Maegen C. Stoner
Director, Fitness & Wellness
To be honest, I was extremely skeptical about getting a smartwatch. I am a watch fanatic and have a collection from over the years that I absolutely adore. Cue that one day while I was pregnant, had a bad case of morning sickness (in the afternoon mind you), and fell asleep in our basement for several hours after getting home from work. My husband had called me a couple of times to check on me, but I had left my phone upstairs and well, the panic set in for him. Needless to say, there was no negotiating my Christmas gift last year, he was you know what bent on getting me a smartwatch with the upcoming birth of our baby just around the corner.
Even though I feel like I’m cheating on my beloved curated collection, I will say this watch has come in handy over the last few months! Our blog post this month will shed some light on how smartwatches came to be and how to set realistic daily activity targets.
Evolution of the Smart Watch
To back up a bit, our smartphones can manage just about every aspect of our lives with the swift “click” of an app or talk to text capabilities. So why the smartwatch? There’s often a bit of criticism about the redundancy (a key point to my argument last year) that a smartwatch offers if you always have your phone on you. Nowadays, people are just as likely to glance at their phone when asked for the time or day of the week as they are a watch.
Smartwatches are configured to do much more than your age-old analog timepiece. They are considered full-fledged digital tools at this stage in the game (Valdes, Robert, and Nathan Chandler). They have the capability to run apps and play back a wide variety of digital media. With touchscreens, bluetooth connectivity, and streaming options, they’re basically your phone on your wrist (Valdes, Robert, and Nathan Chandler).
Internet connectivity capabilities introduce a world of possibilities, to include; message notifications, GPS navigation, and calendar synchronization (Valdes, Robert, and Nathan Chandler). Add bluetooth capabilities and you can also take calls and receive messages. When you opt to have your watch track health and fitness categories, like heart rate, steps, laps, distances, and routes, you can log and review your performance for the day. These devices can also even remind you to stand if you’ve been sitting too long, or even a simple mindfulness trick to take a moment for a deep breath!
Although smart watches seem to have just hit the market in the last decade, they’ve actually been lurking in the background for quite some time. In 1984, Microsoft released it’s UC-2000, which could be programmed in BASIC, via a keypad (Valdes, Robert, and Nathan Chandler). Again in 2002, Microsoft introduced a technology called Smart Personal Object Technology (SPOT), but this software was phased out in 2008 (Valdes, Robert, and Nathan Chandler). There have also been watches over the years from Seiko, Pulsar, Casio, and Swatch that had some sort of information storing capability, allowed you to crunch numbers, and even play basic games (Valdes, Robert, and Nathan Chandler).
Functionally speaking, mainstream smart watches aren’t going to perform anything groundbreaking. They’re basically an extension of your smartphone’s features, but the miniaturized technology continues to advance and grab the attention of consumers (me being one of them!) (Valdes, Robert, and Nathan Chandler). It’s been anticipated that sales for smart watches will reach 373 million by the end of 2020 (Valdes, Robert, and Nathan Chandler). Companies like Samsung, Google, and Apple are definitely the heavy hitters on the market currently. However, other companies like FitBit, Fossil, Garmin, etc. do sell their own version of a smartwatch as well.
From Picking a Watch to Working that Watch
Unfortunately, our smartwatches can’t do the physical work for us, but as wearable technology, they can be excellent motivators! However, it does take a little ingenuity to get them working for us.
1. Picking the Right Watch
This is so important! You want a watch that works with you, not against you. You don’t want a watch that is going to make the process more difficult or irritating. We all have different motivators for achieving a level of fitness that we deem appropriate. Some of us are driven by numbers and others just want to see results (Caddy, Becca).
If watching numbers while you work out kicks your effort level to the next gear, then look for a watch that has a screen that you can view these on while working out. If you’re the type of person that sees the constant reminder of numbers as off-putting, opt for something that doesn’t highlight these front and center (Caddy, Becca).
2. Setting Appropriate Goals
Most devices when you power them on will have suggestions to get you started based on height, weight, and age. This is a great place to start, but if they’re unrealistic or too easy, they aren’t working for us, and that’s the whole goal. We don’t like to fail, but we can’t be shy or timid about setting appropriate goals (Caddy, Becca).
