If you’re one of the millions of Americans who received a fitness tracker for Christmas, you’ve no doubt already unwrapped it and put it to use. Fitbit alone has 24.5 million users, a mere 9.5% of the global fitness tracker market.
Statistically, about 30% of users abandon their tracker within six months, no matter how much was spent on the device. The reasons vary among users, but according to Deborah Lupton, Centenary Research Professor at the University of Canberra, those least likely to abandon their tracker are “People who were actively using Fitbits and had incorporated them into their daily routines… really did enjoy things like badges and the buzzes and the flashing lights. Those features of wearables like Fitbit were very motivating for these people.” Those most committed to their fitness trackers were the super-competitive, people who would actually march around their kitchen at night just to hit their required number of steps for the day.
But, for the rest of the world, the less-competitive shall we say, it takes being intentional if you want to incorporate your tracker into your lifestyle. You need to make it a habit. According to research, it takes sixty-six days to create a good habit. The same study found that if you miss a day, you haven’t completely gone off the rails, so don’t despair.
Follow these suggestions to make the most of your device so your health and fitness become a long-term, sustainable lifestyle.
It may seem obvious but start with reading the manual. Since many of us consider ourselves somewhat tech-savvy, you may be tempted to jump in and figure things out through trial and error. Not only is that a waste of time, but you’re also likely to miss out on many of the device’s features. Unfortunately, many times the manual is printed in a near microscopic font, so a better option is to go to the manufacturer’s website and download the manual there.
Another “Well, obviously!” is to remember to wear it. Charge it near your phone, place it by something you grab every morning like your car keys or toothbrush, or if you only wear it when you exercise, put it in your gym bag or running shoes so you don’t forget to track your work out.
Once you’ve read through the manual and nailed down the basics, set your goals. Decide if you’re counting steps, calorie, active minutes, or whatever other numbers your device tracks.
Most trackers have a goal function that can be personalized based on current fitness level and where you’d like to be in a set time frame. Once you’ve set your goal, pay attention to your progress and adjust accordingly. If you’ve aimed too high and are frustrated that you consistently fall short, consider setting a more reasonable goal. On the other hand, if you’re hitting your milestones with ease, step up your game and make it more challenging. You’re more likely to stick with your goals and make it a habit if you’re consistently meeting those milestones.
The key to it all is routine. Make putting on your tracker as much a part of your morning routine as brushing your teeth. Set reminders to check your progress throughout the day, and give yourself non-sabotaging rewards like a coffee break, walk outside, or a few minutes goofing off online.
Sixty-six days is just a little over two months – you can do it!
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.