Today’s technology can give you deeper insight into what’s happening inside your body than ever before. However, with any new tool, you must first learn how to use it and have sufficient motivation to do so. What are the benefits of tracking your health?
Whether you have the latest generation Apple Watch or one of the many other gadgets available on the market today, you have many options. Learn why you should use them. Here are five benefits of tracking your health, from calories to sleep.
Understanding Technology: Its Uses and Limitations
Technology is a fabulous tool, but it is no substitute for human intelligence and perception. Even the most advanced computer program relies on human input to function. These machines can come up with some crazy ideas, sometimes hilariously so.
However, there’s nothing funny about errors regarding your health. While tools like ChatGPT can take the data you enter and spit out a list of possible conditions, it cannot ask the insightful questions necessary to narrow down a specific diagnosis.
Therefore, take time to learn your device’s capacity — and its limits. You also need to assess your emotional state mindfully before embarking on your self-improvement journey through tracking your health.
For example, people with eating disorders might do themselves more harm than good by obsessing over meal-planning and calorie-counting apps. They might do better with a device that measures their blood glucose, giving them objective proof that, yes, they are hungry.
Finally, even the best devices require a trained professional to interpret certain results and determine the right course of treatment. You can connect data from an app on your phone with online healthcare portals to keep your physician in the loop.
Think of your fitness tracker like a carpenter treats their hammer. It is a tool, but you need more than that one object alone to build a house. For these devices to work best, you must take positive action to improve your results and feel comfortable sharing your progress with your doctor or therapist, just as wood framers and plumbers work together to create a masterpiece.
With that caveat in mind, let’s explore five benefits of using this technology to track your health.
1. HRV Training for Improved Health and Energy
Your heart beats a certain number of times per minute, typically 60-100 bpm in most adults. However, those beats don’t occur in precise intervals. Heart rate variability (HRV) refers to the difference in time between heartbeats — in general, a longer HRV with more time between beats indicates you are more rested and recovered.
You can use this tool to plan your day to improve your health and energy levels. For example, it’s best to plan your workout at those times of the day when your HRV indicates you’re ready for action. However, taking occasional, random readings won’t do the trick. Here’s what to do to use HRV to feel more awake and effective:
- Monitor your HRV several times daily for one week, doing so at specific times, such as first thing in the morning, at lunch, after work and later in the evening.
- When taking measurements, set your timer for at least five minutes for the most accurate reading.
- Chart your results. You should start to see a pattern after one week. For example, some people have more energy in the mornings, while others come alive later in the day. Now you have proof that your night owl tendencies are biological.
Once you arm yourself with this information, you can plan your schedule for maximum energy and productivity. Tackle those tasks that require the most energy when your body is primed for action, saving lower effort activities, like answering emails, for those times of day your levels deplete.
Trackers Worth Trying
Several health trackers you might try that offer HRV training include the following. Before you buy, evaluate their other functions. Many of these devices pair with apps to monitor your diet, sleep and mental health symptoms.
- Apple Watch: Series 1 and later has HRV included. Use the mindfulness function and breathe for five minutes. You can also load a host of other apps on this platform.
- Polar H10: This chest strap uses ECG electrodes, the same ones hospitals use to measure your heart rate. However, it’s only designed for use during activity, not at rest. It’s best for people with heart disease who need the highest level of accuracy.
- Fitbit: This manufacturer makes several models, including the Inspire, a less-expensive version of the Fitbit ideal for folks on a budget. Most allow you to download multiple apps.
- Ouro Ring: This device is different from many wearables. Instead of a watch, it’s a ring. It’s also a fast track to the arteries nearest your heart, giving you more accurate readings.
- AmazFit Band: Here’s a fitness tracker that won’t break the bank. It’s currently available for around $50 on Amazon. Despite the low price, you can add Android apps.
- Garmin: Garmin has various models, including the Vivomove, which is great for daily use and looks like a standard watch. However, they’re best known for their specialty gadgets for distance runners, elite athletes and outdoor enthusiasts.
2. Hone Your Diet to a Science
Another benefit of tracking your health is managing your eating and weight. Today’s technology can help you improve your nutritional intake without forcing you to adhere to a restrictive diet. Apps such as Noom can help you lose weight and count calories while still enjoying a varied menu. You’ll learn what fresh seasonal favorites are best for enjoying fabulous flavor while fueling your body with the vitamins and minerals it needs.
Other apps, such as DoFasting, keep you on target if you use intermittent fasting to manage your weight and health. Some, like NuMi from Nutrisystem, suggest meal plans and menus if you enjoy the structure of knowing what to eat and when.
