Tech Tips: Keep your fitness tracker going with a little TLC

Now that summer’s here, many folks are taking their fitness trackers for a workout in the sunshine. But you’ll want to plan ahead by protecting your device from damage, and reviewing your privacy settings.

Fitness trackers, by their nature, go through more wear and tear than other electronic devices. A case and screen protector are a must. Fitness companies would have us believe that the tracker’s own case is adequate, but a separate case and screen protector is almost always the better option. After all, it’s less expensive to replace a damaged case than the entire device.

Cases have different protection ratings, so look for one that can keep up with your workout. For example, if you swim, you’ll want to look for a waterproof case. If you prefer a rugged hike, look for a durable hard-shell case as opposed to a soft-sided one. You don’t need a fancy or expensive case, just one that does the job. More expensive cases tend to be stronger, and there are some truly heavy-duty ones if you need that level of protection. But for most people, a basic case is fine.

Screen protectors consist of a thin clear plastic film that adheres to your touchscreen with removable adhesive. Be sure to clean your screen thoroughly before installing the screen protector, and you might have to try several times to get it to lie flat. But it’s worth it, because it’s all too easy to scratch your screen during a workout. Minor scratches might not show up right away, but a screen covered in minor scratches becomes dull and difficult to read over time.

Cases and screen protectors may need to be replaced when damaged. That’s good news – it means they did their jobs. Minor nicks or scratches usually aren’t a problem, but larger cracks or damage to the corners are indications that the case is no longer providing the protection it should.

As for privacy, there have been data breaches involving fitness trackers, including a notable hack of FitBit a few years ago. To minimize your risks, use a strong password, one that you haven’t used on any other site. That last part is critical, because many hacks these days are attributed to reused passwords. Personal trackers contain some of the most private data a consumer can have, so it’s vital to protect your account. You also should enable two-factor authentication for that extra level of security.

I also suggest that you go through the security settings for your device. These vary by manufacturer, so you’ll want to check their support site for specific instructions. In general, look for settings that allow you to reduce or anonymize the data you store and transmit. You also might consider turning off the app’s access to your location services when you’re not actually using it. Watch for fake fitness apps, and be skeptical of any app that asks for access it doesn’t need.

Most of all, have fun! Fitness trackers are a great way to use technology to stay healthier and more active.

• Triona Guidry is a freelance writer and consumer technology specialist offering tech support and advice for home computer users. For free weekly tips and news by email, subscribe to her Simple Tech Tips blog at www.lightningtechsupport.com/subscribe.