We are constantly bombarded with fast and furious data from our fitness apps. What is the best way to use this data to improve our health?

Fitness trackers can be powerful tools to improve your health and fitness, but many first-time users get intimidated by the amount of data these handy tools can deliver each day. There are several important factors you need to consider in order to get the most out of your shiny new fitness gadget.

1. Adjust the settings

If the main reason you use your fitness app is to drop some weight, you need to start the game by setting up achievable goals. Many of the apps offer a default step goal of more than 10,000 daily steps.

But the average number of steps for most people is 5,000 a day. Sometimes, setting up a smaller, more achievable goal is a better way to kick off the fitness game. If you already are in great shape, you may need to adjust it to 15,000 a day.

“The benefits of walking include having better cardiovascular health, burning calories and enjoying the world instead of staying in your room watching TV,” said Caroline Park, LVN, primary care patient coordinator at Keck Medicine of USC.

You can do the same for your desired sleep goals if you can’t hit the perfect eight hours a day.

2. All calories are not equal

If you would like to use your fitness tracker to lose weight, you will have to keep in mind that many of them don’t differentiate the types of calories you consume. Many of the trackers will not be able to distinguish between a calorie of high-fructose corn syrup and a calorie of protein.

According to many fitness experts, being able to reach your ideal body weight has more to do with the amount and type of food you eat than the amount of exercise you do per day. It is a good idea to use a third-party app like MyFitnessPal to keep track of the food you eat each day. These tools have a better database and allow you to sync them with other apps as well.

3. Types of activity

The amount of energy you burn to walk the dog is a lot less than what you need to take a strenuous hike. Some fitness trackers are able to recognize when you are engaging in a tougher exercise and burning more calories.

But, according to some experts, you may get more accurate results if you use a third-party app such as Strava, Runkeeper or MapMyFitness and sync it with your band’s app. These gadgets are able to use your smartphone’s GPS to obtain more helpful data on your activity and performance.

4. Track your heart rate and get enough sleep

Keeping an eye on your heart rate before and after you exercise also can be helpful. If you find that your heart rate is suddenly too high or if your resting heart rate isn’t as good as it could be, you could be getting sick.

You could also see better results from your exercise if you got more sleep. For instance, you could be more alert in the morning before a workout if you used your tracker to wake up during your lighter stages of sleep. At work, you could use your tech tool to remind you to take breaks from staring at the computer screen and help you adjust your schedule to squeeze in exercise time throughout the day as part of a healthy daily routine.

There are still many questions surrounding the effectiveness and accuracy of fitness trackers. But if you use them correctly, they can help you lead a healthier, more energetic lifestyle.

If you’re ready to explore healthier nutritional options you may consider meeting with an expert to discuss a personalized plan. If you are in the Los Angeles area, be sure to schedule an appointment by calling (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or by visiting digestive.keckmedicine.org/request-an-appointment.

By Ramin Zahed