5 Things That Kill Activity-Tracking Streaks—And How to Avoid Them

Fitbit activity tracker

Just like romantic relationships, your love affair with activity trackers can hit rough patches. To find out why, University of Washington researchers examined the use patterns of more than 100 users. Below, the top five reasons people fall off the activity-tracking wagon—and how you and your Fitbit tracker can avoid the same fate.

Activity-Tracking Obstacles to Avoid

You forget to charge your tracker.

Don’t let a dead battery derail your health journey. Read up on how long your Fitbit tracker battery tends to last and then set an alarm on your phone, tracker, or calendar to remind you to recharge. With some trackers, like Fitbit AltaHR, you can also add a battery life indicator to the display to see how much juice you have left at a quick glance. Still don’t trust yourself to re-up? Log in to Fitbit.com, navigate over to your settings, click settings, and then enable mobile and/or email low-battery notifications.

You’re frustrated with your progress.

If you can’t seem to hit 10,000 steps a day or lose 5 pounds, you might want to consider scaling back your goals, says Fitbit Advisory Panel member Sherry Pagoto, Ph.D., a psychologist and professor of preventive and behavioral medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. “Choose something you feel really confident you can accomplish, even if it seems ridiculously small, like taking 100 extra steps a day or working out for just two minutes at a time,” she says. Each time you hit that stepping stone, you build momentum toward a larger milestone. Check out these 6 Steps to Making a Healthy New Habit Stick.

You become obsessed.

“This is the curse of the ambitious,” says Pagoto. “They have two gears: high and super high,” To put your foot on the brakes, consider cheat days. “Taking a day off from tracking each week can help you break the all-or-nothing mindset.” If you don’t feel ready to quit tracking cold turkey for 24 hours, grant yourself permission to have one low-steps or low-activity day per week.

You develop food-logging fatigue.

Get a sense of your typical nutrition stats. Spending even a week keeping track of what you eat and familiarizing yourself with Fitbit’s nutrition features can give you a bird’s-eye view of your calorie and nutrient needs, says Fitbit nutritionist Tracy Morris. Once you determine what you need more and less of (vegetables and sugar, for example), you can use that knowledge to shape your diet going forward, with or without further logging—using one of these four strategies.

You accomplished your goal.

Congratulations! You have three options here. One is to raise the bar higher (think signing up for a 5K after you’ve completed a walk-to-run plan). Another is to set a different kind of goal, such as upping your exercise minutes or aiming to hit your target heart rate for a certain amount of time each day versus tracking your steps. The third is to enter a maintenance phase. “A lot of people will lose weight, so they stop tracking—and start drifting back to their old bad habits,” warns Pagoto. “Once you’ve reached your goal, I recommend wearing your Fitbit tracker at least one week out of the month to spot and correct any drift before it gets too out of hand.”

20 Comments   Join the Conversation

20 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I totally agree to set your steps with what you are comfortable with. I have mine set for 9,000. By the time I have my goal I’ve done the last thousand steps in the house by just getting things done. I also take 3 non-walking days off a week since I have to be out early those days, and yet I still find myself walking anyway. I live in Florida and so during these hot summer months, had to adapt my walking, and avoid the thunder storms. Like others I am waiting for the cooler months increasing my steps and enjoying the cooler weather. This article is very timely. Thank you.

  • What I do to encourage myself goal-wise is to st my goal at 5000 steps a day. I usually go to 10000+ and when I do I get the message that I am an overachiever! That feels really good. On the days that I get only 5000 I congratulate myself because I get the message that I reached my goal for the day! It is silly but it works for me!

  • I like the idea of working toward a goal such as a 5K walk. Years ago I finished a 5K after months of rehab from a knee replacement. A great feeling. I need to find a local walk to join again in the future

  • With regard to food logging, it can be hard when the food you want isn’t there. It would be great to have a ‘myfitnesspal’ type database with more whole foods and an ability to add your own recipies in your own list

  • As always if you really want to reach your daily step goal you need to be committed and keep going. We are all responsible for our own daily health. Simple as that.

