With the rapidly changing healthcare marketplace, we are increasingly focused on improving our health. There are incentives to doing so from looking better in our clothes, health insurance premium discounts, to just feeling better overall and more confident. When I worked at my corporate job, they had wellness fairs at open enrollment and you were able to receive a discount on your premium if certain stats were in a specified range or you improved by a set amount since the last time.
Many employers now offer this benefit and insurance companies are also working to help members become more knowledgeable about their health. Companies such as Oscar, a New York and New Jersey health insurance company, uses technology with their incentive program by giving their members Misfit bands to sync up with the Oscar app to set their own personalized goals with the opportunity to earn cash rewards every month they meet them.
Now more than ever, improving your health is important from both an obvious health standpoint but also from a financial aspect too. The healthier you are the lower your medical costs may be and the less time you may miss from work due to sick days. As a former couch potato, I understand how hard it is to transition from sofa sitting to fitting activity in daily. In fact most American adults don’t get the recommended 30 minutes of physical activity five times a week.
For the average person, the time spent in the gym really doesn’t burn all that many calories for the effort you have to put in. Think about how hard it really is to burn 500 calories in the gym and how long it takes.You drive to the gym, hop on the elliptical or treadmill, and tune into the TV for 30 minutes. The average person burns about 300 calories for their effort. Now add on the time it took to get to the gym, change, workout, drive home. It’s no wonder we quickly give up.
You go on a diet and eat healthy. You exercise. You do everything right. Sometimes the scale moves and sometimes it doesn’t. You have no way of knowing what is happening under the surface. Maybe the scale didn’t move because you put on muscle this week and offset the fat loss. Maybe it’s water retention. Maybe the stars aligned and your body didn’t burn fat. It makes you feel like your efforts did nothing so you may as well have had half the package of cookies.
In fact, here is a package of cookies now so it’s go time. The next day you freak out that you’ve undone things and you decide to buckle down and drop calories, or increase cardio, or maybe both. You workout like crazy and eat even better. That may work until you have another week where the scale doesn’t move and you repeat the process.
Not much fun in eating, workouts or even life in that. It’s nightmarish. You might even be inclined to just bag it after long enough of the hamster wheel. Yeah, I’ve been there and can tell you firsthand how much it sucks and impacts you daily. So what’s the answer? Try changing the focus and just have fun in the process of losing fat. Yes, having fun while improving your health is entirely possible.
You get more bang for your buck just by being active outside of the gym throughout your every day life. All that moving around, fidgeting, taking the stairs, walking the long way to the breakroom or meeting at work. You can even dance to the latest and greatest video games if that makes you smile. It adds up. No sweating, special clothing, extra showering or gym membership required. Just you and your own two feet.
To improve your health, nothing beats the combination of exercise, regular movement and eating better. You need to make these habits so you don’t even need to think about doing them. They become a part of who you are and even something you do because you look forward to doing them. Luckily there have been some pretty cool advances in technology to help out with this.
Heart Rate Monitors
A heart rate monitor is great for the obvious – tracking your heart rate during activities. It really helps with intensity tracking during intervals and cardio to ensure you are pushing yourself. It can show heart rate adaptations to activities that you do frequently, help you time work and rest intervals. It also is beneficial for those who have been advised to keep their heart rates under a certain level.
If you are interested in monitoring or increasing your activity throughout the day, activity trackers can help and some have pretty cool features like activity contests with friends. Are you close to meeting your daily step goal? Move a little more until you get it! Did your best friend get a badge for hitting a goal 5 days in a row? I bet you could get that badge too.
Most of the trackers measure steps, estimated calories burned, and other activities. Some monitor activity minutes and will remind you if you’ve been sitting too long. When choosing an activity tracker, consider the features you’ll really use. Sleep quality can be nice to know, but in my experience most of us know when we aren’t sleeping well. We don’t need a monitor to tell us unless it’s for sleep apnea or similar disorder.
Most trackers are pretty non-intrusive so you won’t feel weird wearing them. They also have fancy graphs and charts to track things. They can be financial investment so keep these things in mind when choosing your method of tracking calories burned, calories you need to lose weight/maintain weight, sleep quality, and daily activity.
There are free phone apps that allow you to set reminders to get up and move at specific intervals. These are effective in reminding you to get up and move. Set a reminder every hour or two, and take a 5 minute walk or lap of the building at work. Use them to track the minutes you spend working out each week. If you fall short, move a bit more to aim for approximately the same amount or more weekly. Not as fancy or fun as an activity tracker, but easy on the wallet.
Food Logs and Diaries
Many of the activity trackers synchronize with the online food logs to make it a seamless solution. You can also use them on their own. Track your current eating for an entire week and log it in a free app like My Fitness Pal, My Net Diary, or other food log. Take the average calories you’ve eaten over the week and use it along with your weight trend to determine your calorie needs. Once you know how much you need to eat to maintain your weight, you can easily figure out how much for you to lose weight.
When you know how much you’re eating, you can easily make adjustments to get you to your weight loss goals. You can also make notes on how the foods you eat make you feel. If you eat junk, does it impact how you feel? Are there foods that help? If eating something makes you feel more energetic and stronger, note that. If eating another makes you feel ugh, eat it less often or not at all. When you have energy and feel great, you tend to move more and that pays off with fat loss.
I personally use a heart rate monitor from time to time when I do interval based cardio to ensure my heart rate is where I’d like it to be. I also use phone reminders and log my food using My Fitness Pal. Gotta love technology. All methods have pros and cons. HRMs are great for the purpose of tracking heart rate if that’s what you need, but for other things they aren’t so great. Activity trackers can encourage you to move more which is never a bad thing, but you need to have reasonable expectations of what they can do beyond that. There plenty of free methods that will get you where you need to be.
It’s matter of which method will motivate you more and which you will really use consistently. Nothing will work if you don’t use it. If you’re focused mainly on fat loss and stuck in a cycle of calories, eating good foods and not bad foods, cardio, and working out for calorie burn, consider changing the focus. Fitness should enhance your life and make it better, not punish you for failure and falling short.
You’ll find it’s much more rewarding to enjoy the process, the workouts, and life while gradually reaching your underlying goal. If you’re interested in learning more about eating right and fitting fitness into your life (not the other way around!) with an online training and nutrition program, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can set some goals, get you moving and feeling better, and have fun in the process.
I’d love to hear more about what you use to help you fit in daily activity and track your health. Are you on My Fitness Pal? Have a favorite activity tracker? Tell me what you think and if it made a difference for you in the comments below.
I was contacted by a representative of Oscar Insurance Corporation after they read my post on Why Your Focus Shouldn’t Be Fat Loss. They asked me to write a post giving my thoughts on using technology, apps, and other devices to help encourage healthy habits. I’m not affiliated with Oscar Insurance Corporation, have not received compensation for writing the article, nor am I endorsing Oscar or Misfit bands since I have no direct experience with their company or products. The opinions in this post are my own.