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Wearing a fitness tracker *now* might improve your step count later, research shows


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Photo: Stocksy/MauroGrigollo

Clocking in your 10,000 steps each day has become more of a lifestyle than a simple goal. And even though this daily ritual doesn’t actually boost your metabolism (*sigh*), the act of logging your strides via a fitness tracker now might lead to a healthier you down the line, according to a recent study.

Tess Harris, MD, a professor of primary-care research at St. George’s, University of London, led two trials funded by the National Institute for Health Research to study the long-term gains of tracking your fitness using pedometers (AKA the OG Fitbit). One trial examined 1023 45- to 75-year-olds and the other 298 60- to 75-year-olds. Each age-group trial followed the same 12-week walking program, in which adults were split into two groups. The first group used a pedometer to track their walking routine and received advice from nurses, while the other group upheld the same routine without the tracker or the advice. Both groups kept physical-activity diaries.  

After analyzing the results of the 12-week program and following up with participants three and four years later, respectively, researchers found that the patients who had the pedometers and nurse advice were completing an average of 400 to 600 more weekly steps and 24 to 33 more minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity than the tracker-less groups.

“What is unique about this study is that we have shown that short, simple pedometer-based walking interventions…can lead to greater objectively measured physical activity levels three to four years later.” —Dr. Tess Harris, study co-author and professor at St. George’s, University of London

“We knew that pedometers could improve physical activity levels in the population in the short-term, but long-term health benefits require sustained increases in physical activity levels,” Dr. Harris said in the release. “What is unique about this study is that we have shown that short, simple pedometer-based walking interventions…can lead to greater objectively measured physical activity levels three to four years later.”

The takeaway? Tracking your healthy habits right now might keep your future self on the straight and narrow to #slaythegame. So when you dash off to your next sweat sesh—be it spin, bunny yoga, or a good old trip to the gym—make sure to fasten your wearable tracker. Using it for just three months is apparently all you need to ensure you complete more intense workouts later in life.

Now that you love your wearable even more, here’s how you can use it to hack your treadmill sesh and how it might help diagnose your sleep disorder.

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