#TrackerTales: A Personal Trainer’s Take on Fitness Trackers

It’s Day #10 of using my Fitbit to the fullest. What I’ve mostly learned is that it’s true what the experts say: If you want to lose weight, you have to eat less and move more.

Could it really be that simple?

Apparently, yes.

Today a young person I adore reached out to me. She is a new distributor for It Works! – products that I know others, like Mary, swear by. She wanted to know if I would be interested in sharing my health goals with her so that she could match me to the perfect It Works! products.

She’s building a business – I’d love to help her – but here’s what I know: Over the years, I’ve tried so many different products, so many different cleanses, so many different diets. Ten days ago, I decided to take a simple approach: Use my activity tracker to the fullest. I’m committed to getting 10,000 steps in every day – and I’m committed to recording what I eat and drink. I plugged in a goal to lose 1.5 pounds per week so I’m consuming only the number of calories Fitbit tells me I can to reach my goal.

I’m not depriving myself of sugar. I’m not saying I can’t eat this or that.

This may be the first time in nearly 40 years that I’ve taken a sensible approach to weight loss – and it’s working. After one week, I’m down 4.4 pounds.

So I told this young woman thank you but no thank you. I have to stay focused – I don’t want to add in one more thing. What I’m doing is working, thank goodness. And with that said, I also know that these products, and others, have helped people reach their goals. If it’s healthy for you and it works, go for it, I say.

One person I have turned to over the years for good, sensible advice when it comes to health is my friend and former coworker, Kris Cameron.

Kris is an American Council on Exercise certified personal trainer in the Iowa City/Cedar Rapids corridor. She’s worked in the health and fitness industry for more than 20 years. When we met, she was the fitness director for the YMCA of the Cedar Rapids Metropolitan Area – and I was the marketing director there. In 2010, Kris decided to go it alone and specialize in home-based fitness and exercise for older adults and those with chronic disease.

She is a Parkinson’s disease exercise instructor, Arthritis Foundation exercise instructor, and Falls Prevention Exercise Specialist. She’s also on the board of the Iowa Chapter of the American Parkinson Disease Association and the Medical Fitness Network.

Suffice it to say, she’s a health and fitness expert.

I reached out to Kris to get her opinion on fitness trackers – and to see if she uses one herself. She does: a Garmin vívosmart®, which she’s used for about a year.

Kris, thank you – not just for the following thoughts, but for walking your talk. You inspire me – and so many others – with your commitment to health and well being.

Here’s what Kris has to say:

I had used various pedometers over the years but they were impractical for me to use in my job. They always seemed to fall off! I thought I’d give the fitness tracker a try for my own knowledge, as well as to know whether or not they were worth recommending to clients. I decided on the Garmin VivoSmart because I knew Garmin products were quality products. I also liked the Bluetooth feature. I thought it would be handy if I received a text from a client that they were running late (the text message pops up on the band and it vibrates when I get a text or phone call). I can also control my music on my phone from my Garmin, which I thought would be handy if I’m working out. Pretty high tech stuff for me!

I wear my VivoSmart every day. If I have to leave it at home because I didn’t charge it, I feel a bit naked! However, after using it almost a year it has lost some of its initial appeal. I still like the Bluetooth feature for controlling my music, especially when I’m teaching a class (I’ve had to explain to participants on more than one occasion why I’m tapping my wristband!). The text message and phone call alert has become more of an annoyance than anything. I’ve disconnected the Bluetooth on occasion for that reason. However, I still like the motivation of reaching a certain step goal or distance each day. I do question the accuracy. I think it used to be much more accurate than it is now. Lately, I have reached my goal when I’m brushing my teeth or petting the dogs. It must be something with the arm movements.

I do recommend trackers, although for most people I think a basic model is sufficient. I believe they are a motivator to move more, which is what most of us need. We do tend to overestimate how active we are on a daily basis. In our sedentary world, it is easy to pass the day away sitting in front of a screen. Although most people think I stay very active, I actually spend a good amount of time each day driving to clients and classes, posting on social media, and doing computer work. That was part of my decision to purchase a fitness tracker. I wanted to see how much (or little) I was moving each day. I also like the vibrating reminder to “MOVE IT,” even when it vibrates while I’m driving.

When I worked with families at the YMCA (pre-fitness tracker era), I would recommend pedometers as a motivational tool. For example, if you set a goal for 10,000 steps and you are at 9,000 steps by 7pm, it motivates you to go for a walk to reach your goal. Fitness trackers are better than pedometers because most count ALL movement, not just walking. I think trackers are a bit of a craze, but I think it’s one that is here to stay and the technology will continue to grow. It helps to get people moving, especially those who are goal oriented.

I do believe that with any “weight loss” tool, we need to avoid becoming obsessive. Tracking steps, sleep, weight, etc. can all add to the stress we are trying to alleviate! I think the goal of 10,000 steps is a great goal for health maintenance. If a person’s goal is weight loss, the step goal should probably increase to at least 15,000. Keep in mind that this is just a motivational tool. We still need to move our bodies more and, most importantly, eat healthier. If we get 10,000 steps in each day hoping to lose weight, but finish off each night with wine and dessert – well, you know the answer!

You can’t out exercise a bad diet.

With that being said, we are living in a very sedentary society. Motivation to move more is important. I’ve worked with all ages and fitness levels over the years. I’ve worked with those in regimented lifestyles, such as bodybuilders, to older adults who are just trying to keep their bodies moving, functional and stay out of the nursing home. In my younger days, I lived a regimented, super-fit life, to now trying to stay as active and healthy at 47 years old with arthritis from injuries and overuse.

Our lives are hectic and many of us are stressed from trying to juggle too many things at one time. The thought of getting to the gym for an hour a day may be just too overwhelming, which in turn can leave us thinking “What’s the use? I’ll just have a glass of wine and go to bed!” However, if we can incorporate more movement into our daily lives by walking more, parking a little further away from our destination, taking the stairs, or riding a bike to the store, we can improve our health and well-being.

If a fitness tracker can help to keep us motivated to do that, then I’m all for it!

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  1. […] maybe it’s what personal trainer Kris Cameron said in her #TrackerTale: You can’t out exercise a bad […]

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#TrackerTales: A Personal Trainer’s Take on Fitness Trackers #TrackerTales: A Personal Trainer’s Take on Fitness Trackers #TrackerTales: A Personal Trainer’s Take on Fitness Trackers
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