Carolinas HealthCare System
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How Fitness Trackers Help You Stay Motivated

By Kathryn Randall, BS, MS
Exercise Specialist

Creating an exercise plan is easy – many of us do it every January as part of our New Year’s resolutions. Maintaining a plan is not so easy. Once the newness of an exercise program wears off, it’s sometimes a struggle to sustain the enthusiasm and motivation needed to keep going. Setting realistic exercise goals is important, but one motivation tool proven to help with long-term success is the fitness tracker.

The Pedometer and Accelerometer

Two popular fitness trackers are pedometers and accelerometers, wearable devices that provide instant feedback about the number of steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned and more.

  • Pedometers primarily count steps taken by detecting up and down movement of the body when a person walks. To maintain accuracy, it’s important that pedometers are worn in a horizontal position.
  • An accelerometer has more technology than a pedometer, as it constantly measures both vertical and horizontal acceleration of movement. Some accelerometers can also provide the number of stairs climbed in a day.

The use of pedometers and accelerometers provides a sense of reinforcement, motivation and accountability due to the immediate feedback. The average adult takes around 5,000 steps per day. Studies show that simply using a pedometer or accelerometer improves a person’s physical activity awareness and increases the daily step count by an average of 2,500 steps.

Cost and Benefit

Pedometers are inexpensive ($10 to $50) and you can use a log to track daily steps. Accelerometers are more expensive ($100 to $150), but provide more information beyond step counts and can upload data to a computer network wirelessly for easy tracking, reporting and motivational rewards.

Regardless of which device is purchased, it's recommended the first week is used to establish a daily baseline of activity. Once a baseline is established, feedback from the device will gradually help increase daily activity.

Before you know it, you’ll be on track to achieving your fitness goal, and measuring every step along the way.