Fitness Tracker Best Practices

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How To Use Your Fitness Tracker

Only a few years ago it seemed advances in fitness technology were confined to the gym. Fancy new cable machines, vibrating plates, and shake weights seemed to typify the cutting edge of exercise tech. And while a good deal of incredible innovation continues in this regard, like the impact-free Zero Runner from Octane, a new kind of fitness gadget has taken the industry by storm.

Fitness Activity TrackersWe refer, of course, to fitness and activity trackers like the Fitbit or Polar Loop. These wearable devices, along with their app and website counterparts, are empowering individuals to take charge of their fitness, health, and weight-loss goals through the power of data. Indeed, the NPD Connected Intelligence Consumers and Wearables Report points out that one in 10 adult Americans now own a fitness tracker, and the market for such devices is expected to grow to $2.8 billion by 2019 according to IHS Technology.

However, fitness trackers by themselves are not enough to help you reach your health and fitness goals. Although these gadgets do provide a wealth of information with which to make informed decisions about your exercise routine and food choices, we wanted to share with you five best practices so that you can make the most of your new fitness tracker.

1. Set Your Goals

No matter how state-of-the-art the latest fitness wearables and apps may be, they are next to useless if you don’t know what you want to accomplish. Do you want to lose weight? Maintain your current weight? Run a six-minute mile? Run a marathon? Knowing your goals ahead of time is absolutely essential, and the more quantifiable and specific your goal is, the better.

Once you’ve determined your goals, choose the technology that will be most helpful to you in reaching this goal. Not all fitness trackers and mobile apps are created equal. For example, most activity monitors can tell you things like how many steps you’ve taken, how many miles you’ve ran or walked, and how many calories you’ve burned. However, many of these monitors only estimate caloric expenditure by inference, based on your height, weight, age, sex, and the amount of motion it detects. To get a more accurate estimate of how many calories you’ve burned, and to account for athletic activity that is not directly correlated to steps (for example weight lifting), you’ll want a tracker that can also monitor your heart rate like the Polar Loop Activity Tracker.

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2. Create a Baseline

So you’ve got a brand new fitness tracker. Your first instinct is to slap it on and hit the ground running with an intense workout. Resist the urge!

In order to determine the best course of action to meet your health and fitness goals, you first need a baseline to reference. Therefore, rather than trying to impress your activity tracker with how active you are, wear it for a week without changing anything about your normal daily routine. Don’t be discouraged if the numbers are a little disappointing. That’s OK. The first step in meeting your fitness goals is knowing where you’re starting from.

Polar Loop Activity Tracker3. Work at Your Own Pace

You know your goals. You have your baseline. Now it’s time to start! However, don’t try to bite off more than you can chew at the beginning. Most activity trackers come with a default initial goal, like walking 10,000 steps in one day. If your baseline shows you only walk 3,000 steps a day on average, then trying to hit 10,000 steps on day 1 may be too aggressive. Instead, work your way up by adding 500 steps each day until you hit that magic number.

Similarly, if your tracker includes a heart rate monitor, don’t try to hit your maximum heart rate for every minute of your workout. Working out too hard will leave you feeling spent and unwilling to exercise the next day, while taking it too easy will keep you from meeting your goal. In general, you should aim to train within 65-85% of your maximum heart rate (220 minus your age). This way you can work out for the longest amount of time and burn the most calories possible without burning yourself out.

4. Record and Review Everything

Self-monitoring your exercise has always been a key component of getting into shape. And while these activity trackers automate a lot of this for you, you cannot delegate all responsibility to your wristband. If your goal is weight-oriented, then recording the amount of calories you burn is not enough. You also need to record the amount of calories you consume. Most fitness wearables have a food diary built-in, but there are also stand-alone apps like MyFitnessPal that integrate with many of the top devices.

Furthermore, don’t be satisfied with simply checking your daily stats. For the best results, take advantage of some of the detailed analytics your fitness tracker can provide. Look at the charts and graphs to give you a picture of your progress over time, to reveal times of the day when you are excessively stationary, and to discover opportunities for getting more steps in or calories burned.

Check out our selection of top-of-the-line heart rate monitors!

5. Be Social

Training in isolation can be comforting for those of us who are embarrassed about their current health and fitness levels, but it can also make it easier to lose your motivation, or even cheat your results. With more and more websites and programs that deliver workout routines right to your desktop, it’s easier than ever to avoid human contact while you work out.

