tracker 

Habits form when something is done so often that you don’t even think about it anymore. Once you get used to wearing an activity tracker, it becomes a natural part of your outfit and a physical reminder to exercise. Checking on the progress in the activity tracker can also be a part of your routine, just like checking your phone for messages or email.

In the same token, small changes to your lifestyle to increase your activity level, such as walking to the supermarket instead of driving, can gradually become a habit. With perseverance, the need to exercise will become a habit too.

Related: The A-Z Guide to an Active Lifestyle

But Not Everyone Likes to Wear an Activity Tracker

While it’s good to know exactly how many steps you have taken in a day, some people are put off by too much information presented in the form of data, graphs and scoreboards, especially if you see them at work all day.

To avoid information overload, just pick one type of data to focus on, such as the number of steps taken daily. Start slow and let motivational messages from the tracker help you reach your goal in a realistic pace.

On the other hand, not everyone likes to wear a gadget throughout the day. Others may simply forget to take it out of the drawer at times or lose interest in it over time. To lower the chances of chucking your tracker, choose one that will match your outfits and looks. Alternatively, wear clip-on trackers which are more discreet.

Compare models and choose activity trackers within your budget as they can cost anywhere between $10 to $500 and more. Higher end models with greater accuracy and more functions typically have steeper price tags.

Related: Great Singapore Sale: Is it Time to Invest in Health Trackers and Apps?

Get Active — with or without an Activity Tracker

 

An alternative to wearing an activity tracker is to make use of the in-built accelerometers in your smartphone as your tracker instead. Using mobile apps such as HealthKit, S Health and Lifelog transform your smartphones into pseudo activity trackers. They may not be as precise, but they can do the job well enough for most people to have a gauge of whether they have met the physical activity recommendation of 10,000 steps per day.

What is more important is to get up and get active. With or without an activity tracker. Aim for your 10,000 steps today!


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References

  1. Merom, D., Rissel, C., Phongsavan, P., Smith, B. J., Van Kemenade, et al. (2007, Apr). Promoting Walking with Pedometers in the Community. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 32(4), p. 290-297.
    Retrieved July 2016 from http://www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797(06)00556-3/abstract