ACTIVITY TRACKER HEALTH AND FITNESS

Sometimes we all need a cheerleader egging us on towards better health and fitness. The UP2 and UP3 activity trackers, at R1599 and R2399 respectively, do the trick. They count every step you take, and the intensity, as well as monitoring sleep and resting heart rate – one of the best indicators of overall heart health. The UP3 takes it up a level, tracking specific sleep phases (REM, light and deep) and passive heart rate all day. And your UP really does cheer you on: when you log onto the app, the Smart Coach will congratulate you (when you’ve earned it!) and offer advice based specifically on your metrics. THIS FESTIVE SEASON This year, you’ve been doing very well: you exercise regularly, get a decent night’s sleep (mostly), keep the tipple at acceptable levels (sort of), and eat your five veggies a day.

And that goes for your budget too: on track! But the season to be merry is upon us, so what now? Do you reward yourself by going overboard, or do you try to stick to the straight and narrow – and risk being the resident Grinch? Here’s how to navigate the pitfalls. 1 KNOW THAT THE FEELING WILL PASS Some of life’s most basic choices involve balancing immediate feelings and long-term interests, say the authors of a Journal of Consumer Research article. So is sticking with the programme just a matter of reminding yourself of the long-term gain? Yes, to some degree, but things are never that simple. Your attitude to your emotions comes into play. The researchers believe that you’re less likely to abandon a long-term goal (like steering clear of carbs and then scoffing that gift box of chocs, or saving for retirement in favour of another fashion haul) if you understand that feelings pass. So what do you do? Don’t fool yourself into believing that indulging will make you happy. Remind yourself that the mood (happiness/ sadness/desire/greed/lethargy) will pass anyway.

And you’ll be happier in the long term if you don’t fall into that trap. 2 CHOOSE TO NURTURE YOURSELF The reason we indulge in cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, shopping – is to compensate for feeling empty, bored, inadequate, deprived or depressed, explains US psychotherapist Leon Seltzer. And these indulgences do the trick all right. For a little while anyway. But, inevitably, the ˜bill’ will arrive, says Seltzer. What we’ve chosen to make us feel better comes at a cost: ˜As a result of poor food choices or binge eating, we may develop diabetes or heart disease. Or the debts we’ve incurred from gambling, drugs or shopping are now overdue… and unpayable.’ What we need to do instead, he suggests, is to transform from indulging to nurturing ourselves, which means to treat ourselves with love, respect and prudence. In a nurturing mindset, you don’t allow yourself to eat dessert for dinner but you do allow dessert after dinner, he explains.

And that goes to the choices you make – you focus on taking the best possible care of yourself: is that dessert a chunk of cake, or fresh cherries topped with yoghurt? But it’s a process, and it takes repetition of supportive self-talk. When you wonder what course to follow, ask: ˜Am I indulging or nurturing myself?’ 3 SET UP A SPECIFIC STRATEGY When you have a goal, you’re far more likely to hit it if you set up what psychologist Peter Gollwitzer termed ˜implementation intentions’. This strategy has been proven to work, and it’s simpler than it sounds: instead of vague plans like, ˜I’ll carry on eating healthily at Christmas,’ or ˜I’ll exercise during the holidays,’ think through the specifics – the when, where and how. So, to keep to that healthy eating plan, tell yourself, ˜When we eat celebratory meals at home or out, I’ll eat a palm-sized portion of the roast/braai with non-starchy veg’ (or whatever is working for you). For exercise, try something like: ˜When I wake up, I’ll get into the outfit I laid out the night before and run/walk along the promenade/go to gym for 30 minutes/an hour.’ 4 STAY ON AUTOPILOT The trick to maintaining your ˜good behaviour’ is to make sure it is automatic – a habit.

A study published in Psychology, Health & Medicine journal showed that it’s really hard work getting up and running (figuratively speaking), but that once you are, it’s easier to keep on going. Part of the habit-formation loop is having an effective cue. The researchers noted that weekends and holidays are disruptive because your usual cues are missing. What is your cue? Do you head for the gym the minute your alarm goes off? Then keep doing that. But perhaps just modify things to make life slightly easier. Set your alarm an hour later, since it’s the holidays. Do you save money every month? If it’s a debit order, it’ll keep on happening, even if you’re off grid, without access to online banking. 5 FOCUS ON THE HABIT YOU WANT TO KEEP Do you have loads of goals? Lose weight, drink less, stop smoking, exercise regularly, save money, spring-clean the house…

The thing is, research published in the journal of the American Psychological Association showed that the more choices you have to make – ˜Should I go for a run or sleep?’, ˜Eggs or cereal for breakfast?’, ˜Low-fat or full-cream milk in my tea?’, ˜Which shelf should I tidy first?’, ˜Can I afford that lovely pair of shoes?’ – the less you’re able to exercise self-control. Armed with this knowledge, there are a couple of steps you can take. One, remove as much decision-making from your day as you can: make the behaviours you’d like to support as routine as possible (refer to the previous two points); stick to shopping lists; know the brands you like and stay with them; don’t buy tempting treats; eat a set range of meals. The other thing you can do, especially during the festive season when your daily routine is disrupted, is to choose the behaviour you’d most like to stick with and focus on that. For the rest, cut yourself some slack. Interestingly, once you entrench one behaviour – getting a 30-minute walk in every day, for example – you’ll be better set to wield that willpower on other things.

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