However, training with other people, sharing your progress, and having a coach are some of the best ways to keep you focused and honest. Luckily, many fitness trackers have social sharing elements baked in, allowing you to see how your progress compares to that of your friends and thereby motivate you to keep up the hard work. For example, the Fitbit app and website can display a leaderboard that ranks you and your friends in terms of how many steps you’ve taken in the past seven days, adding a competitive element to your training. Online programs like Vida Health Coach or RevUp pair you with personal coaches and other health professionals who can keep you motivated and provide you with personalized tips and advice.

Ready to take your workout to the next level? Then check out the selection of Polar heart rate monitors and activity trackers. Talk to one of our fitness professionals for some personalized tips on how to incorporate your activity tracker into your workout routine, and discover some of the best equipment to help you meet your goals.

Benefits of Heart Rate Training

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Ever wondered why people exercise with heart rate …and what exactly a heart rate monitor IS? This video answers those questions, showing how training with heart rate provides motivation to workout smarter, track your progress, get feedback and reach your personal fitness goals. Plus, we demonstrate what exactly a Polar training computer is and how it works. In this first half, were speaking with a busy mom – a mother of three with a full-time job – who’s trying to get back into shape and needs some motivation.


HealthStyles Exercise Equipment carries a variety of heart rate monitors. Stop by your local HealthStyles Showroom and talk to one of our fitness consultants to find out what Polar Heart Rate Monitor matches your fitness level and goals.

Give the Gift of Fitness!

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Are you looking for ideas for unique Christmas gifts?

HealthStyles Exercise Equipment has some great gifts for fitness enthusiasts in all price ranges!

Whether your gift is for an avid runner, a Cross-Fit or P90X junkie, or a friend or loved on who is trying to firm up or lose weight, here are just a few of the many possible gifts you can put under the tree for those important people in your life.

Why Use a Polar Heart Rate Monitor?

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Whether you’re taking a class with a friend, going on a weekend bike ride or running on your treadmill at home, with a heart rate watch, you can see exactly how much you’re doing and, even better, track your progress. Heart rate monitors keep you motivated and show you how well you’re doing, leaving you to focus on having fun!

Getting the most out of your training doesn’t always mean working faster or harder. The best way to improving and seeing results is to train at the right intensity. With a heart rate monitor, you can make sure you’re not over or under training, and make each session count. Use a heart rate watch as your wrist-based personal trainer, motivating you each and every time you train.

As the inventors of the first heart rate monitor for training over 30 years ago, Polar is truly the specialist in this field. Since then they have been leading this category, and the world’s top specialists have been working on the most accurate and intelligent training computers and heart rate based features.

What makes Polar truly unique is that their features give guidance based on your personal information, and individual heart rate and its variation. The state-of-the-art intelligence of Polar products can tell you how much, how often and how hard to train. This is why so many top athletes use Polar training computers. But you don’t have to be a professional athlete to benefit from heart rate monitoring. Exercisers at all fitness levels can benefit from the motivational aspects of knowing how hard you are working based on your maximum heart rate, and seeing how your fitness level improves over time.

Watch this video for more information on the value of using a heart rate watch when you work out.

HealthStyles Exercise Equipment carries a variety of heart rate monitors. Stop by your local HealthStyles Showroom and talk to one of our fitness consultants to find out what Polar Heart Rate Monitor matches your fitness level and goals.

The Benefits of Heart Rate Training

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We get so many questions from people that say they work out regularly and don’t see the results they want. What are they doing wrong? What they are doing is exercising without being aware of their heart rate training zones. Heart rate training is so important in determining the intensity level needed to produce maximum results, whether you are trying to lose weight, improve your conditioning, rehabilitate from an injury or heart attack, or train for an athletic event. How do I make it work for me? The first step is to determine your maximum heart rate. There is a mathematical formula that allows you to predict your Max HR with some accuracy. It is called the “age-adjusted formula”. The age-adjusted Max HR formula can come in very handy when you’re not prepared to pay for the physician-supervised stress test. Continue reading

Benefits of Heart Rate Training Video – Part 2

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Ever wonder why people exercise with heart rate? This video shows how training with heart rate provides guidance to train at the right level and get the best workout for your body – and your goals. We also show how a Polar training computer makes exercise more fun, helping you to see that any sport or active pursuit can be your workout. In this second half, we’re speaking with a former college athlete turned busy lawyer and family man who’s looking for training guidance as he gears up for his first triathlon and gets back into shape.

