Recently I have noticed a steady increase in people wearing an assortment of fitness gadgets or utilising various GPS tracking applications to monitor how much exercise they have performed each day. These gadgets work in a variety of ways, ranging from built-in GPS units to those that measure the acceleration and rate of arm movement to provide an estimate of distance. Some gadgets even allow users to monitor and track sleep patterns based on movement of the device throughout the night. When combined with keeping a food intake diary, some of these devices can even calculate approximately how many calories are consumed and burned.
I have recently used a Fitbit and regularly wear a GPS watch whilst running, cycling and swimming. I have been known to pour hours and hours of time then reviewing and analysing speed and distance. Tracking the data and information provided on a daily basis has almost become as enjoyable as the endorphins produced post exercise!
What I have started to incorporate into my physiotherapy practice is utilising these gadgets for goal setting and monitoring physical activity levels. For example, a general guideline is to aim for 10,000 steps a day. This can include specific exercise but also incidental exercise such as walking around the house or the supermarket. Using these gadgets allows us to easily track how far an individual has walked per day. I myself was quite shocked to find that on an average day, despite spending the majority of day on my feet, I only performed 6000 – 8000 steps around the clinic.
Another important factor with exercise is to gradually increase the amount you do. This helps to minimise the likelihood of injury. A good rule of thumb is to not increase exercise load by any more than 10 per cent per week. Fitness gadgets are an ideal way to monitor exercise load to ensure that cumulative exercise is performed gradually and that there aren’t significant peaks and troughs from week to week.
Overall, fitness gadgets can serve as a fun way to monitor activity and exercise levels. Not only can it serve as a motivator, but can also be utilised to avoid the likelihood of injury associated with overtraining or sudden increases in activity.
Jason Lee APAM
Malvern East Physiotherapy
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