By Stephanie Hill
On January 1 I, like many of the 45 percent of Americans who make New Year’s resolutions, made a New Year’s resolution. My resolution was to take charge of my health and focus on being more active.
I have tried this same thing over and over again. I go fast out of the gate and lose interest and motivation after about 6 weeks.
This time is going to be different. I set reasonable goals and am staying motivated. So what is the difference? It’s my FitBit. According to Business Insider, 3.3 million wearable fitness trackers were sold in 2014. Some of the most popular are the FitBit, Jawbone and Garmin. These devices also have mobile app that syncs with the device to record your progress toward your goals.
I am not endorsing the Fitbit as the best wearable device, but I do love mine. It tracks my steps, my sleep, calories burned and it has an alarm clock. The mobile app and desktop application allow me to set calorie intake goals and log the food and I water I consume. I can also specifically track activities – like using the treadmill or elliptical machine at the gym.
The Journal of the American Medical Association said in a recent article that wearable devices are designed to facilitate health behavior change. The idea is that by tracking the things I listed above, the user becomes educated about their health and will be motivated to make better choices.
SPOILER ALERT: The Fitbit or any other wearable fitness tracker is not a magic device that suddenly gets you moving more and makes pounds disappear into thin air. You have to start it and keep doing it.
Okay, that sounds a little harsh but it’s true. As a chronic stopper and starter I know from experience. The best way sustain physical activity and healthy eating is to change your habits.
Notice I did not say “create new habits.” CHANGE the ones you have. In the book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life & Business by Charles Duhigg, habits are described as a three step loop – the cue, the routine and reward. You should use the same cue and the same reward but change the routine.
“Attempts to give up snacking, for instance, will often fail unless there’s a new routine to satisfy old cues and reward urges,” Duhigg writes.
So what does that mean? When you feel hungry are you really hungry? Most likely you’re not. The cue is your stomach rumbling. The old routine is grabbing the bag of chips and eating half of what’s left. The reward is the growling from your gut is gone. Let’s switch it up – you feel hungry (cue). Instead of chips you walk to the water cooler and fill your cup with 8 ounces of cool, filtered water (new routine). The reward – your stomach is full and you’ve increased your water intake by 8 ounces.
You can do this with activity as well. At the end of a long work day the first thing you want to do is kick off your shoes and put your feet up. RIGHT? I know I do. Well, kick off those shoes and put on your tennis shoes and take a walk around the block (or two). Your heart will start pumping and you’ll have more energy for the evening.
Of course you can change your bad habits without having a fitness tracker around your wrist. For me it was a personal decision. I need to see my results to stay motivated. When I reach my daily step goal before bed each night I am motivated to do it again the next day – but get them in sooner.
How and what you change to be healthy is up to you. Stick with it – no matter how many times you stop and start.
Stephanie Hill is the Director of Marketing at River’s Edge Hospital & Clinic. The information and suggestions contained in this blog are not intended to replace advice, diagnosis or treatment of qualified medical professionals. Consult with your primary care provider before starting a new diet or fitness program.