Benefits of Heart Rate Training Video – Part 1

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Ever wondered why people exercise with heart rate …and what exactly a Heart rate monitors IS? This video answers those questions, showing how training with heart rate provides motivation to workout smarter, track your progress, get feedback and reach your personal fitness goals. Plus, we demonstrate what exactly a Polar training computer is and how it works. In this first half, were speaking with a busy mom – a mother of three with a full-time job – who’s trying to get back into shape and needs some motivation.

Being Heart Smart – Getting Key Results From Your Workout

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Provided by Life Fitness Academy

Everyone knows that exercising is one of most powerful things you can do to improve your health. Regular cardiovascular exercise makes your heart stronger and more efficient, burns calories, lowers your blood pressure and helps keep you mentally sharp. However, it is important to exercise properly to get optimum results and help you achieve your goals. With today’s busy schedules, no one has time to waste on ineffective or inefficient exercise. Performing cardiovascular work at the correct level of intensity is essential. Exercise too hard and you risk injury and exhaustion or you may burn out and stop exercising altogether. On the other hand, if you don’t work out hard enough, you may not get the results you want. The best way to measure intensity is to watch your heart rate as you exercise.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, your predicted maximum heart rate can be estimated by subtracting your age from 220. This is the maximum number of times your heart can beat in a minute. Then multiply that number by .55 and by .9 to find the range that is your heart rate training zone. For example, if you are 35 years old, you have a predicted maximum heart rate of 185 beats per minute (220-35 = 185). Your lower limit is 102 beats per minute (.55 x 185), and your upper limit in the zone is 166 (.9 x 185).

“Working in the appropriate training zone makes it easier to exercise for a sufficient period of time and to continue with an effective exercise program for weight loss or cardiovascular fitness,” said James Skinner, Ph.D., Indiana University, and a member of the Life Fitness Academy Scientific and Medical Advisory Board.

If you have a very low level of fitness or haven’t exercised in a long time, 55 percent may be an effective place to begin your workouts, but a more conditioned person should work closer to 70 to 85 percent of his/her maximum heart rate. Depending on individual goals, most people who typically follow a regular exercise program should sustain at least 70 to 80 percent of their maximum heart rate for 20 to 60 minutes.

There are several ways to monitor your heart rate, including manually checking your pulse, and through using a variety of equipment, such as a heart rate monitor or hand sensors on fitness equipment. Checking your pulse can be done by using the first two fingers of one hand to apply light pressure at the carotid artery on the neck or the radial artery in the wrist. Count the beats for 10 seconds and multiply by six to get your heart rate for one minute. Heart rate monitors, such as those available from leading manufacturer Polar, include a chest strap and a wristwatch type receiver. The strap picks up your heart rate and the receiver displays the result, making it an accurate and convenient way to measure your heart rate.

Finally, leading equipment manufacturers such as Life Fitness typically offer features on their equipment that measure your heart rate as well. Some allow you to wear your heart rate monitoring strap and the machine’s console will display your heart rate (just like your wrist receiver would). Also, some equipment offers hand sensors that you can grip and the machine will measure your heart rate and transmit the reading to the console.

Once your heart rate is determined, usually it is up to you to adjust your workout to keep your heart rate in your target zone. If your heart rate is too low, you may need to jog or pedal faster, for instance. If it is too high, you may want to slow down a bit. Some equipment, however, makes adjustments for you. For example, many machines from Life Fitness, including treadmills, elliptical cross-trainers, stairclimbers and Lifecycle upright and recumbent exercise bikes offer workouts that measure your heart rate and automatically adjust the level of resistance to keep your heart rate at the chosen level. Because the machine does the work here, this lets you just get on and go, without constantly having to monitor your heart rate.

A heart that pumps more blood with each contraction is working efficiently, so it will not have to contract as often. This increased efficiency results in a lower resting heart rate, and a greater work capacity – which are signs of enhanced fitness.

“Cardiovascular exercise is an important part of any consistent exercise routine if you want to improve your overall health, fitness and longevity,” says Paul Thompson, M.D., director of the Preventive Cardiology Program at Hartford Hospital, Hartford, Conn. “Building a stronger heart is the best life insurance there is.”

When beginning any exercise program, it is important to first consult your physician. For assistance in developing a program that will help you exercise safely and ultimately achieve your fitness goals. Also check with your local fitness facilities for personal trainers who can help create a program for you and at your health club or when purchasing equipment for your home, look for cardiovascular equipment that monitors your heart rate and automatically adjusts resistance to keep you where you need to be.