How to Get the Most Out of a Fitness Tracker | Keck Medicine of USC

How to Get the Most Out of a Fitness Tracker

The fitness tracker craze doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. Here are a few tips on how to get the most out of your device.

It isn’t just your imagination — wrist-worn fitness trackers are more popular than ever.

According to Nielsen, the wearables market is expected to hit the $4 billion mark in the next three years. One out of six consumers already use wearable tech trackers, and about 57% of fitness band buyers said the ability to self-monitor was a major factor in their purchase, along with concern for their health.

Here are some helpful tips if you have any of these new shiny tech toys on your wrist or if you plan to be a proud owner of one in the near future.

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1. Wear it on the right spot

It’s important to get accurate heart rate ratings while exercising. That’s why you need to make sure your tracker is in the right place on your wrist.

Experts suggest that the tracker should lay about a finger’s width below your wrist bone — away from your hand. You should also wear your tracker on your nondominant hand so that your extra movements from your wrist don’t impact your numbers. Your tracker should be snug but not constricting so that it doesn’t impact your blood flow.

2. Set realistic goals

Learning how much you exercise each day can help motivate you to increase your goals, but you need to keep your momentum and slowly build on your original targets.

Make sure you build your goals gradually, instead of making unrealistic plans. Most fitness trackers can help you set these targets and goals. You can also find third-party apps that will support your game plan, whether you’re walking, running, stepping or biking.

3. Competition is healthy

Experts suggest that a little competition can help you stay on track. Fitness trackers often allow you to compete with your friends and support each other’s activities.

Some apps allow you to compete against similarly active individuals. Never underestimate how much a little praise or friendly competition can help you achieve your daily goals.

4. Watch what you eat

Sticking to a healthy diet is just as important as exercise. That’s why it’s important to keep a tab on what you eat as well.

Luckily, there are many new apps that offer a vast database of food and their corresponding nutritional value. Tracking your food and your daily calorie intake will make you feel more in control and help you make better food decisions regularly until it all becomes second nature to you.

5. Calorie-burn numbers aren’t always accurate

A recent Iowa State University study discovered that the calorie-burn numbers generated by trackers have a more than 15% margin of error. Not only is calorie intake only one part of the fitness picture, fitness devices can’t really give you a completely accurate number of how many calories you have burned during the day. So it’s best to assume that you have to do about 15% more work to reach your goals.

6. Leave it on

If you’re not used to wearing your tracker, it’s important to make an effort to wear it consistently on your wrist throughout the day. You can charge your device when you’re taking a shower, or set a reminder on your phone so you’ll put them back on after you’re done.

Keeping track of all your movements during the day helps you get a complete picture of your body’s activities without interruptions. Even shorter, low-impact movements like taking the stairs or taking a brisk walk during your lunch break will make a difference in the long run. You can thank your friendly tracker for keeping a watchful eye on your every move.

“To get more walking in, park in the furthest parking spot to your destination,” advises Helga Van Herle, MD, MS, a cardiologist at the USC CardioVascular Thoracic Institute and associate professor of clinical medicine at Keck School of Medicine.

“And instead of taking an elevator, try walking up the stairs. Climbing five flights of stairs, five times a week burns approximately 302 calories. That could result in a loss of 15 pounds a year,” Van Herle says.

by Ramin Zahed

Regular exercise and good nutrition are only part of your body’s overall health picture. If you are local to Southern California and are in search of a primary care physician, call (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or visit to schedule an appointment.