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How can I track my progress with my exercise program?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
These days, there are numerous ways to count steps (or mileage or calories), and that’s through higher-tech gadgets and do-it-yourself smartphone apps that attempt to make life even easier for the user. You do the work; it records the data. In fact, research shows that self-monitoring is an effective form of motivation in itself; simply the act of tracking some kind of data gives people incentive to reach better numbers. 
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John Preston, PsyD
Psychology
Write down how much time you spend moving every day for the next week. Use a separate page in your binder to keep track of how much exercise you already do and how much you'll do in the future. Alternatively, you can make a table using graph or regular paper, or a computer. You only need to track your exercise for one month to get into the habit. Once you have a steady routine, track whether or not you got enough exercise for the day.

Add up the total for each day and then total the number of minutes you spent exercising for the entire week. You may be surprised at how much exercise you already do. Or you may realize that you don't move your body enough. By taking gradual steps, you'll build to an activity level that keeps you healthy and improves your mood.
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One of the best ways to measure fitness progress is how you feel. After a week or so of exercise are you beginning to feel more energized? After a couple of weeks are you noticing health benefits such as improved cardiorespiratory function, strength or weight loss? Beyond how you feel physically and emotionally there are many applications and tools one could use to measure fitness progress.
Logging your exercise routine and noting difficulty will identify progress. There are many software applications that are available on the web or for mobile phones that can track your exercise programming and show progress you have made. Nevertheless, tracking exercise and progression is prudent to your success.

 

To track progress with your exercise program:
  • Keep a journal: Keep a daily log or journal of your fitness activities, your measurements, your food intake, your sleep habits, and, most importantly, your day-to-day feelings. A growing body of research suggests that moderate, regular exercise can enhance mental well-being by enhancing self-esteem, improving mood, reducing anxiety and stress, and improving sleep. Detail exactly what you are doing to keep fit and how easy or difficult certain activities are, taking special note of whether you were able to do physical activities with greater energy and ease.
  • Try on clothes: How your clothes fit can be a great indication of how you're reshaping your body. For instance, if you replace 5 pounds of fat with 5 pounds of muscle, you will look leaner and will have lost inches in key areas because muscle is more dense than fat. The end result is that your clothes should generally hang looser in all the right spots.
  • Test your overall fitness: Sign up for a fitness test at a local health club to measure improvements in muscular strength and endurance, cardiovascular endurance, and flexibility. By repeating tests at regular intervals, you can compare results from previous tests to assess any changes.

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    Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.