For those who love the thrill of a challenge, fitness trackers are a great way to stay on track with your goals. Not only do fitness trackers give you benchmarks for your progress, they also give you regular reminders for things like movement, drinking water, and more.

However, while fitness trackers can be a valuable tool for your fitness journey, they can also become problematic. If you’re a fan of fitness trackers but are starting to see some negative effects of using them, here are some tips for building a better relationship with these devices.


1. Listen to your body

For fitness enthusiasts, the thrill of watching the numbers go up can be addicting. Whether it’s calories burned, minutes in the zone, or daily steps, the increasing number can give you a boost.

While it’s always good to develop your ability to do more, it’s also important to listen to your body and notice when it’s time to stop. For example, if you’re on vacation with your family or are having an unusually stressful time at work, it’s okay if you’re tired and don’t meet your fitness goals the next day. If you wear an Apple Watch, check out more tips for managing activity rings on vacation.

After all, it might be worth missing your usual step count if it’s because you’re feeling tired after spending an evening with friends you haven’t met in a long time. Although you can force yourself to reach a certain number of steps, it is important to give your body enough time to rest and recover.

While consistency is helpful, learning to listen to your body when things get out of the ordinary is crucial to a lasting fitness journey.

2. Talk with professionals after a fitness break

If you are returning to training after a long hiatus for health or personal reasons, it is recommended that you consult a professional before setting your fitness goals. For example, if you took a long hiatus from the gym because of an injury, get clearance from your physical therapist or doctor before you go back and set unrealistic goals for your wearable fitness.

Athletes returning from a break may be prone to various injuries, as their abilities may have changed. This risk can be exacerbated by fitness trackers reminding them of how strong they were before their involuntary hiatus.

Developing your strength, endurance, and agility after a break can take weeks, months, or even years. Although it can be a frustrating experience, you shouldn’t shock your body by overworking it. Focus on building a sustainable routine and avoiding unnecessary injury risks, so you can get back into a healthy fitness habit.

3. Understand how each body is different

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by constant exposure to Instagram bodies and unrealistic standards. In this world of endless media consumption, you can easily be manipulated by filters, lights, and other editing tricks. It’s important to remember that every body is different, including yours.

Also, if you have medical conditions that cause issues like fatigue or muscle weakness, you can’t expect to have the same fitness tracking goals as a perfectly healthy person.

It’s best not to put so much weight on your fitness tracker’s numbers, especially when you may have underlying conditions that add a layer of difficulty. After all, while fitness trackers are valuable, they only tell a small part of the fitness equation.

4. Know the limits of the exercise

For most people who use fitness trackers, the focus is often on increasing movement. Although exercise and movement are necessary elements of overall health, they are not everything.

It’s important to manage your expectations of what you can accomplish with exercise alone. For many people looking to maintain a healthy lifestyle, nutrition is just as essential, if not more so. Luckily, there are plenty of apps you can use to eat healthier.

If possible, consult a professional nutritionist or doctor to help you adopt a healthier lifestyle while taking into account your specific nutritional deficiencies.

5. Avoid useless communities

In reality, another person doing the same types of workouts as you with the same intensity may see completely different results. For this reason, you should not blindly follow people who lead based solely on personal experience.

Your body and your limits are often influenced by things outside the gym, such as genetics that influence fat distribution, ability to build muscle, and body shape. While sculpting your body by building muscle and losing fat is usually possible to some extent, it’s not possible to specifically target problem areas of fat, no matter what influencers or celebrities tell you. Scientific research in this area, such as a 2011 study from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (PubMed), found that targeting fat loss to specific areas is impractical.

Be very particular about the fitness communities and fitness tracking groups you follow in apps or on social media. While some communities may seem helpful, not all are run by trained professionals whose advice is backed by science.

6. Be kind to yourself during lifestyle changes

Unfortunately, physical fitness is not a permanent state; it’s a lifestyle. Because of this, people cannot stay at their peak fitness level forever. You will naturally have periods when fitness levels fluctuate, and that’s okay.

If you’re going through major life changes, like moving to a new country, starting a new job, or becoming a parent, it’s normal for you to put fitness on the backburner until you’ve established a good routine.

For those who are or have recently been pregnant, it is recommended to work with trainers who specialize in pre- and post-natal activities to reduce the risk of injury. In cases like this, fitness trackers may not be equipped to measure much of the progress that happens below the surface. Alternatively, there are several workout apps designed specifically for pregnant women.

Keep a holistic view of health with your activity tracker

If you’ve ever been pressured to overwork or get frustrated because you’re not meeting your fitness tracker’s goals, take a step back and remind yourself why that tracker is on your wrist in the first place. To build a healthy relationship with your fitness tracker, you need to be firm about how much movement is safe and sustainable for you.

With a holistic view of health, it’s possible to make your fitness tracker work for you, not the other way around. Fitness trackers are tools, and you decide what to do with them.