IS YOUR FITNESS WEARABLE HELPING OR HURTING?

Fitness wearables (tracking watches like a FitBit, Apple Watch, Garmin, or phone apps that monitor activity levels) have proliferated over the last twenty years. The standard recommendation is for 10000 steps. Many people have written about how that number was pulled from basically thin air, so I'm not going to go deep into that (but check out this Atlantic article for some context, and @emmafitnessphd has a phenomenal thread summarizing research on this subject).


Working as a personal trainer, fitness instructor, and also doing some therapy means that I have work days where I'm pretty active, and then other days where I'm seated at my desk for looooooooong stretches of the day. I'd started to notice that on days where I was sitting a lot, my body would feel very stiff and achy. I noticed that my step count on those days was tending to clock in somewhere in the 4000-5000 range. See screenshot evidence (not sure what happened on 04/28 or 29, watch may have been plugged in, or maybe I really sat that much). You'll also notice that Garmin automatically set a step goal for me every day that auto adjusts based on the previous day's activity level. After noticing that I felt crappy on days where my step count was lower, and also noticing the low end of my activity level, I set a goal for myself to reach 6000 steps every day. I felt like 6000 seemed like it would be a modest enough increase to be achievable, and would also support my goal of feeling less achy, more active, and less stiff.


Since setting the goal about a week ago, I've made it every day (minus one day that my watch was charging most of the day). I also had to change settings in my watch to stop auto adjusting my daily goal and leave it at 6000. On a few days, I came up short at the end of the day and went for a short walk later in the day. I have also used active household chores to increase my steps on certain days (bonus: my clean laundry is all up!). I do feel better, less achy and less stiff.


I'm a HUGE fan of setting a goal for a modest increase that is likely to be reachable and give you that sense of success and achievement. I was just talking with a client who is looking to add some walking to her overall routine and she was thinking about adding an hour walk most days of the week. She hasn't been walking consistently recently. I suggested scaling that down a bit to something that would be less of a jump, and we ended up settling on 30 minutes about 3-4 days per week. Then, if she's hitting those marks and feeling good, she can always do more. For myself and my clients, I'd much rather set a goal and nail it a lot of the time and get that feeling of achievement than set some outlandish (and, in this case, kind of arbitrary) goal and fail, get discouraged, and possibly quit.


Goals are great, and paying attention to how your body feels is a wonderfully trauma informed, mindful, and weight neutral way to honor your body. Audacious goals can be really amazing, too, and sometimes it's fun to challenge yourself with a big, stretch goal that you've got to really work and strive for. That said, if you're just trying to increase your overall activity level and feel better in your body, this may not be the time for really big goals. It will likely serve you better to set a goal you can reach, and enjoy basking in the achievement of reaching that goal!










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So you've started on a body positive fitness journey, and you're setting goals that aren't related to shrinking yourself! Congratu-freaking-lations! That is heckin rad, and I'm super proud of you. It'