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You Bought a Fitness Device. Now What?

By Karen Asp
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD

You weighed whether you wanted to wear a fitness tracker on your wrist or arm, you chose a color, you ordered it, you anticipated its arrival, the box arrived, and you opened it with excitement and put it on. Now what?

Out of the Gate

Try it on for size. The first week you have a tracker, don't exercise.It may seem weird, but don't jump into a new routine.

Instead, just wear the device and do what you normally do. That's how you get your baseline -- a snapshot of how much activity you typically get.

It may be less than you expect. That's OK. Knowing your baseline is your first step toward improving it.

Hold the reins. Now that you know your starting point, it's time to get moving. Set a reasonable goal. Your fitness device might have a default goal -- often 10,000 steps a day.

If your baseline is 3,500 steps a day, that goal is too high. Instead, add 200 to 300 steps a day to increase your week's total by 2,000. That's an increase of about a mile a week. Keep building up that way until you get to 10,000.  

When you look at calories burned, a reasonable goal is to increase by 250 calories a day. You can get that from 30 minutes of mild to moderate exercise. Or you could burn that amount doing some extra moving during the day.

Grocery shopping burns about 100 calories an hour for a 175-pound person. Mopping for an hour burns almost 200 calories. You could have the cleanest floors in town and lose weight at the same time!

If you need more sleep, a reachable sleep goal is to go to bed earlier in 15-minute increments.

Get the message. Create a positive feedback loop. Your tracker gives you feedback on your activity constantly -- either on the device or on your phone or computer.

Pay attention to how the numbers make you feel. On a day when you walk 1,000 more steps than usual, you may notice you feel great. You'll want that good feeling again the next day. That's how fitness trackers reinforce good behavior and drive you forward.

Plus, your device will motivate you with online points and fun badges when you hit certain step or distance milestones or other achievements. Relish the moment!

Certain devices let you set goals. If you accept push notifications, you can also get notes to tell you how close you are to the target you've set. Talk about motivation!

Put It in High Gear

Be ready to go. Transform wasted time into steps. Once you're aware of your steps, the most boring parts of your day become opportunities. On hold with customer service? Pace your house. Waiting for your kid to get out of violin class? Walk instead of sitting.

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