Looking for a weight loss partner? Look no further. A fitness device like BodyMedia FIT, FitBit Flex, Jawbone UP, or Nike+ FuelBand could be exactly what you need.
People who track are more successful at losing weight. And these wearable devices are trackers on steroids -- monitoring your workouts, counting your calories, evaluating your sleep, and tracking your progress as you slim down.
1. Tracking Your Every Move
If you're just starting a weight loss plan, it's enough to know the number of steps you take each day or how many minutes you were active, says Natalie Digate Muth, MD, a spokeswoman for the American Council on Exercise.
"Keep it simple," she recommends. "Just moving more is a great goal."
When you're ready for a bit more, compare your tracked numbers against exercise goals you've set for yourself. For instance, you may be working to increase from 10,000 steps a day to 12,000 -- an excellent goal for fitness and weight loss.
You can use your device to:
- See how close you get to your target goal each day, or if you crushed it!
- Set a smaller, shorter-term goal so you'll feel successful right away; doing so will help you to stay focused.
- Send yourself reminders to move if you've been sitting too long. (This is an excellent way to give yourself a jolt to help you break that bad habit.) If your device doesn't have this feature, send reminders via your cell phone.
Once you've been exercising awhile, think about using your device to track a workout's intensity. To do that, look at the number of calories you burn and how they increase over time. Or check how long it takes to burn a certain number of calories, and work on shortening the time.
Most devices have an app for charting intensity over time. That can give you a real sense of progress. "It can be really eye-opening," Muth says.
Remember, some devices are less accurate at tracking certain exercises, such as strength training or biking. So you'll need to record them differently. Most fitness devices let you enter the info into your tracker's app manually -- the type of exercise, how long you did it, and how hard you pushed yourself.
2. Everything Counts
You burn calories even when you aren't running, cycling, or swimming. You also burn calories via NEAT, which stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis.
That’s a wordy way to describe things like folding laundry, vacuuming, casual walking, gardening, and more. They’re not exercise, but they do get you moving and burn calories.
Regular exercise is still crucial, but you may find it easier to bump up these types of activities than to add additional trips to the gym or 40-minute power walks.
3. Crunching the Numbers
Most devices either have a place for you to log what you eat, or they link with an app that does. That allows you to see how the calories you swallow compare to the calories you burn.
Sure, it's a lot of data entry, Muth admits. But just as with exercise, people who log their food are more successful at losing weight.
Usually the data entry gets easier with time. Once you've figured out the calorie count for a food, it'll be stored in your device. That means within a few weeks you'll be able to track most of your favorites quickly.
4. While You Were Sleeping
The tried-and-true way to get a good night's sleep is to set a regular bedtime, turn off distractions, and plan for 7 to 8 hours.
Trackers show how long you've actually slept. You might think you're getting 7 hours when you're only asleep for 6 1/2 hours.
Some wearable fitness trackers tell you how well you sleep. "That insight may inspire (or compel) you to make changes to try to improve sleep quality or duration," Muth says. Even if you’re in bed for 8 hours, your device may show you’re getting less than 7 hours of restful sleep. Ask yourself what’s interfering with your sleep. Using a smartphone or tablet right before bed? A pet on your pillow?
5. Get Connected
Many fitness devices link to their own online communities and to Facebook and Twitter as well. When you share your fitness goals -- and how much you're exercising each day -- you feel more accountable. Some sites encourage friendly competition with other device users to inspire you.
"Social support is one of the most important things to help you maintain weight loss," Muth says. "If this technology can connect people, it will be a real tool and not just a gadget."
Gadgets Work Best When You Do
Consistency rewards you. Wear your device and upload your data regularly. That's the best way to get accurate info on your activities, what you eat, and your progress.