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Don’t Let Your Activity Tracker Drive You Bonkers

activity trackerYesterday, Kara wrote about why she broke up with her Fitbit. When she submitted her post, she hipped me to Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks. Anyone who’s ever worn an activity tracker has probably found themselves at some point either a) doing something ridiculous to make sure their steps are counted…

… or b) walking laps in the hallway brushing their teeth to try to get in a last few hundred to hit their 10,000 step goal. Not that I know from experience or anything.


I’m still at the deeply in love stage with my TomTom fitness watch. I wear it all the time and have even learned more about what it can do for my workouts since I reviewed it. (The interval settings are great for my run/walk training for my half.) I’m not giving it up anytime soon, but because it is really easy to get wrapped up in the activity tracker portion of your fitness device, I’ve got some tips so you don’t let it drive you bonkers.

How to Use an Activity Tracker and Stay Sane

Let it motivate you but don’t be a slave. Use it as a guide, but don’t let those numbers drive you insane. A couple of hundred or even thousand steps here and there aren’t going to make or break your health. If you see you only take 1,000 steps a day: Walk more. But if you make it to 7,000, be happy with it instead of going to bed feeling defeated.

Trust it. Have some faith in your technology. Most trackers have a 3-axis accelerometer, which measures your motion however you move. According to Fitbit, there is an algorithm designed to look for motion patterns that indicate walking. So yes, while it might miss some steps here and there, it also likely counts motions as steps on occasion when they’re not. In my opinion? It all evens out, so trust the general trend your tracker shows.

Use it for stats. Steps? Who cares! Focus on the more important parts of the tracker, where these pieces of technology really shine. Heart rate monitoring, the ability to set personalized workouts and tracking pace and distance are way more useful than any step count will be.

Turn off notifications or goals. If “encouraging” notifications are driving you crazy, turn them off. If it drives you bonkers when you don’t hit a 10,000-step goal, either decrease the daily goal, or shut off that feature. You don’t HAVE to walk 10,000 steps in order to be fit!

Put on a real piece of jewelry. Remind yourself of what it was like to wear a shiny piece of silver or gold instead of black. Try just wearing your tracker for workouts.

Bathe without it. It may be waterproof, but you can do without those 15 shuffles you’ll do in the shower.

Take a break. If you find yourself stepping like a fool — like when you’re waiting for food at a restaurant, tucking your kids in at night or chatting with your neighbor in the front yard — you might need to lay off. Go tracker-free at least once a week — or more — as needed!

Have you been able to maintain a healthy relationship with your fitness tracker or do you need a break?Erin

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  1. Sage says:

    I’ve downgraded from the Fitbit Charge back to the Fitbit One (I wear it at my hip or in my pocket, the bracelet trackers over step at work due to repetitive hand motions). For a while I was obsessively trying to hit some goal or another, or win a challenge (Workweek Hustle, anyone?). The workouts I’ve been into lately tire me out but don’t get me many steps, so I lowered my step goal and stopped worrying about winning. It still keeps me from sitting on the couch all day after my workout, but I don’t feel stressed or guilty about *only* getting 7,500 steps.

  2. Prior to my pregnancy I did not have the best relationship with my step goal as I constantly wanted to hit 10,000 steps. I would walk around the living room at night defeated because I was tired, had an awesome workout and just wanted to relax but felt the need to hit 10,000 steps. Since my pregnancy forced me to let my fitbit get dusty on the shelf until my son was born, I’ve refocused my sights on the things that are more important to me. How many active minutes I get in a day. The rest are just bonus celebrations for me if I hit my 10,000 steps or climb a TON of stairs at home (we have a basement and do a lot of walking up and down the stairs to the kitchen and to our family entertainment room). On days that I really killed it in the workout department, but still only hit around 7,000 steps I still feel accomplished because I worked up a sweat and burnt intentional calories that are much better than the ones I get from stomping around my living room in a pouty mood. 😛

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