Senior Health

6/11/2021 | By Annie Tobey

Fitness-tracking activity monitors can help you stay healthy, but only if you use them! By learning to have fun with fitness trackers and apps, you’ll discover richer motivation to use them – and to stay fit. For walking, jogging, running, or biking (and other fitness activities, too), these tools and ideas can enhance your experience.

Tools for tracking

We once used phones only for talking to people, and we used watches only to tell time. Now, smartphones and watches act as fitness trackers and communication devices.

Activity monitors

Wrist-worn activity monitors range from less expensive to more expensive, with basic features or lots of bells and whistles. Three major brands of activity monitors are:


You may recognize the Garmin name from the early days of personal and professional navigation systems. When Garmin added fitness watches to its product line, athletes were quick to jump on board. These days, the product line includes stylish, smartphone-connected watches, health stat tracking, and activities from yoga and treadmill to walking, running, biking, swimming, and a multitude of other sports. Additional features include on-screen workout guidance and coaching, fall detection and emergency alerts, and sleep monitoring.

Apple Watch

Besides connecting to your iPhone, Apple watches connect you with your health stats, workouts, fall detection and emergency alerts, decibel meter, map guidance, and on-screen sharing with activity partners. Apple watches offer workouts that combine iPhone videos with your stats, music, and podcasts, plus motivational daily activity rings.


Fitbit seems synonymous with step tracking, from the first bracelet-like tracker to contemporary watches offering even more features. You can take advantage of health stats and GPS tracking or connect to your smartphone. Your Fitbit works with Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, for voice-activated instructions. You can pay extra for Fitbit Premium to get more out of your device.

There’s an app for that!

Contemporary smartphones track activities, too, through apps such as Runkeeper, MapMyRun, and RunGo. Simply open the app, hit the start button, begin your activity, and let your phone do the tracking.

Fun with fitness trackers

Your perfect activity monitor depends on your budget and your needs. While you’re deciding which one to get, we’ll suggest six ways to have fun with your decision.

Fitness trackers and their official apps (such as the Garmin Connect app) allow varying levels of recording miles, steps, heart rate, calories, etc. Merely keeping track of these health measures can inspire you to meet your goals. On the other hand, you can get even more out of your tracker by using those and other apps to connect you with motivating challenges and to connect you with other people.

1. Make it social

Strava, through its app and website, connects to your activity tracker and also allows you to enter activities manually. Better yet, Strava acts as social media for fitness by connecting you with people to “like” and comment on each other’s activities. You can post pictures, such as that awe-inspiring sunset or adorable puppy you saw on your route. You can aim for personal “Achievements” and join virtual clubs. It’s easy to have fun with fitness trackers when friends are involved! Joining Strava is free, or you can upgrade for additional training benefits.

2. Take a challenge

Some trackers and apps offer challenges to help motivate members. Strava, for example, recently posted a monthly Walking Consistency Challenge (walk four days a week for four weeks) and the Adidas x Parley Run for the Oceans (partner companies donate cleanup funds for every kilometer logged). Members who complete a challenge receive a digital finisher’s badge on their profile.

3. Make a custom challenge

A Richmond, Virginia, runner, Carrie Roth, creates weekly challenges for her family on Garmin. She and her husband and her 85-year-old parents track steps with their Garmin Vivofit devices and compete on totals. “Almost weekly, my dad has over 100,000 steps,” Carrie says. “Other than when he was sick, I think I’ve only won three or four times. My mom is currently on a 58-day streak of reaching her step goal.”

Besides health motivations, which of course they all want for each other, the challenge provides a connection. They text daily about their totals, and, Carrie adds, “It’s a great way for me to be able to see that they’ve synced (still alive) and their activity levels without having to be so invasive.”

4. Create entertaining and educational routes

The MapMyRun and RunGo apps allow users to create routes beforehand or to travel a route and save it. To add to the enjoyment of a walk, run, or bike ride, you can make creative routes and share them. Create a sightseeing route that highlights museums, architecture, historical sites, favorite houses, etc. RunGo even lets you customize notes for a voice-guided tour. Both apps are free, with additional benefits for a paid subscription.

5. Engage the kids – or be a kid!

Fun activity trackers for kids, like the Fitbit Ace 2 and Garmin Vivofit Jr., let the kids get in on the fun. Both offer activity recording features, so the younger set can be part of family challenges. The Vivofit Jr. offers other benefits, including adventures, quizzes, games, and rewards for reaching goals.

If the kids are old enough to run or walk with you – or if you simply want to add entertainment to your activity – download the app called Zombies, Run! As you move at your preferred pace, you will “encounter” the occasional lifeless monster. Pick up the pace a bit to escape these virtual zombies!

6. Give back while you move

The Charity Miles app, for iPhone and Android, turns your activities into money for a charity of your choice. Charity Miles works with more than 50 charities, including well-known nonprofits like Alzheimer’s Association, The Nature Conservancy, Wounded Warrior Project, and more. The app uses the phone’s pedometer and GPS (and your Strava account) to track walking, running, dancing, biking, and other fitness fun. Sponsors of Charity Miles contribute based on your activities. So download the app, choose the charity, and get moving for good!

Knowing the importance of exercise isn’t always sufficient motivation. Discover how you can incorporate fun with fitness trackers routines to get moving and get healthy.

10 Fitness Tips to Ease Back Into Exercise

Annie Tobey

Annie Tobey has been a professional writer and editor for more than 30 years. As editor of BOOMER magazine, she explored a diversity of topics of particular interest to adult children of seniors. When she’s not writing, she can be found running the trails or enjoying a beer with friends.

Annie Tobey