Gift Ideas Abound If You Need Workout Motivation

Fit BitHYANNIS – It looks like a bracelet and comes in snazzy colors like violet, lime and tangerine, but Fitbit is not a fashion accessory. It’s a fitness tracker that counts the number of steps wearers take each day as well as distance traveled, calories burned, steps climbed and hours of sleep. Those who wear them swear by them.

Stephen Kessler of Dennis got a Fitbit Flex about a year ago and he is happy to show anyone who is curious what the device can do. At a recent luncheon at the Yarmouth Senior Center, he explained that there is a free app you can download to your iPhone that makes it easy to look up all the information the Fitbit records.

“The part that makes it really fun is that you can be in groups with challenges,” he said, showing me his stats. He was in third place in the group of friends and family members he was currently challenging.

“The goal is 10,000 steps a day. I meet it more often when I’m challenged than when I just do it on my own, that’s for sure.”

In addition to Fitbit, companies like Jawbone, Garmin, Nike, Misfit and Appleall have versions of fitness devices. And you don’t need to buy a device to begin monitoring your health. All of Apple’s cell phones beginning with the iPhone 4s come equipped with a medical ID app that has a motion sensor that measures steps, distance traveled and number of stairs climbed.

Cape Cod Healthcare physical trainer Danny O’Keefe, ATC, TPI, thinks fitness devices are great because they make actual movement quantifiable. He also likes how much they educate and motivate people who wear them.

“It’s great for accountability,” he said. “It encourages you to keep yourself moving when you otherwise might forget about it. It also forces people who might not know otherwise what the standards are and how far they need to walk each day to make sure they are getting enough exercise.”

O’Keefe has run several different walking programs for Cape Cod Healthcare and he has witnessed first-hand how effective even a simple pedometer is for motivation. He says that the competitive aspects are a bonus, even if you are just competing with yourself to beat your own record each day.

That is how Mary Ellen Hautanen of West Yarmouth uses her Fitbit, which is small enough to clip onto the waistband of her pants. She had a pacemaker put in last fall and the combination of bad weather last winter and joint replacement surgery meant she just wasn’t staying as active as she knew she should.

When she began wearing the device in May, she was only walking 1,500 to 2,000 steps a day. Now she has increased her steps to between 5,000 and 6,000 a day.

“I needed to get back into walking and this pushes you,” she said. “Now I make sure I get out every day, even if I only walk for 20 or 25 minutes.”

Twenty to 25 minutes a day actually meets the goal of 155 minutes a weekof walking that the American Heart Association recommends.

O’Keefe said that retired people like Kessler and Hautanen are in an age group that can benefit greatly by staying active. The speed at which an inactive person’s health and strength deteriorates is shockingly rapid, he said, and added that arthritis should not keep people from staying fit.

“It’s a misconception that you can’t stay active with arthritis,” he said. “You may have a little joint pain in the beginning when you first start moving, but the stronger you get, the less detrimental the effects of arthritis are going to be and the less pain you’re going to have.”

Even if people get tired of wearing their fitness devices over time, O’Keefe said they still provide a benefit because it has expanded their knowledge.

“There’s been a time period where they learned more than they previously knew and that’s always going to be at the back of their mind,” he said.

By LAURIE HIGGINS, OneCape Health News

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