How to set your Fitbit goals – and how to stick to them

Struggling to get active? We explain the keys to achieving your aims in 2020
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Improving fitness is one of the most common New Year’s resolutions, but February can often be when things start to slip - especially if you aren't used to setting, adjusting and sticking to your goals.

With Fitbit, setting goals is at the heart of the experience from the moment you set up a device, whether it’s to hit 10,000 steps every day, improve your resting heart rate or get more sleep.

We’ve teamed up with James Stirling, aka London Fitness Guy, to provide a step-by-step guide to completing your fitness goals in 2020, and how your Fitbit can be the driving force to keep you on track.

Step 1: Choose your goals

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Fitbit may have a complete range of devices to suit everyone, but the core experience within the Fitbit app remains the same – and each user is able to set their own customizable goals.

These don’t just revolve around how many steps you take.

Within the Fitbit app, you can select and manage your goals from four different areas: Activity, Exercise, Nutrition & Body and Sleep.

Without some basic understanding of what’s important to keep track of, though, your lofty fitness plans risk becoming aimless.

As James Stirling describes, the key isn’t just to set goals that are challenging, it’s also about understanding what you’re already doing - particularly if you’re a beginner.

“If you have no real awareness of these goals beforehand, the first few weeks should be about understanding what you’re doing already. Your Fitbit can be a great eye-opener about what your resting heart rate is, or how many steps you actually do,” he says.

Take sleep tracking, as an example. With Fitbit, and the pointers you receive from within the Sleep Stages graph and your Sleep Score, you're able to quickly build up an understanding of how sleep patterns may be affecting these metrics.

The data picked up from a Fitbit can often help users consider what habits they need to stick or twist in order to achieve better sleep. These can include as going to sleep and waking up at the same time, which can improve both the quality and quantity of rest, avoiding alcohol or even increasing exercise.

Once you’ve spent a few weeks understanding the type of goals you’re going to be working towards, that’s the ideal time to start planning some short-term and long-term goals. However, as Stirling describes, it's just as important to make these goals attainable.

“Everyone has their own starting point, and you have to be realistic with any goal that you set. If you’re sat at an office desk and you’re pretty sedentary, 10,000 steps might not initially be realistic. If that applies to you, it might be more sensible to start with 5,000 steps or 7,000 steps as your goal.

If goals aren’t realistic, Stirling warns that it can lead to too much pressure on quick results, rather than building towards a consistent and more lasting lifestyle change.

How to set a goal on Fitbit:

1. In the Fitbit app on your iOS or Android device, tap the ‘Account’ icon in the top-left.

2. Below your device list, you will see the ‘Goals’ section.

3. To change a goal, tap on either Activity, Exercise, Nutrition & Body or Sleep.

4. When in these sections, tap the goal you want to change and type in your new goal.

5. To save this new goal, simply tap back to the ‘Account’ menu.

Step 2: How to stick to your goals

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Understanding how to set a goal is one thing, but sticking to it is a completely different game. Thankfully, this is where your Fitbit is able to step in and lend a helping hand.

With Fitbit’s devices able to track your activity around the clock, this allows you to get a full view of your activity and rest periods. There’s nowhere to hide when your Fitbit is tracking; you know all the data is going to be on view in the app or sent to you in the weekly email summary (which compares your efforts to the previous week), and this can be a real motivational factor when you’re looking to stick to your goal.

Like with knowing how to set goals, though, you also need to be aware of how long you should be sticking to your initial targets. After a certain period of logging your exercise, the likelihood is you’ll start to notice yourself hitting daily targets more easily.

As Stirling describes, this is the first part of your fitness journey taking shape.

“Creating a habit typically takes around three months,” he said, which may seem a long time for anyone looking for a quick fix.

“If you can get to a point after that period where you’re consistently hitting 10,000 steps - or whatever your goal is - that’s a huge step forward into it being a part of your lifestyle.

“The biggest challenge, again, is to remain realistic, and you need to be doing that for the short-term and the long-term. Maybe at the start of your journey you have an idea of where you want to be in three months, then incrementally try to reach new goals every week. You need to aim for consistency, rather than trying to achieve a year’s work in one month,” he says.

How to review your Fitbit data:

1. In the Fitbit app on your iOS or Android device, tap on the ‘Today’ section.

2. Tap on the icon of the data field you want to review.

3. You can now cycle through the graphs and data history of this tracked activity.

Step 3: Changing your goals

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Changing up the pace can be daunting, and you might doubt when to mix things up and how much further to push yourself.

