Fitness trackers can provide accountability

It’s no secret that physical activity is one of the most important factors for living a longer, healthier life. So why is it so hard for most Americans to do it?

The answer may be found in one simple word: Motivation. According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan and University of Washington, only 50 percent of American adults achieve their exercise goals each week while 30 percent say they don’t engage in any physical activity at all.

Thanks to ever-evolving technology, however, less-active adults may have the antidote needed to reverse their habits, according to Joshua Ordway, MD, a family physician with Franklin Family Practice.

Studies have shown that the use of fitness tracking devices and apps can play a big role in creating the motivation needed to get moving. Fitness tracking devices can be worn on a person’s wrist or attached to their clothing to help track movement and count calories consumed.

Fitness apps — most of which are free to download to a mobile device — offer everything from instructional videos on yoga to real cash incentives, which either charge your credit card or reimburse your account if you hit your preprogrammed goals for the week. Both tracking devices and apps provide what most see as positive peer pressure by syncing activity with social media for everyone to see.

Research done by The NPD Group’s Retail Tracking Service shows that one in three consumers say they have heard of wearable fitness trackers, and among those consumers, 28 percent say they are likely to buy a device. The most sought after features on fitness trackers seemed to be counting calories and tracking the number of steps taken each day.

Dr. Ordway says tracking devices and fitness apps can be a powerful tool to get someone started on a regular exercise routine, but most importantly, keep them motivated to keep doing it.

“I have seen it help people stay accountable and to keep track of how they are doing,” says Dr. Ordway, who practices within Premier HealthNet. “It can show someone how long they have gone without working out and provide incentive for them to get back out there again. It also can help provide an accurate picture of how much activity they are doing. It can be easy to think you have been more active than you have been unless you have hard numbers to back it up.”

The health benefits of regular exercise are numerous and don’t require a rigorous routine in order to provide noticeable results. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), adults should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate activity each week. An easy way to remember this is in 30-minute sessions at least five days a week.

“If you can get someone to exercise, a half hour is a good place to start,” Dr. Ordway says. “People who have never exercised before are doing well if they can work up to 30 minutes of exercise that is causing them to break out into a good sweat.”

The first step toward better health is making a commitment to start. The next step may include creating a support system, which can involve a fitness tracker or app. Dr. Ordway suggests individuals understand their exercise goals prior to choosing the right device to keep them accountable.

For instance, if the goal is weight loss then consider a support program that logs calories and tracks daily activity levels. Those currently exercising but looking to up their game may want to consider something that will track speed and duration of a workout. Those looking for public accountability should choose something that will sync activity to social media. Many may find that social networks not only hold them accountable but provide the encouragement from others needed to stay fit.

Before starting any diet or exercise program, please check with your health care provider to help find the right program for you. For more information on fitness trackers or apps or to find a Premier HealthNet provider near you, go online to www.premierhealthnet.com/doctor.

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Premier HealthNet is one of the largest groups of pediatrics, family medicine, internal medicine, and urgent care practices in southwest Ohio. For more information, go online to www.premierhealthnet.com/news.

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