FITNESS trackers are becoming increasingly popular. In fact, including Christmas sales, estimates suggest that a staggering 53 million of the things were sold in 2016. And it’s not just adults who are getting in on the craze, more and more children are adding fitness trackers to their wish lists – and receiving them.
So could these gadgets really help you and your kids get more active? The answer isn’t quite as simple as ‘yes’ or ‘no’. There is certainly reason to suggest that the novelty of tracking steps, heart rate, calories burned, and so on has an appeal to people of all ages. For children in particular it can create a sense of competition, turning fitness and exercise into a game.
The high tech nature of the trackers and how they look are also appealing to kids. However, one of the key challenges with fitness trackers is how to ensure that once the novelty has worn off the habit is maintained. It’s something that I’ve been working on for a few years now through our online health and wellness programme, actilife, and what we’ve found has recently been backed up by scientific research in the USA.
The research, published by the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Journal, revealed that physical activity trackers are more likely to motivate people if their use is coupled with wellness coaching.
This essentially means that alongside tracking your activity you are provided with advice and support. TECH ALONE IS NOT ENOUGH BUT what does this mean for you and your family? Well, it means that fitness trackers can be effective, but it’s unlikely that – if left to their own devices – your family will become and stay active purely through using the trackers. Instead it will still require a more proactive approach.
You may not have a fitness coach on hand, but there are simple things you can do yourself to bring that element of additional support to your family. For example, rather than getting your child a fitness tracker and then leaving them to get on with it, you can help to provide that extra motivation for them to keep going.
There are any number of ways to do this. For a start it would be a good idea for you to help them in setting their activity targets. Remember, children should be getting around 60 minutes of activity a day. You could also sync up their device with your own phone so that you can see how they’re getting on and whether they’re meeting their goals. Most importantly though, you can help them find ways to build activity into their routine. Suggest getting off the bus a stop earlier or having a dance around the lounge in the TV advert breaks to help them boost their step count. Spend some time planning fun walking routes for the weekend with the promise it will mean they smash their targets. Or ask them what sports they’d like to try so that they can hit their goals. And if you have a fitness tracker too, all these suggestions will work just as well for you and will provide a great way of spending time with your kids. You could even create some competition between family members to keep everyone motivated. Trackers like the Fitbit Flex have proved to be popular with children Fitness trackers can be good for helping with motivation for you and your children SET FITNESS GOALS ANOTHER tip that I would recommend is to introduce some form of incentive to help keep your family on track.
For example perhaps you could award a star for hitting a daily goal and then give a small ‘prize’ for reaching a certain number of stars. This is another way to ensure that those daily tracked numbers continue to have meaning and reward for both you and your kids.
All the new activities and changes to your routine are what really matters here.
They are the things that will actually make a difference to your family’s health. Where fitness trackers can help is that they show you the effectiveness of making small changes.
The extra steps in your lunch break, or laps of the playground at break time, all add up on the trackert and seeing that can make ana amazing difference to your motivation.m
Ultimately, you don’t need fitness trackers to get your family fitness on track. But if you’re lucky enough to have them then t these tips should help you get the most from them and make sure they really make a difference. ■ Michelle Childs is physical activity development manager at Life Leisure lifeleisure.net