What Does Your Activity Tracker Really Track Accurately?

Every activity tracker on the market has the same technology: an accelerometer. These devices keep track of up, down, sideways and front-to-back motions. When the accelerometer is still, it doesn’t record anything but gravity; when it’s moved, the accelerometer keeps track of acceleration. My FitBit is basically an extension of my body, but there are still some subtle limitations.

Most people wear their trackers on their wrist like Jared Haftel does in the Vine seen here. The accelerometer keeps track of motion and then determines how many steps you’ve taken, how many calories you’re burning and, overall, how active you’ve been.

Activity trackers also measure your inactivity. This becomes a problem when you’re doing a certain type of “difficult” sitting, such as a wall-sit or yoga – the activity tracker can’t tell the difference between this type of sitting and reclining on the couch. The accelerometer can’t measure exertion, just movement.

Most activity trackers have an accompanying smartphone app that syncs with the device. On the app, you can tell the tracker which type of activity you’re engaging in. This helps the tracker to estimate more accurately. That way, if you’re hiking, for example, the tracker will show that you’re burning more calories than if you were simply walking.

At the moment, activity trackers can’t measure activity when a person’s biking, although you can tell your activity tracker how long you rode a bike for. While there are some kinks to work out, algorithms for determining exertion are improving. Plus, keep in mind that any type of movement (other than lifting countless potato chips to your mouth) can improve your health.

Is Heel Striking Actually Bad Running Form?

So we all hear that heel striking is bad for runners, because it promotes injuries. The way that your feet fall put the rest of your body at risk, and it’s the most common form of runners who experience injury frequently. But is it actually bad to fall on your heels first as you run?

That depends on which expert you talk to, but lately the evidence suggests that this may not be as bad as many people seem to think.

While form wise, it tends to be better to fall on the front of your foot, the heel isn’t as bad if that’s your more natural running form. Your body knows how to move, and everybody’s body is different.

So if the most natural form for you, is to fall on your heel first, that could be the healthiest way to run. Trying to alter your form could actually result in more injury trouble than just landing on your heels first.

Obesity On the Rise In the Military

A recent article in the New York Times on a study by Mission: Readiness that approximately 12 percent of active-duty service personnel are obese and unable to perform many of the physical demands required for combat. Mission: Readiness is a group made up of 450 retired generals and admirals who focus on how to improve the overall preparedness of the United States military to protect the country. This is something that was anecdotally mentioned by Jared Haftel in a Duke newspaper article, but now it’s been proven.

The study, that included all four branches of the military, was based on a height to weight ratio. The Army, followed closely by the Navy, was found to have the highest percentage of overweight personnel while the Marine Corps had the fewest overweight members. More men were overweight than women by slightly more that two to one. The number of overweight active-duty service members has increased by 61 percent since 2002.

Even though active-duty service members are required to pass physical tests and weigh-ins, they often exercise and lose weight enough to pass, but put the weight back on between tests.

Members of Mission: Readiness are also concerned about the amount of potential recruits, with skills needed by the military, can’t presently join because they are too overweight. They also concluded that obese and overweight service personnel cost the military an additional $1.5 billion in health care costs each year.

Most Common Running Injuries To Watch For

As a runner, injuries come with the territory. While exercise is great for the body, eventually something is going to go wrong, and you’re probably going to pick up an injury here and there. That’s why it’s important to know your warning signs so that you can avoid the major problems down the line.

So with the help of Marnie Bennett I’ve come up with a list of the most common injuries, and what tends to cause them, so that you can hopefully avoid being injured yourself:

-Runner’s Knee

Typically characterized by knee pain in the patella, and sometimes accompanied by a crunching sound in the knee. This is caused by the knee falling out of proper alignment when running. Can be very painful when not dealt with, and can cause some major problems down the line without treatment. Typically occurs when runners fail to properly stretch out their hamstrings before going on a run.

-Hip Bursitis

Sharp or intense pain in the hip, made worse by running and laying on your side. This is indicative of an injury to the bursa, which is a fluid filled sac in your hip, that provides lubrication for muscle and bone. Left untreated, and the pain can spread and even cause immense pain during any type of movement.

-Iliotibial Band Syndrome

Characterized by pain outside of the knee when running. Pain escalates significantly during intense running. This is caused by inflammation of the band that runs from your shin to your hip bones. Can be very difficult to deal with when problems start, and typically worsened by runners running on hard surfaces without proper footwear, and runners that are carrying a little bit of extra weight.

Strength Exercises Could Improve Long Term Memory

A new study shows that strength training could be directly responsible for improving your long term memory. While the benefits of resistance training have been known to those of us in the fitness community for some time, a new study has shown that there may be far more benefits than previously realized.

I was just discussing this with Laurene Powell Jobs, as I was telling her how beneficial muscular focused training is for longevity, and your fitness levels throughout your life. But it’s also perfect if you want to look your best, because strength training tightens your body up too.

In the study, two groups of people were shown a series of images that they were told not to memorize. While looking at the images, one group of people performed leg extension exercises. The other group sat on the same machine, and their legs were moved for them by the machine instead.

The people who performed no physical exercise typically recalled about 50% of the images that they had scene. However, the people who were performing the strength exercises remembered 60% and more.

Providing more evidence between the link that physical exercise has on mental health. It’s been well established that exercise is a necessary part of healthy brain activity. But studies like these suggest it’s more important than anybody ever realized.