From dropping you off at school to guiding you through the purchase of your first home to being a loving grandpa to your kids, it’s hard to overstate the important and special role a father figure can play in your life. But for all the care they show others, dads may not be returning the favor to themselves: Compared to women, men are less likely to adopt health-boosting behaviors and are also less likely to actively seek out health-related information.
“It has been my experience that men are, in general, less health conscious than women,” says David Harsha, MD, a board-certified family and sports medicine doctor who practices at Hendricks Regional Health Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Avon, Indiana. “This may be one contributing factor to women living longer, as men may not seek care as early in the course of illness or disease as women.”
That’s where you come in. Research also shows men are much less attentive to how the goods they purchase in everyday life affect their health. So this Father’s Day make him take notice by gifting him a Fitbit tracker. More than 80 percent of people who use fitness activity trackers say the devices have helped them increase awareness of their personal health, achieve fitness goals, and empower them with useful data about their activity levels, according to the Consumer Technology Association (CTA).
Still not sold? Below are eight ways you (and a Fitbit tracker) could help your dad live a healthier, happier, and longer life.
9 Reasons to Give Your Dad a Tracker
To get him excited about eating clean. Rates of chronic, diet-related diseases are on the rise, according to the current Dietary Guidelines, and most men are eating too much sodium, saturated fat, and added sugars and not nearly enough fruit and vegetables.
Fitbit Fix: Even if your father isn’t trying to lose weight, logging food in the Fitbit app can be helpful in a host of other healthy ways. Pass along these 7 Reasons to Use Food Logging, Besides Losing Weight.
To help him manage his weight. Thirty-five percent of men age 20 or older are obese, reports the CDC. And while it may be fun to crack a joke about “dad bods” the risks are real: People who are obese are at an increased risk for diabetes, heart disease, and even certain cancers, compared to those at a healthy weight.
Fitbit Tip: If your dad’s eyeing to lose weight, a Fitbit tracker with PurePulse Technology may be his best option. Because these devices track all-day activity—including heart rate—they’ll help him better understand how many calories he burns each day. Couple that with food logging on the Fitbit app and he’ll be able to see when he’s taking in more calories than he needs.
To inspire him to get active. A lack of physical activity contributes to about 1 in 10 premature deaths around the world each year—roughly the same rate as smoking—finds a study in Lancet. In the US, only 23 percent of men age 18 and over meet the 2008 federal physical activity guidelines, according to a CDC report. But researchers found a bright spot: Previous studies have shown that people who go from being inactive to being active can tack between one and four years on to their life.
Fitbit Tip: With a Fitbit tracker, your dad can monitor his daily active minutes and log all of his workouts—devices with SmartTrack can even detect and log the activity for him.
To give him a taste of guided workouts. Men who work out with a trainer see greater improvements in lean body mass, muscle strength, power, and aerobic fitness compared to those who don’t follow a guided routine, according to a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
Fitbit Tip: Think Papa Bear could benefit from the help of a personal trainer? With the Fitbit Blaze, he can fire up a Fitstar workout right from his wrist. According to the CTA, wearing these type of activity trackers can make a huge difference: Almost two-thirds of those who own or use wearable fitness activity trackers exercise vigorously three or more times a week.
To teach him how to lower his stress. Is your Pop stressed? Chances are you don’t know. Men are less likely than women to report physical and emotional symptoms of stress, according to the American Psychological Association. They’re also more likely than women to say they do nothing to manage it. Yikes. Left unchecked, chronic stress can wreak havoc on his body—especially his heart.
Fitbit Tip: Fitbit Charge 2 and Fitbit Blaze are perfect for stress-management newbies. Both of these devices feature Relax, a guided experience that takes users through a two- or five-minute deep breathing session.
To encourage him to move more. Research shows that prolonged sitting can increase a person’s risk of heart disease and diabetes. Yet American men only average 5,340 steps a day—far less than the 10,000 steps commonly recommended.
Fitbit Tip: The default step goal for all users is 10,000 steps. As a result, 85 percent of Fitbit users say they take more steps now than before they started wearing their Fitbit tracker. If your dad owns a Fitbit Flex 2, Fitbit Alta, Fitbit Alta HR, Fitbit Charge 2, or Fitbit Blaze, he can also opt into Reminders to Move, which will notify him 10 minutes before the hour if he hasn’t taken 250 steps. Walking that amount takes about two minutes, the minimum amount of time researchers say you need to take to combat the negative effects of sitting. After using Reminders to Move on their Fitbit device for two months, Fitbit users who are the least active throughout the day took nearly 500 additional daily steps—adding up to over 1.5 extra miles a week
To introduce the idea of a sleep goal. Getting between 7 and 8 hours of sleep per night helps adults to fight weight gain, depression and other chronic conditions, according to the CDC. But a Gallup poll finds 39 percent of men report that they only get six hours or less per night and say they would feel better with more.
Fitbit Tip: All wrist-based Fitbit trackers automatically detect sleep when worn to bed, which can be a great way for your dad to learn how many hours of sleep he averages a night. From there he can work toward keeping a more consistent sleep schedule by setting a sleep goal in the Fitbit app, as well as his preferred times to go to sleep and wake up. His device or app can even notify him when it’s time to start winding down for bed.
To show his heart some love. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men in the US, reports the CDC, and of the men that die suddenly only half had previous symptoms.
Fitbit Tip: Besides all the diet, fitness, sleep, and stress-reduction features mentioned above, Fitbit also offers Fitbit Charge 2 and Fitbit Blaze users a Cardio Fitness Score. This number estimates a person’s VO2 max, or how well their body uses oxygen during strenuous exercise. In a 2016 American Heart Association (AHA) Scientific Statement, researchers argued that everyone should be tracking their VO2 max, either with the help of their doctor or by using an estimate like the one Fitbit provides. According to the AHA, this metric may be a better way to predict early death from heart disease than traditional risk factors like age, cholesterol, and BMI.
To help him live longer. When Danish researchers studied the resting heart rate of healthy, middle-aged men, they found that participants who had a resting heart rate between 51 and 80 beats per minute (bpm) were 40 to 50 percent more likely to die within the next 16 years than those with lower resting heart rates. A resting heart rate of 81 to 90 bpm correlated with a twofold increase in risk and above 90 bpm, a threefold increase in risk.
Fitbit Tip: Fitbit trackers with PurePulse monitor heart rate continuously throughout the day. That means your dad will not only be able to see his resting heart rate every time he opens the Fitbit app, but as he gets in shape he’ll also be able to watch it fall over time via weekly and monthly graphs.
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.