When you have a specific goal in mind such as losing weight or lowering your blood pressure, tracking your progress can help you stay motivated. By monitoring your data over time, you'll be able to notice patterns that are standing in the way of your efforts, such as foods you may be eating that cause you to feel sluggish or exercises that aren't helping you meet your goals. At its most basic, you'll only need a notebook and a simple spreadsheet to track your values -- though you can also use any number of computer or mobile phone applications to do the same thing.
Things You'll Need
- Spreadsheet software
- Blood pressure monitor
Create a spreadsheet that includes columns named "Weight," "Blood Pressure," "Minutes Exercised" and "Calories Consumed." Create rows with the dates by week; for example, "April 1," then "April 8," then "April 15" and so on.
Weigh yourself and take your blood pressure and enter those values into the top-most "Weight" and "Blood Pressure" columns on your spreadsheet.
Write down everything you eat in a notebook, putting the day's date at the top of the page. For example, you might write "Friday, April 1" at the top. Then write down all foods and drinks -- including alcohol and candy -- you eat. At the end of the day, use an online calorie calculator, such as the USDA's SuperTracker to count how many calories you consumed that day. Write the number near the bottom of the notebook page. If it's easier, you can also use any number of online food tracker apps, which provide the calories in foods automatically.
Write the number of minutes you exercised each day into the notebook, on the appropriate day. Also write down the type of exercises you did -- including strength training, cardio and gentle exercise such as walking around the block -- and any notes about how you felt. Maybe you were tired or didn't feel well, or you had a great workout that left you feeling energized; writing this stuff down can help you look back at what you were doing the day before that might have contributed to that feeling.
Tally your total calorie intake at the end of the week and the number of minutes you exercised, then write them into the "Minutes Exercised" and "Calories Consumed" columns of your spreadsheet. Also weigh yourself and take your blood pressure and enter the values into the spreadsheet.
Review your spreadsheet and your daily notes to look for ways to improve your performance. If you found you were feeling tired one day, look at the days before and determine whether you consumed too many or too few nutritious calories, for example.
Tips & Warnings
- Another thing worth tracking on your spreadsheet: the number of calories you burned from exercise. Check out a reference such as MayoClinic.com's "Exercise for Weight Loss: Calories Burned in 1 Hour" to estimate the number of calories you burned during your exercise sessions, then tally the total for the week and enter it into a column called "Calories Burned."
- While you can track all of these items on your own, many online and mobile apps will help you do the same thing. Search your phone's app store for fitness trackers, then test out a few to see if they help you meet your goals easier than tracking your goals manually.
- If you're concerned about your blood pressure, don't go it alone. Talk to your doctor about recommendations for weight loss and exercise that can help lower your blood pressure safely.
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