Activity Trackers: How Should We Start?

By Patrick Jak, MS
Feb 22, 2017

More trainers and instructors than ever are using fitness technology such as heart rate monitors and video capture to examine their clients’ exercise performance. But activity trackers remain a relatively untapped tool—even though the devices collect a wealth of incredibly useful data, like steps walked, hours slept and calories burned.

How Should We Start?

Knowing how clients use a tracker sheds light on how to motivate clients and boost their compliance. Researchers at the University of Glasgow, in Glasgow, Scotland, identified five kinds of people who use personal trackers (Rooksby et al. 2014):

  • Fetish trackers. These people are interested in the image the tracker conveys or in the underlying technology, although some just want to have “a pretty watch.”
  • Reward collectors. These users want to score points, achieve for achievement’s
    sake and, if possible, win money or prizes.
  • Directive trackers. This group sets goals and limits behaviors. Some goals come from the tracker itself (e.g., the “10,000-step” mark), but once these users start wearing a tracker, they
    find it easier to establish goals themselves.
  • Documentary trackers. These people are curious about what they are doing, and they want to keep an eye on things. This doesn’t always inspire change, but guidance from a trainer can help turn documentary trackers into directive trackers.
  • Diagnostic trackers.These clients link data points such as activity, fatigue and health issues. Diagnostic trackers also like to compare their numbers to other people’s numbers. They prefer
    specific, goal-oriented missions, completed over a period of time but not indefinitely.

No baseline measurement or testing is necessary. Simply find out what kinds of users your clients are, and help them evolve from documentary trackers to directive trackers. As you work with clients, their data and their goals, you can evolve into a diagnostician.

To read more about how to use tracking devices to analyze clients’ activity patterns, please see “Activity Trackers: Diving Into the Data” in the online IDEA Library or in the June 2016 print issue of IDEA Fitness Journal. If you cannot access the full article and would like to, please contact the IDEA Inspired Service Team at (800) 999-4332, ext. 7.

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Patrick Jak, MS

Pat Jak worked for several years in E-Business before changing careers. Now, he is the Director of Metabolic Testing at Todd Durkin's Fitness Quest 10 and Head Coach of the nationally ranked UC San Diego Cycling Team. Pat uses leading edge fitness technology devices and apps to train and coach individuals from all walks of life: from general fitness clients to performance focused athletes. He has been a trainer for over a decade and his workouts have been featured in Bicycling Magazine. Pat holds a masterÔÇÖs degree in exercise science. Certifications: IFPA, USA Cycling.

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