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Activity trackers – do you really need them?

Activity trackers are a means to an end. As the saying goes, “Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.” The best way to reach any goal in life is to make a plan. Once you’ve made a plan, it is just as much about the journey as the end result. This is especially true when it comes to a fitness, weight-loss or training plan.

You’ll want to measure and track your progress to make sure you’re putting in the work toward your goal each day. This is where activity trackers come in. Even better if you use a fitness watch that helps you balance activity, exercise and recovery.

Activity trackers can motivate you to keep progressing towards your fitness goals, keep yourself accountable and provide insight into key metrics for a healthy lifestyle, including time spent in different physical activity intensities or sitting, steps, sleep, calories burned and many other indicators.

Remember that for important health benefits, you need at least

  • 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week or
  • 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week or
  • a mixture of both

Besides aerobic activity, you should do muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week.

Activity trackers for accountability

Probably the most important benefit of activity tracking is accountability. The best part is that you’re only competing against yourself.

The Polar Activity Bar is an easy way to see whether you’re reaching your daily activity goals.

It’s easier than ever to be motivated to do more than you did yesterday, to walk more steps, to burn more calories, as you travel down the road to improvement. Features like inactivity alerts will remind you when you’ve been sedentary for too long and urge you to take action.

Keep in mind that you don’t need to do all moderate or vigorous activity at once. When you spread your activity within the day, activity trackers help you to see the cumulative minutes you’ve logged so far.

Activity trackers and staying social

Online training platforms, like Polar Flow, associated with activity trackers and fitness watches, offer a social component that allows you to engage with others and share your own progress. Whatever your activity level or fitness goal is, you can find likeminded people via a community. You can check out their workouts and  daily activity summaries and use it to fuel your workouts. This is also an opActivity trackers and sleepportunity for you to share your progress and have others cheer you on! You can also connect different communities, like your Polar Flow account to Strava or Endomondo.

Share how many calories you burned – straight from the Polar Flow app. Celebrate a personal best or comment on the achievements of your friends. Social accountability and getting feedback from your friends will give you that extra boost of motivation.

Is activity tracker also a sleep tracker?

Some activity trackers may give you information on how much you sleep, but not necessarily the full view on the quality of your sleep and how well you’ve recovered during the night. If you want to track your sleep and measure your recovery, an activity tracker may not be enough for that.

Sleep tracking is a good aid in developing a healthy sleep routine, which is often the key to maximizing your fitness and productivity during the day – if your sleep is poor, your whole body suffers. When you track your sleep, you may also be able to pinpoint restless nights and what may have triggered them during the day. This will help you to adjust your daily routine in a way that maximizes your chances for better sleep during the night.

Daily steps

You should get at least 7,000–8,000 steps a day to meet the current physical activity guidelines.

Remember that even just a few steps are always better than no steps at all.

A good way to get started is to see how many average steps you take per day and challenge yourself to do at least 1,000 more than that. Remember that even just a few steps are always better than no steps at all and working towards increasing the number of steps per day is more important than reaching an exact number.

Staying active and workplace health

Being sedentary for long periods of time can increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes, certain types and even death. With the majority of people in the workforce sitting in front of a computer all day, those inactivity alerts from activity trackers can help you get healthier at the office, too.

Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Take a walk after you’ve eaten lunch to aid digestion. Get up every hour and take a walk to a co-worker’s office to discuss an issue instead of sending an email.

Calories and nutrition

At the end of each workout, your tracker will show you how many calories you’ve burned based, for example, on your age, weight, gender, height and individual maximum heart rate. Polar Flow and many Polar products also show you how many calories you’ve burned during your daily activities, not just during your workouts.

Seeing your daily calorie expenditure can help you stay on top of your nutrition goals – and especially your energy balance. You have probably outlined an average calorie consumption limit for the day, and your tracker will show you what you’ve burned. Just be careful not to fall into the habit of rewarding yourself with “treats” when you burn extra calories.

Activity trackers and heart rate

While you don’t need to track your heart rate to get insights into your daily activity, heart rate tracking does give you a more detailed look into the intensity of your workouts.

If you want to get the most out of your workout, you need to determine your target heart rate, or number of beats per minute you should have while exercising (a percentage of your maximum heart rate). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend exercising at 50 to 70% of your maximum heart rate for moderate intensity, and at 70 to 85% for vigorous intensity activity.

Heart rate monitoring also makes sense for serious runners, cyclists, and other athletes who are eager to optimize their aerobic fitness when training for athletic events.

How activity tracking helps

Do you really need an activity tracker or a fitness watch? Like you need air and water? Perhaps not. Will it help you on your journey? Most certainly yes.

In addition to allowing you to monitor whether you stay active enough during the day and track (and even guide) your workouts, the best fitness watches also help you optimize your sleep and recovery. A fitness watch can’t replace your IRL workout buddies and communities or an actual living and breathing PT, but a fitness watch can help your PT (if you have one) or be the next best thing (if you don’t have a trainer) – always on your wrist.

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Please note that the information provided in the Polar Blog articles cannot replace individual advice from health professionals. Please consult your physician before starting a new fitness program.

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