  • I might have to try this. On Saturdays its my long run days. When I see 30,000 it actually bums me out why can’t I do it every day. Maybe I should try only using it the 4 days per week I run. great food for thought.

  • Does anyone have trouble when syncing your steps that you may have lets say 15,00.00 it recognizes it then and for some reason takes it away and puts in a lesser amount

  • The last goal I was told I set was distance of The Trans-Siberian Railroad. Was 8,000 something miles and that was over a year ago? Progress goals are amusing, wish there were more….

    Do 10 sometimes 20,000 steps just walking the pups and projects. Don’t leave property anymore, stopped actual walks altogether. Way too time consuming.

  • I used to do a few minutes at a time, until Fitbit said I have to do ten minutes at one time to get active minutes. I can’t do that, as I was born disabled. Fitbit caused me to give up. When I joined I could do two active minutes, wait an hour do two more, and I got credit for those steps. I don’t give a hoot what the CDC recommends, you are letting the CDC control you. I used to exercise all day long, now if I get ten minutes, I’m not motivated to do more, the ten minutes was it, for the day. You are cheating the disabled. This disabled user just bought your brand new Ionic today. But I will be returning it if it doesn’t meet my requirements. So far I’ve gifted five Fitbits to friends, one more being gifted tomorrow. Consider making changes.

  • I am 75…most days I do 10,000+. My goal is between 4.5-5.3 miles a day. Some days I get 6 miles in, but that’s an extreme for me. Hardest time for me after my prolapse bladder surgery was having to cut back to 1-2 miles a day…drove me nuts. I usually don’t go over my 10 for the stairs (my stairs are 16 steps up) of course down too. It gives me motivation to keep moving and not vegetate on the couch. I eat well and don’t act or look my age and I credit healthy food and exercise. I love the badges…send my results to friends to encourage them.

  • I am 83 in good basic health living in a retirement home. We have an excellent gym with good equipment. I am not a dedicated walker but I lift 20,000 pounds a day 5 days a week but do not always reach my 5000 steps. The problem with Fitbit is that weight lifting is not a registered item, perhaps timing can be recorded but means little or nothing when weight lifting or stationary bike riding.

  • I certainly agree with the obsessed tracker curse. I am an all or nothing kind of guy and my daughter and wife giving me a tracker got me to be more this way. Until a doctor friend put his foot down. Now I walk only so many steps a day and then take the tracker off and put it away AND I have a “low-track” day a week. This way I get the exercise I need (not that I WANT) and save my arthritic joints from abuse

  • I just had my 83rd birthday & wear my fit bit every day & night (at my age there are as many steps during the night it seems to bathroom) I go to a local gym & try for every day of the week..I walk from Senior Housing where I live to get there, some times I get a ride home..but prefer to walk..I do at least 8,000 at the gym mornings..& 8, 000 more walking close to home with neighbors..Love my fit bit..my kids tell me I am obsessed..but I don’t think so!!

  • I live in Cyprus where it gets too hot in the summer months to keep up the winter number of steps, so on average I do less than half, but still a reasonable amount including a 20 minute walk early in the morning. This must apply also to the southern states, so why wasn’t climate included as a reason.

  • I switched to the Alta from the HR Charge 2. It is supposed to automatically track my exercise. It does track my runs/elliptical but not my weight or aerobic workouts which are 30 mins to 40 mins. long. My Charge 2 I was able to manually set when I started my workout. The Alta you do not have this option. Fitbit sent me a new Alta – which made no difference. Now if I want to go back to the Charge 2 I have to return my Alta and once they receive it they will process a refund and I can order a Charge 2 – I will potentially be without my tracker for 10 days or more. I like the look of the Alta but if it does not track automatically every exercise it is not worth while retaining. I have changed my time from 10 to 15 mins which was one recommendation to no avail. Any suggestions? Very frustrated with the whole Fitbit experience at this point.

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