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    How to Make the Most of Your Fitness Tracker

    woman with tracker

    Counting on your new fitness tracker to help you stick to your New Year’s resolution? Then you need to learn how to use it in the way that most benefits you. With all the features you face when you first turn it on – and all the promises marketers make about a healthier, fitter you – that can be a challenge. Here are a few tips from around the web to get you started:

    1. Go your own way. Fitness goals are great, but you shouldn’t let your device set them for you, writes Shape.com’s Sara Angle. Instead of stressing over the preset goal of 10,000 steps per day – which may be too many or too few for you – see how many steps your current lifestyle reasonably allows you to achieve, then work toward a higher number. “Your goal should change with your fitness level,” Angle writes.

    2. Adjust accordingly. Time.com’s Anita Hamilton warns users that most fitness trackers overestimate the number of calories you burn by at least 10-15%; for some exercises, such as cycling, trackers without a built in heart rate monitor may be off by more than half. The solution? Calculate your workout’s calorie burn totals yourself (MyFitnessPal can help with that) and enter them into your tracker’s app manually.

    3. Be patient. It will take time for your device to gather useful data, so don’t pay too much attention to the numbers in the first week or so. “The point of collecting your data is to find the averages over time and create a baseline,” writes PCMag’s Jill Duffy. “The data on day one won’t necessarily create an accurate picture of your life. Over time, however, the averages will more accurately reflect your true fitness level, and those are the numbers that matter.”

    4. Stay balanced. Fitness trackers can be good motivators, but don’t let yours rule your life. If you obsess over the daily goals you have set for yourself, you may lose sight of other things that matter (remember friends and family?). That’s the lesson that Redbook.com contributor Susan Dominus learned from her experience with a tracker: “The key, I realized, is finding some happy balance between reevaluating old habits (sitting, driving) and a mindless devotion to counting and competing.”

    5. Find a friend. While your fitness tracker may help move you towards a healthier, more active lifestyle, think about adding a buddy to your new-you team. Friends can help each other stay accountable to goals and are much more pleasant to be around than a device that can only beep its encouragement. As wareable.com’s Kieran Alger writes, “You’re going to need something to keep that fitness band interesting. By far the best way is to dive head first into the social and community that comes with most devices, or get friends and family involved.” But Time.com’s Hamilton warns users to focus on your own goals rather than turning exercise into a competition: “The motivating effect from being part of a group only works when you’re winning. As an alternative, consider setting short-term goals that build on your own baseline activity level instead.”

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