Ever wondered what to track and when? Jess Robinson investigates.


Track your fitness - Women's Health and Fitness


Interval training – Heart rate and distance

“Most of us underestimate the importance of the recovery phase in interval training, so measuring your heart rate is a great way to put some solid parameters around your workout,” says Robinson. To get the most out of a HIIT workout: “Set up your target heart rate for your work and recovery phases and stick to them.” If you are interval training while hitting the pavement, a GPS will also come in handy. “Using a GPS is an excellent tool for interval training as it allows you to measure distance travelled, speed and so on.”

Improving endurance/ cardio fitness – Heart rate and distance

“If you’re endurance training, chances are your fitness is a little too advanced to benefit from the basic tracker information, although many people still find the info interesting,” says Robinson. Basic tracking information such as steps, calories and heart rate without continuity are fairly meaningless when trying to improve cardio fitness. However, an accurate heart rate monitor “measuring heart rate is a great way to ensure you stay in the correct training zone. When training for any event, our competitive human nature usually kicks in, tempting us to train at a higher intensity than we should be.” An accurate distance and therefore speed measurement will also help you understand how you are progressing in your training and set goals for improving your fitness.

Getting active for the first time – Active minutes, steps, heart rate

“If your lifestyle is currently quite sedentary, the first step is to set some goals around steps taken and active minutes,” says Robinson. Setting a goal of achieving a certain number of steps or active minutes can be a great motivator according to a 2007 study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study found that pedometer users, on average, increased their steps by around 2183 steps per day, and increased their physical activity by 26.9 per cent. By using active minutes or target heart rate to determine the intensity of your workouts, those getting active for the first time can find out how hard they are actually working and if they could push themselves harder.

Resistance training – n/a

Sorry iron-pumpers, there isn’t much in fitness gadgets for you. “While tracking your heart rate might be interesting for you to note, when the goal is strength gain the info is largely irrelevant. Same goes for active minutes – especially given that, depending on the exercises you’re performing, the accelerometer may not even register your workout,” says Robinson.

Weight loss – Calories, active minutes, heart rate, steps

“At the very heart of weight loss is a simple equation: calories in versus calories out; burn more calories than you consume and you will lose weight,” says Robinson. But outside of calorie measurements, the effectiveness of exercise for weight loss also depends on the intensity. Studies have shown that although the fat-burning zone might be low-intensity exercise, higher intensity workouts – 80 per cent or more of your maximum heart rate – have the capacity to burn more calories faster. According to a recent study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, around four calories more per minute compared to resistance or aerobic training.
Measuring your steps or your active minutes is also a great way to ensure you’re increasing your calorie expenditure. “When you’re trying to lose weight, the most important thing you can do is increase your activity level,” says Robinson. “I find a lot of clients underestimate how active they actually are, and therefore an activity tracker can be a good reminder to keep moving,” says Robinson.