You have to take personal responsibility for the goals that you’re setting, so think about them in a quantifiable way, rather than subjective ones. Reflect on how you’d like to feel rather than let’s say, run 5 miles. The key is to focus on small goals to build up confidence and morale. Once you start checking off the small steps, you can then work on more ambitious goals (Caddy, Becca).
What does setting small goals look like? Something like adding a fruit or vegetable for breakfast or lunch, or a 15-minute walk are the types of things that will put you on your path towards progress (Caddy, Becca). Aiming to create positive, healthy habits that are realistic and achievable, are great stepping stones to an overall holistic lifestyle. Let’s try to avoid forcing ourselves into long, grueling workouts that we dread!
Step count has become the new “magic metric’ in the health and fitness world. Most smart watches are set up to track your steps automatically, but if you’re just starting on your fitness journey or making your way back from an injury, 10,000 steps a day can be a rather lofty goal. Our tip, take it slow! Adjust that goal to maybe 3,000-5,000 steps and then increase weekly (500-1,000 steps) as you continue to crush these targets. Remember to only increase your goal once it’s been obtained (Caddy, Becca).
4. A Bit About Weight Loss
As it relates to weight loss, I want you to keep in mind that your starting point is not your endpoint. It’s important to also note that internal changes to muscle and body fat percentages are happening, as well as metabolic and dietary needs when weight loss occurs (Caddy, Becca). Muscularity is the most important factor as you work to shift overall weight (Caddy, Becca).
Smartwatches can leave a little to be desired when it comes to assisting with weight loss. Most fitness tracking capabilities fall short because they only estimate the amount of calories utilized for the day, rather than providing you the accurate count of how many you actually need to consume and from what sources (Caddy, Becca). Many fitness professionals suggest pairing the data from your watch with other apps or devices that can provide you with a more comprehensive picture. MyFitnessPal and MyPlate are both free apps that can assist you in determining the nutritional value of the food you consume, rather than less comprehensive data that can leave the guess work up to you.
5. Update Your Goals…Gradually
Knowing when to change or adjust your goals can be tricky. When you’re prepping for a race you adjust your weekly targets to peak at the appropriate time, something that can easily be tackled with the assistance of a smartwatch. However, you also re-evaluate your rest, recovery, and nutritional needs as your weekly distance increases, something that requires a little bit more individual thought processing (Caddy, Becca). As you evaluate where you’ve been, your current state, and where you’d like to be, you can appropriately create goals that align with your overall vision. Be sure to check out our previous post on So What’s a Rest Day Anyway?, because rest is KEY to performance.
We can utilize the above process as you reach the steps to your overall goal. While taking into consideration overall health (make sure you’re injury free!), rest, recovery, and nutrition, you can then reevaluate your current state and set your next milestone. Please be thoughtful and don’t choose something arbitrarily. Make it personal! Don’t forget to update any settings like height and/or weight if those change as well along the way.
Reality check-life happens and things are constantly changing and shifting, especially in 2020. Remember only to adjust targets when you know you’ve reached a goal that you’ve set. Don’t let your watch nudge or insist that you should make a change if you haven’t quite gotten there. Also, there are days when you have every intention of crushing a target and unforeseen circumstances get in the way. Remember, it’s okay! You’ll try again the next day. It happens to all of us, myself included. My advice, extend yourself some grace!
Wearable technology is still an up and coming industry that has created great opportunities for consumers to engage in a healthier lifestyle with the metrics and stats they are instantly able to provide. While it’s important to continue to connect with your primary care provider for yearly check-ups and continued health oversight (something we certainly encourage you to take part in!), smartwatches have great capabilities to assist with creating and sustaining overall lifestyle changes.
Caddy, Becca. “How to Use Your Fitness Tracker (or Smartwatch) to Actually Get Fit.” Wareable, 2 Jan. 2020, www.wareable.com/fitness-trackers/how-to-set-your-fitness-tracking-goals-7837.
Valdes, Robert, and Nathan Chandler. “How Smart Watches Work.” HowStuffWorks, HowStuffWorks, 13 Apr. 2005, electronics.howstuffworks.com/gadgets/clocks-watches/smart-watch.htm
This blog post was written to provide educational information only. This article should not be used as a substitute or a replacement for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have questions or concerns about your personal health, you should always consult with your physician. It is recommended that you consult with your physician or health care professional before beginning any fitness regimen to determine if it is suitable for your needs. The use of any information provided by this article is solely at your risk.