Need to know
- Fitness trackers and smartwatches can help you reach your fitness goals, but only if you're motivated in the first place
- Do your research and shop around before you join a gym – you could get locked into a contract and end up out of pocket
- If you're also looking to change your eating habits, choose the diet that's right for you, not just one that online 'influencers' follow or recommend
Two things are almost certain at this time of year: one, your clothes feel a bit tighter after all that festive season excess; and two, you'll be constantly bombarded with ads for gyms, fitness trackers and diet plans.
Whether your new year's resolution is to run a marathon or just fit back into your jeans, there are plenty of products out there that claim to keep you on track.
But which ones will actually help? We take a look at what works and what doesn't, and how to tell if something is right for you.
Fitness trackers and smartwatches
"A fitness tracker alone won't help you become the fitter, healthier version of yourself you've always imagined: you'll need to put in the hard yards with an exercise regime and adjustments to your diet and lifestyle," says CHOICE tech expert Peter Zaluzny.
"But many fitness trackers, smartphones and other types of wearable technology also come with handy apps that can help you meet your health and fitness goals by tracking your progress over time and helping you set sustainable targets that you'll be able to stick to long-term. A record of your progress can be a powerful motivator."
A fitness tracker alone won't help you become the fitter, healthier version of yourself … you'll need to put in the hard yardsPeter Zaluzny, CHOICE tech expert
Which fitness tracker should you buy?
Fitbit or Apple watch? Samsung or Garmin? If you're not sure which fitness tracker or smartwatch is best, we've put them all through their paces in our fitness trackers and smartwatches review.
But remember: if you're more lounge lizard than ultramarathon runner, a new gadget isn't going to change your life. If you don't have the motivation, even the fanciest fitness tracker won't help – so think carefully about why you want one before reaching for your wallet.
The Nixon fitness tracker received the lowest overall score in our fitness trackers review.
The fitness tracker you should avoid
Nixon The Mission
- CHOICE expert rating: 58%
- Price: $399
This fitness tracker scored a dismal 42% for ease of use and 43% for comfort. Our testers found that this fitness tracker had poor accuracy for distance, delivered inconsistent step counts, and had a screen that was hard to read in sunlight.
At $399 it's more expensive than some of the top-performing fitness trackers we've tested, which is quite a bit to pay for a fitness tracker that doesn't have a heart rate monitor.
Many of us sign up to a gym early in the new year, spurred on by ambitious new year's resolutions. But it's hard to keep the motivation going when you're back to work and the couch starts looking more appealing than a spin class. And when you try to get out of your gym contract you might find you're pretty much locked in, leaving you out of pocket.
Before you commit, shop around. You could:
- ask for a free trial class before joining
- check out open days
- sign up as a casual member so you can try a few different classes before you commit to an ongoing membership
- take advantage of short-term memberships, such as a one-month taster or a three-month trial
- sign up for a 'no-contract' membership (remembering that these often involve direct debit payments, which you'll need to cancel if you decide it's not for you)
Find your (fitness) tribe
There's a gym class for everyone these days: F45, SoulCycle, barre, pilates, fitness programs for older people, gyms such as Fernwood and Curves that are just for women, yoga-focused studios – you name it.
It's easier than ever to find a gym that suits you. And if you find a class style that aligns with how you like to exercise, you're more likely to stick with it: there's no point slogging it out on a crossfit machine if it bores you to tears. Set yourself up for success!
Find out about new ways of working out.
Changing your exercise habits won't make much difference without changing your eating habits too.
We're all for people making healthier food choices, but it's important to do your research before jumping headfirst into the latest fad diet. Just because a celebrity is doing it doesn't mean it's a good idea! (We're looking at you, grapefruit diet.)
Diet trends that work
Extreme options such as weight-loss drugs (e.g. Saxenda) and meal replacement programs (e.g. Isagenix) can be effective, but there are some serious pitfalls you should be aware of before you bust out the pills or shakes. See medical weight-loss treatments that work for more details.
Contrary to what the Instagram influencers would have you believe, there's no magic solution that'll help you lose weight fast and keep it off
Contrary to what the Instagram influencers would have you believe, there's no magic solution that'll help you lose weight fast and keep it off.
But dietitians do give 'buddha bowls' the tick of approval, and for safe sustainable weight loss.
Diet trends to avoid
The ketogenic diet and the alkaline diet are two trends we don't recommend. And if you're thinking about overhauling your diet by trying Lite n' Easy or going vegan, do your research first so you know what to expect.
- What is the alkaline diet and can it really improve your health?
- What is a ketogenic diet?
- Top tips for a healthy vegan diet
- Are buddha bowls and poke bowls healthy?
- Does Lite n' Easy work?
Health and wellbeing apps
About one in three of us use apps to try to improve our health and wellbeing, but how many of us actually use them once we've downloaded them, or see any positive results?
When VicHealth and Deakin University reviewed 348 health and wellbeing apps, three out of four (75%) of them scored 2.5 stars or less out of five – suggesting that many apps aren't worth your time, money or data.
Unfortunately, price is no guarantee of quality. A $50 app scored just 1.5 stars, while the ones that topped the list were free to download – but it's good to know that you don't need to drop any dollars to achieve your health goals.
How to pick the best health and wellbeing app
If you're looking for an app to help improve your health, the evidence shows that you're better off looking for ones that:
- let you set goals
- track your behaviour
- reward positive behaviour
- send notifications and prompts.
Check out VicHealth's Healthy Living Apps Guide for reviews of 300+ health and wellness apps.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.