Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Practical Applications for Fitness Trackers

When it comes to training I tend to prefer a more minimalist approach, sticking to the more basic tools like barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, bands, and my body-weight. I also tend to prefer using these methods to work with my clients because that's where my knowledge base is, and because it's easy to measure progress. With that said, I've been looking into fitness trackers for years, and a few months ago I finally decided it would be worth the investment and I bought a FitBit Charge HR.

The Charge HR is not the most fancy fitness tracker out there, and there are plenty to choose from. I'll be covering my experience with this particular Fitness Tracker, but if you're looking for a more something else in a fitness tracker, I have run across a very well written and thoughtful guide on www.reviews.com that you can find here: Fitness Tracker Reviews. They went through 87 different fitness trackers and narrowed them down the the best in three different categories: best under $100, best heart rate monitor, and best heart rate and GPS monitor. They went pretty in depth and if you're in the market, they'll definitely point you in the right direction.

Fitness trackers have in my experience a few pretty good applications:

  • Tracks your heart rate, and Resting Heart Rate
  • Tracks your steps and overall activity
  • Tracks sleep (at least in the Charge HR's case)
  • Tracks your food/calories/macro consumption.
  • Tracks your water consumption 
Plenty of these things you can do through other means, through plenty of different apps, and I'm sure you can find something more useful in any particular area so that's something to consider.

When it comes to tracking your heart rate and your resting heart rate, I'll explain why I find this to be useful to me. 

  • First, it's a pain to continuously check your heart rate while exercising even though it's also useful to know where your heart rate is at or hanging around while exercising, especially if your goal is to burn calories. (Keeping your heart rate up is key to calories burn during workouts) 

  • Secondly, your resting heart rate will tell you how your recovery is going. A lot of trainers use RHR to gauge how their clients are doing during programs, and whether or not they need to make adjustments. The reason for this is that if your RHR is more than 5-10% over what it would be when you're well rested that's a good sign that you're under-recovred. I have been using this to great affect while toying with this lately, myself.

When it comes to tracking your steps and overall activity, the benefit is largely in accountability, and for those who are competitive, spurring you on.
  • By being able to see your activity levels laid out for you, it can show you spots where you are lacking, this is hugely useful especially if you're trying to lose weight. NEAT (Non exercise activity time) is a good indicator for your calorie burn/metabolism, and by getting your steps and being held accountable to it is a great way to almost artificially boost your metabolism and lose some pounds.

  • If you're the competitive type, seeing your steps and activity over time, can spur you on to do more activity each week by trying to beat your activity from the previous week. 

In the case of the Charge HR, and more than a few of the FitBit trackers, they allow you to track your sleep. Mind you, the accuracy isn't the best, and some models do well, while others don't do so well. What I have learned while using this feature is that you can see trends in your sleep, or whether or not you're getting as much sleep as you think you are, which is huge. A lot of people over-report their total sleep time, and those people are also more fatigued than they necessarily have to be because they don't realize that they aren't getting enough sleep. The charge HR, tells me how many times I'm moving around and getting up in the middle of the night which is an eye opener for me because I didn't realize that I was losing a good 20-40 minutes of sleep every night from moving around. At the very least, being conscious of your sleep habits can allow you to improve them and get the benefits from it.

In the FitBit app, which syncs to your FitBit, whichever model you have, you have the option to track your food intake, and macro consumption. I have found that this isn't the best version of a food log you can find, but the convenience is appealing. This log allows you to track your calories in, and calories out (which it gets very very well by the way) and it allows you to graph your goals. For example, I have been on a cutting phase for the last 10 weeks, and so I have set in my app that I am trying to lose two pounds per week, this accounts for a 1,000 calorie deficit per day and in the app it shows me exactly how many calories I'm allowed to have per day. Again, you can do this yourself, or in another app, and probably get a cooler effect to it, but for my purposes and for the convenience that is nice. Like I stated earlier, at least for the model I have the calories out is pretty spot on, which has made planning things a lot simpler.

Hydration is important and an often overlooked aspect when it comes to fitness, and overall health. This article The Role of Hydration in Weight Loss does a really good job of explaining why this is, so I'll leave that to you. The fitness tracker also allows you to track your water consumption, or otherwise hold you accountable to your water consumption. It also allows you to setup a goal for your water consumption, start at 64 ounces, and if you haven't been getting that much water every day you'll see a huge difference.

Wrapping It Up
  • Though not necessary, a fitness tracker can be beneficial to you on your fitness journey.
  • It's important to find the tracker that best suits your needs, if you're lost on where to start try going to Fitness Tracker Reviews for help.
  • A fitness tracker can help you see the things you may be missing in your overall health, and help you keep on top of these things, which can be very beneficial.

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