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Chances are you know someone who has a fitness tracker, or maybe you own one yourself. These devices claim to keep track of steps, physical activity, distance, calories, water intake and sleep, but they alone cannot make you healthier.
As director of health and wellness promotion for Intermountain Healthcare, Locke Ettinger says trackers are not precise, but they’re not useless.
“These trackers are to increase your own awareness so you’re a good consumer of health," Locke says. "Someone tells you, 'go exercise more or eat right' and, unless you really know what you’re doing, you can’t address it.”
These trackers come in all shapes and sizes and seem accurate at measuring movement and activity. But it’s more than gathering and entering the information—it’s what you DO with that information.
“You might find a day of the week that you’re moving less than another day or certain hours of the day so you can focus on that,” Locke says. He points out that data reflecting restless sleep might warrant a consult with a physician.
The recommended activity for adults is 10,000 steps a day. As Locke says, it’s not a goal you jump into.
“We’re not all at 10,000 steps," he says. "If you have a tracker and it’s showing you’re at 3,000 steps, I don’t suggest you try and get 10,000 the next day. Set a goal to get 4,000 and increase it by 500 a week until you are able to build up to that.”
Other factors that contribute to health are good social interaction, stress management, financial wellbeing and a good night’s sleep. When it comes to tracking, it's less about precision and more about motivation.
“You can be successful, and that’s really important that you see success,” Locke says.