Continuous glucose monitors arose to help patients with diabetes control their blood sugar with fewer — or no — needle sticks. However, people without the condition now use these gadgets to check their blood sugar and moderate their diet.
These monitors are an excellent alternative for the millions of Americans living with prediabetes without knowing it and those who simply like knowing that their gnawing hunger and shakes have a physiological basis. They can help you determine when you’re truly hungry or eating out of nervous tension or boredom.
3. Catch More Zzzs With Sleep Training
Many health trackers include sleep quality reporting, but as with HRV, you need to know how to use this information to your advantage. Otherwise, your watch alerting you to a poor night of sleep can become an excuse for acting grumpy all day — not the best application of technology.
Some gadgets do more to lull you into dreamland. For example, the Hatch Restore 2 alarm clock and the second-generation Google Nest Hub can set the right mood, playing sleep sounds, music or relaxing podcasts while dimming the lights come sundown. They also wake you up gently with sunrise alarms that make mornings more pleasant than a jarring siren.
If you aren’t investing in a specialty gadget intended solely for sleep, use this function on your current health tracker wearable to improve your slumber using this method:
- Track patterns: Are there certain days of the week when sleep comes harder than others? For example, you might struggle on Sunday evenings if you dread Mondays.
- Get scientific: Use trial and error to experiment with various sleep solutions, keeping notes to track what works best.
- Rinse and repeat: Once you find something that works, try it on different nights in varying conditions to test its overall effectiveness.
For example, you might have read that lavender and chamomile induce sleep in many people, but herbs are like traditional medicine — the same remedy doesn’t work for everyone. Sip some tea with warm milk before bed and use your tracker to determine whether it helps.
Pro-tip: Only change one variable at a time. For example, maybe lavender and chamomile tea works, but spritzing their essential oils on your pillow triggers a headache. Testing each one independently determines what helps and what creates more problems.
4. Train to New Fitness Levels
Most people discover the benefits of tracking their health when they decide to get in better shape. There’s no shortage of wearables designed for this purpose, from the Apple Watch to the Fitbit to Garmins.
You already know how to use HRV training to determine the best time of day to work out. How else can you use fitness trackers to burst through plateaus? Here are several ideas:
- Set a specific goal: For example, “Improve my 1-mile running speed from 11.4 minutes to 10 minutes or less.”
- Add variety: Mixing up your workout employs different muscles. Experiment with various rest day activities, tracking which ones lead to improvements.
- Dial up the intensity: Most health trackers advise you of your heart rate while you work out. Ensure you’re working at the ideal power for your training level.
- Don’t overdo it: Overtraining can hinder your progress. Does your tracker report you working out for over an hour most days of the week? It might be a clue to dial back your workouts and take a rest day.
5. Manage Your Mental Health
Finally, health trackers can help you better manage your mental health. There are a multitude of such apps on the market, many of which include consultations with trained therapists for a monthly fee.
However, you can also use these gadgets to inform yourself about habits that impact your mood and outlook. Best of all, it’s a judgment-free zone, giving you practice at observing yourself without diving into negative self-talk.
No one will scold you for keeping an electronic mood journal. It’s a safe place to vent but also analyze. When making entries, answer the following questions:
- What have you recently eaten?
- How well did you sleep the night before?
- How much have you exercised?
- Are there any physical health problems that may influence your mood?
- What time of the month is it if you’re a menstruating woman?
- How is the weather?
- Who did you recently interact with?
- Describe the physical environment you are in.
Answering these questions helps you identify your triggers, stimuli that elicit a specific behavioral response. Many people think of this phenomenon in terms of PTSD. For example, a car backfires, terrifying a veteran who mistakes it for gunfire. However, everyone has experienced the taste of their favorite childhood treat transporting them back in time — the nervous system works similarly in everyone, regardless of trauma history.
Once you identify your triggers, you can change your seemingly instinctive behavioral patterns that worsen your mental health. For example, you might be highly reactive to real or perceived abandonment, which results in you pushing away people you love and who love you and want to help. It’s the old, “They can’t fire me if I quit first,” mentality, resulting in impulsive behaviors like shouting that damage relationships.
Recognizing, “Wow, I got angry and raged at someone for no reason,” is the first step in changing your behavior. You might even repair the relationship if you apologize sincerely enough, but either way, you’ve learned what not to do in the future. Changing deeply ingrained patterns takes time and effort, but it’s worth it to break through your past and move forward to a mentally healthy and balanced life.
Benefits of Tracking Your Health
Today’s technology makes it easier than ever to reap the benefits of tracking your health. However, you must know how to use these devices correctly for the best results. Try these tips to get maximum benefits from the health trackers you own. A wearable is only the first step — knowing how to interpret and use your results is what leads to improvement.