There’s no reason to panic, though. Your Fitbit goals can be changed at any time - as we explained earlier - and, like with the initial goals you set, your new goals should remain realistic.

“What most people tend to do after that initial habit-forming is re-evaluate their goals,” says Stirling.

“If you’re working hard to improve your fitness, you might begin to train for something like a 5k run or a different kind of race. Every period of 3 - 6 months, I always sit down with clients and make sure there’s a specific goal they have in mind.

“For someone who’s just starting, discover what you do, try to improve it and build the habit and then decide what’s going to motivate you beyond just what you’re doing now,” he says.

How to move your goals around on the Fitbit Today dashboard:

1. Go to the Fitbit app on your iOS or Android device and select the ‘Today’ tab.

2. In the top-right corner of the screen sits the ‘Edit’ button - tap it.

3. This allows you to prioritize specific goals by managing both the ‘Activity’ and ‘Today’ items.

4. Once you’re happy with how your goals and tracked progress appears, tap ‘Save’ in the top-right.

Step 4: Going beyond 10,000 steps

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Your Fitbit is so much more than a simple pedometer, and it really pays to keep an eye on more than just one fitness goal. The beauty of Fitbit’s tracking is that it’s multi-dimensional, keeping an eye on all the key ingredients that go into making you fitter and healthier.

There’s also plenty of hidden features that you may not pick up on at first - whether it’s your Cardio Fitness Score in the Heart Rate section (which you can access by swiping to the middle graph in this section) of the Fitbit app, or the Benchmark section of the Sleep section, which compares your sleep stage percentages to that of typical people in the same age and gender bracket.

“What I quite like about running with a Fitbit is the heart monitoring breakdown,” says Stirling. “For someone who is training for a 5k, it gives them something other than just a time to look at and try and improve.”

“Resting heart rate is similar - and it’s simple to understand through the Fitbit app, because of the graphs. It gives the user something to look at in both training and recovery.

“If they're just starting to train and they’re seeing the resting heart rate flying up, it might indicate they need to spend more time recovering.

Likewise, if it’s going down, that can be a great motivational factor and show that their fitness is improving.”

How to view heart rate zone breakdowns in the Fitbit app:

1. Go to the Fitbit app on your iOS or Android device and select the ‘Today’ tab.

2. From here, select the ‘Exercise’ tab and choose a tracked exercise from the list.

3. At the top of the screen, you should see the minutes spent in fat burn, cardio and peak heart rate. This is also represented in the Heart Rate graph just below, which changes color to correspond with the zone.

Step 5: Social and group challenges

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Remember: improving and tracking your fitness doesn’t ever have to be rigid or monotonous — it’s important to have a bit of fun with it.

The best way to inject a bit of healthy competition into your health and fitness goals is to add your friends within the Fitbit app and challenge them to specific goals. There are daily and weekly challenges and showdowns, for getting the most steps, for example.

And to save you from shouting at strangers at the street about how you achieved your step count target 20 days in a row, you can also share your goals and achievements within the Fitbit community.

Even if your family or friends aren’t necessarily interested or are too scared to take on your fitness tracking might, you can always try the people at work, instead.

“The workplace is huge; it’s a great way for people who like to get competitive,” says Stirling.

“As soon as a couple of people enter into it, it’s quite common for a lot of people to want to get involved. All of a sudden, colleagues want to get out and get their steps up because they don’t want to come in last place when results are read out at the end of the week.”

But there are other challenges for those who don’t want to compete against people.

Fitbit Adventures enable you to take bigger challenges on by yourself, like climbing the equivalent of the Eiffel Tower or walking Yosemite – and even unlocking Treasures on the way.

How to add friends on Fitbit:

1. Go to the Fitbit app on your iOS or Android device and select the ‘Community’ tab.

2. At the top of the screen, tap the ‘Friends’ tab.

3. Select ‘Add Friends’ and choose to add another Fitbit user via your phone contacts, Facebook, email or their Fitbit username.


TAGGED Fitbit

James Stables

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James is the co-founder of Wareable, and he has been a technology journalist for 15 years.

He started his career at Future Publishing, James became the features editor of T3 Magazine and T3.com and was a regular contributor to TechRadar – before leaving Future Publishing to found Wareable in 2014.

James has been at the helm of Wareable since 2014 and has become one of the leading experts in wearable technologies globally. He has reviewed, tested, and covered pretty much every wearable on the market, and is passionate about the evolving industry, and wearables helping people achieve healthier and happier lives.


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