/ Health, Technology

How my fitness tracker helped me

tracking fitness

You’ve probably seen them on more and more people’s wrists – but is it really worth getting a fitness tracker? In this guest post Susan explains the difference hers has made.

When my husband bought me a fitness tracker for Christmas I was surprised as I’d probably never have considering buying myself a fitness gadget.

I’m one of the ‘worried well’. I know I should be more active, but in the past I’ve tended to do very little about it other than occasional gym trips and trying to avoid using the car.

Now I wouldn’t be without my tracker.

What does a fitness tracker actually do?

The one my husband bought me was a Garmin Vívosmart and it couldn’t have been easier to set up. It was simple too to link to my Android MotoG smartphone and My Fitness Pal – one of those apps that lets you count the calories in a wide range of food that you eat.

This makes it incredibly simple to keep a close eye on what you eat and how much of it you’re burning off through exercise.

Step tracking is a great feature, and I was happy to see that simply running around after two small children (and a husband) meant I did better than the 10,000 steps a day that the NHS suggests we could set ourselves as a challenge to stay healthy. And on days when I do fall short of that figure, I know with a quick glance that I just need to make an extra trip to the shops.

The tracker that I have, like many others, also lets you easily see how well you’re sleeping over days, weeks and months. I had thought that I lay awake for hours each night, but in fact it was only minutes. The fact that I slept a lot better than I realised reduced my anxiety over sleeping enough and as a result, I sleep even better. A virtuous circle.

And it’s not just about health. I work at home and am also out and about ferrying children, so the swipe function enabling you to have a quick look at texts and emails without getting your phone out is a great bonus.

I also like a tracker’s discreet design, and its time and date display means I’ve been able to ditch my watch.

Is it worth it?

There are downsides. It can be frustrating, especially when there are syncing issues. And some people might not like the ‘insight’ summaries and motivational messages that some trackers (including mine) send to your smartphone. These can include telling you your day isn’t as active as usual and to go for a walk. I like them, though.

So has it changed what I do?

We all some know that some presents look good on Christmas Day but are soon relegated to the corner of a drawer. But I’m happy to report that six months on I still use my tracker religiously every day.

And it really has made a difference.

I now take the stairs rather than the lift to increase my number of steps and make numerous trips to the shops to ensure I’m on track.

And I feel happier. I worried in the past that I was a couch potato, sitting down all day at work. Now I know how much I move. And the step count ensures that if I’ve had a ‘sedentary day’ I know to go for a quick walk after tea to sort it out.

Now I just need to persuade my husband to buy me a version that also monitors heart rate!

This is a guest post by Susan Jones. All opinions are Susan’s own, not necessarily those of Which?.

We want to hear from you about your experiences with using a fitness tracker – good and the bad. Have you found any real changes, such as feeling fitter or perhaps losing a few pounds?


Personally I would have been very wary of a painful incident when my wife unwrapped one of those as a present. I am going to assume you had asked for it : )

Dibdob says:
22 June 2016

I love mine as well. I don’t believe in being a slave to it and logging every tiny detail of my life, but it is extremely satisfying when it buzzes to say you’ve reached the 10,000 steps target. Like the author, I find it useful as a motivational tool and it has definitely made me more aware of how active I am and encouraged me to actually be more active as a result.

I have a stepcounter on my smartphone and I’ve found it to be fun to use and motivating. My husband and I have fun guessing how many steps we think we did on our weekend walks. I got my mum to download the same app and I think she’s hooked now. Having a stepcounter has shown me that walking 10,000 steps each day is easier to achieve than it sounds. Like Susan I wondered how “sedentary” I was and now I know I’m fine (partly because I also make sure that a good bit of the walking I do is brisk, to get the heart going).

My fitness is 5 pints of cider a day, fried breakfast every morning with toast and coffee, McDonalds at least 4 times a week for late lunch and a few Red Bulls to wash it down. Then a good walk or a round of golf and wayhayyy! my collestral is 3, my heartbeat and blood pressure are normal, do not suffer from arthritis, still an active life with the ladies [if you get my drift] and I am 84, life is good enjoy it everyone just like me moderation your dead a long time. [ok I do not suppose you will leave this post on for long as it is probably not what you want to hear].

Yes, but you don’t mention smoking so that may be the secret of your excellent physical state. They say as little bit of what you like does you good; clearly quite a lot of what you like is even better

Mt dear Mum was on blood pressure pills for a lot of her later life. They all gave her side effects that she didn’t like and when she was 80 she decided “sodit”. why put up with feeling grotty any more, rather feel well in my final year(s) and she packed them in. She died at 92. Good for her.

Well, Serge Gainsbourg did say, “je bois et je fume. L’alcool conserve les fruits; la fumée conserve la viande. » (I drink and I smoke. Alcohol preserves fruit, smoke preserves meat.), something that Hemingway may have expressed first. If we remain dubious about the logic of that statement from a health point of view, at least we can’t argue with the quality of their creative output, and their enjoyment of life!

Sophie, the only problem from a health point of view with the preserved meat is it’s already dead. Valleypieman01 seems to be quite alive. But as you say, enjoying a creative life!

What about fruit? There are definitely plants alive in there somewhere. :0)

Back to the tracker, I can see the use of monitoring your heart rate while you are walking, but I will stick to my simple step counter on my smartphone. Motivational messages from a “smarter” app would just burst me, and my app is free.

Why buy a tracker? If you have a smart mobile phone, just download a free app called Pacer. It does all you want and is brilliant. Just put your phone in a pocket and it keeps track of your paces, distance travelled, calories lost, and more. I find it helpful to have the constant reminder and also just fun.

Lorraine says:
25 June 2016

I love my Fitbit Flex. It’s a lot easier to wear than a phone! I have three different bands. It’s comfortable enough to wear 24hrs. I feel naked when I have to charge it. I love the occasional badges it gives me telling me how many continents I’ve now walked etc!! Currently doing the 8 day challenge.

jenny muxlow says:
26 June 2016

I have a basic fitbit bought as a present. I absolutely love it, it helps me achieve my 10,000 steps (if I am not quite there I go for a quick walk around the block).Downside it doesn’t measure the calories I’ve burned doing a crew rowing class or cylcing. Would definetely recommend

I suffer from chronic fatigue, an illness where you have to monitor your activity levels. In this context activity means any activity, including socialising. Like most sufferers, I am very careful, begin to build up stamina, and then accidentally do a little too much, then lose the ground I have gained and have to start again. 2 steps forward, 2 steps back. Think of Sisyphus, pushing a boulder up the mountain, and watching it roll back down again just when he thought he’d nearly reached the top.
The latest advice on achieving a recovery is to tackle it in the way an athlete would tackle a training programme, and I’m wondering whether one of these gadgets might be helpful in monitoring movement so as to make me more aware of exactly how much I’m doing each day. All suggestions gratefully received.