Welcome to 2014, the year you’ve resolved to be a better, fitter you (hopefully beyond the first week of January). You’ve vowed you’ll work out daily, and then rounded out your new healthy routine with a balanced day of nutrition. Propelled by one of those ubiquitous fitness trackers (like the FitBit, or the Jawbone UP band), you’re off to an awesome start.
Besides helping you introduce healthy habits and creating a 360-degree view of your personal wellness, such wearables are a great tool for helping you stick to those New Year’s resolutions and enact positive changes in your life.
But as we approach the end of January, and those happy hours start taking the place of spin classes, that fancy new fitness gadget may become your loudest critic. The device which was supposed to have made it easier than ever to track and monitor your progress now reminds you, constantly, of your shortcomings. You’re no longer hitting that 10,000 steps-a-day goal! You’re eating 2,500 calories a day! Worse, it’s telling all your friends (both the Fitbit and the UP band have built in social functionality that allow others to see your progress).
Should this happen to you, fear not. Here’s a list of healthy lifestyle hacks to keep you on track and send that ‘calories burned’ count soaring even on days when you can’t make it to the gym.
1. Walk. A lot! Walking is one of the simplest and most effective ways to keep your fitness plan on track. Experts recommend you take 10,000 steps per day, the equivalent of about 5 miles. Don’t freak out—squeezing in those extra steps is easier than you think. If you take public transportation, try getting off the bus or subway a stop earlier. Park as far as possible from the store. Don’t send that email to your colleague across the office, instead take a stroll by their desk and put in a little face time. Check your steps after a few days of taking the long route, and you’ll see an immediate improvement. Fitbit, the maker of a number of devices like the Force and Flex—both of them popular gifts this holiday season—has seen the benefits of regular tracker use first hand. CEO James Park tells The Daily Beast in an email, “People tend to increase their activity level by 30-40% after using a Fitbit tracker for 12 weeks and Fitbit users take 43% more steps than non-Fitbit users.” The trick to achieving those numbers is simple: walk more.
2. Take the stairs. Taking the stairs adds to your step count and then some. It’s more effective than regular walking at burning calories and also makes your legs stronger. Some trackers come with a built in altimeter to keep you honest on the number of stairs you take each day.
3. Use your TV as a trainer. Can’t tear away from that show long enough for a workout? Turn the show into a workout. Every time you get a commercial break, hit the ground and start busting out pushups or crunches, doing as many as you can. Next commercial break see if you can add one more rep. No commercial breaks during your binge-watching House of Cards session? Add in a set in between episodes. Make sure you track these in your device to get credit for those active minutes.
4. Do chores. Lots of everyday tasks are effective calorie burners on those busy days. Head to the grocery store and carry your groceries home for a quick arm workout, or clean your home for cardio boost. Double up and do calf raises in line at the store. Tally up those active minutes while crossing off your to-do list. Forewarning, the calf raises may incite a few awkward glances, but what do you care—you’re getting in shape! Forewarning #2: your significant other may wonder who replaced the real you on New Year’s.
5. Work out while you work. Don’t let your day job get in the way of a healthier you. If you sit all day, consider swapping your desk chair for an exercise ball, or take phone calls pacing around your office. Check in with HR regarding the possibility of getting a standing or treadmill desk to feel the burn all day long. Take it one step further and turn those important client meetings into sweat sessions with the growing trend of sweatworking.
6. Make it a game. One of the best aspects of many wearable trackers is the ability of users to connect and compete with friends, holding you accountable for your daily activity. Get a better body while taunting your friends— what’s not to like. Says Park, CEO of Fitbit: “Fitbit users with friends tend to be far more active than those without—27% to be exact. When you start adding social elements and friendly competition like being a part of a leaderboard, cheering, taunting, and direct messaging, activity increases.”
7. Move in patterns: Do the same extra bit of work every day, at the same time. Walk that extra avenue on the way home. Walk the dog to the park, and take the long way back every time. “It’s about those patterns,” says Chris Zoller, representative for Polar, maker of the Loop bracelet. “It’s a motivator for you to do a little more.” Zoller notes it’s those small changes that really add up to create a better outlook for your daily fitness routine.
Of course, it’s worth noting that all of these lifestyle changes can be done without the support of a tracker. Trackers just make it easier and keep you honest while displaying the full picture of where you are compared with where you want to be. That, and they serve as an excellent reminder to consider your health when life starts to get too busy or the next season of your favorite Netflix series is released.
But most importantly, tracker or not, it’s all about introducing positive changes that work in your own life, and using the tools that motivate you.