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Get on track with connected exercise

Fitness trackers aren’t just for Christmas, they can also improve working relationships as well as your health, says LSCA President Helen Brennan.

February 2019

I was little taken aback when my mother announced in December that she was going to give me a fitness tracker for Christmas. Fitness tracking is one trend that I have, until now, managed to steer well clear of.

Weeks later, I have to confess that the thing is never off my wrist. It counts the number of steps I take, including the number of flights of stairs, calculates the approximate distance, tracks my heart rate and even has an opinion on how well I’m sleeping – not too well lately, but that’s a different story.

It also allows me to log what I’ve eaten and drunk and to challenge my son to take more steps in a day than I do.

While you can’t rely on a device to make you healthier, research shows that tracking behaviour can make us more likely to adopt healthy habits. For example, a study of adults trying to lose weight found that those who maintained a food diary lost twice as much weight as those who didn’t.

Studies of early models of fitness tracker were less positive, indicating that the devices were likely to fall out of use within about six months and, perversely, that those wearing them fared less well at weight loss that those doing without.

The latest devices, however, incorporate new features to make them “stickier”, including the ability to connect to friends and family via an app, and to set flexible goals. It may be that support networks and achievable goals will succeed in motivating us to get fit where technology alone failed.

One of the most useful features for me is the hourly nudge I get to remind me to take at least 250 steps before the hour is up. Chartered accountants can spend long periods sitting still during the working day. Research indicates that even those who take exercise outside working hours may not be fully offsetting the adverse effects of sitting still for long periods in the day.

You don’t need a fitness tracker to make that change – why not set an alert on your phone or computer to remind you to get up and move at regular intervals? Take the opportunity to walk over to talk to the person you were about to phone, email or instant message. You might improve your working relationships as well as your health.

Helen Brennam is LSCA President.

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