How to Use a Case Study to Find What Works for You

Last Updated on September 7, 2022 by Michael Brockbank

One of my favorite things to do for just about everything I’m involved in is setting up a case study. Though, I don’t always complete them for a myriad of reasons. Still, it’s been an effective way to help me lose weight and get more fit.

If you plan one out, it can be extremely beneficial for your health and fitness goals. Not to mention that I find data collection fun, which is why I have a ton of spreadsheets.

Anyway, let’s talk a bit today about using case studies and how they are very useful.

What is a Case Study?

A case study is a process in which you record details considering the development of a particular person, thing, or situation over time. As the focus is primarily on the individual element, the data is most useful for that particular subject.

In other words, it’s ideal when looking for the best things for yourself. Especially when it comes to health and fitness.

Although we are all human, we each have unique needs, wants, and physiology that can greatly change the outcome of any diet or exercise plan. This is why you should take plans from “experts” with a grain of salt.

Unless you have high blood pressure.

Picard Double Facepalm

All kidding aside, there is actually quite a bit of truth to that statement. How can someone online know your physiology better than you to create a “customized” diet and workout plan?

Recording the data about yourself is superior in every way.

How Can a Case Study Help You Lose Weight?

The reason why I create so many case studies is to figure out what foods and workouts are the best for me in particular. This is how I know that playing the Xbox Kinect will help me burn as many calories as a 5-mile bike ride over the same amount of time.

Keeping an eye on the foods you eat can help you identify issues you may have. For instance, your moods can easily change with what you consume. Case studies on your diet will let you identify which foods are making you feel a certain way.

For me, I know that if I can keep the carbs down below 200 grams, I’ll drop quite a bit of weight the next day.

My point is that monitoring the data concerning your health and fitness can show you all kinds of facts about yourself. Instead of relying on some “expert” to think he or she knows what’s best, your data is far more telling.

Does eating a certain amount of protein improve your weight training workouts over the week? How much does a pre-workout drink actually contribute to the total amount of weight you can lift today? What exercises actually give you the biggest bang for your time?

Questions like this are easily answered by creating a personal case study. In fact, everything on my calorie burn activities page is based on actual numbers recorded from myself.

While these numbers are essentially tailored for me, they do help others determine which activities might have the best impact on weight loss.

Keeping Myself Motivated

Perhaps the most important thing behind doing these case studies is keeping myself motivated. If I know that I need to record X data for Y exercise to lose Z pounds, I know that I need to get up and do something today.

The more interesting I can make the case study for myself, the more engaged I am. And that’s one of the keys to effectively losing weight and getting fit.

I’d say about 90% of weight loss is mental. If you’re not really into the process, it’s not going to work out well for you. If you put in a half-assed effort, expect a half-assed result.

This is one of the reasons why I am all for gamifying fitness. It’s just a method to keep your mind interested in repetition and achieving your goals.

How to Create a Case Study for Yourself

Setting up case studies for yourself isn’t overly difficult. However, it does require a bit of math. But if you have a spreadsheet handy, it makes everything so much easier to manage.

If you’re not keen on using a spreadsheet, there’s nothing wrong with certain apps that can keep data for you. Of course, this really depends on your goals and the apps available. I’ll explain that in a moment.

Using Expert Tips and Advice as a Guide (optional)

First, it’s OK to use expert tips and advice as a backbone of your case study. After all, how do you know something will or will not work for you unless you try?

Just don’t assume you’ll have the same experience as those experts or the people in their testimonials. For one thing, testimonials are easy to fake.

The reason I call this an optional step is that you really don’t need to follow expert opinions to start your own case studies. You could simply be curious about a particular diet plan or certain exercises you see on YouTube.

It’s up to you.

Have a Purpose

Knowing the purpose of your personal case study helps you stay the course while having an idea of the data you want to record. This could be anything from a certain diet plan to the effects of exercises or weight training routines.

The more simple the purpose, the easier the study will be to complete. Though, being more complex will open up a wide variety of data points for detailed information.

And, this is completely up to you.

Example:

Let’s say I want to see the impact of the Stealth Board planking device. How long will it take me to see results in my abs, and how much of an impact will it make on other core exercises, such as sit-ups or the ab roller?

This would be my purpose for the case study.

Establishing a Time Frame for the Case Study

Establishing a time frame is one of the more crucial elements of the study. Depending on what you’re trying to achieve, though, a long-term trial may yield better results.

Something that is more long-term will have a greater chance of accuracy for specific studies. For instance, comparing three-month weight loss data for something like the keto diet will be more accurate than a one-month study.

However, it’s quite possible to see the results of certain things in a short amount of time.

Example:

One of the more popular topics I see online about the Stealth Board is how you can see results within 28 days. So, my personal case study would start there.

But if I want to take it further and see the difference between 28 and 56 days, it would provide a larger sampling of data.

Another example is how often I try my 12-week fitness challenge. I want to see what I can do for weight loss and overall physique within three months.

What Tracking Tools Will You Need?

Tools are the backbone of any case study. These are things like devices you’ll need, apps, or information to help you accomplish your goal. For me, it’s all about the spreadsheets.

For instance, to help with weight loss or other food-related studies, I’ll use something like MyFitnessPal to help track intake. Or, if I am creating a study around the effects of cycling, I’ll use Runkeeper to track miles and speed.

That’s one of the nice things about the Internet today. You have a slew of free tools you can use to set up just about any kind of case study you want for yourself.

Example:

In my example, I already own a Stealth Board, which is kind of an expensive piece of plastic. Since I am also keeping an eye on calories-burned-per-minute, I am using the data from my Fitbit Charge 4.

I’ll also perform a single set of a core exercise to fail. This means I’ll do something like the maximum number of sit-ups I can do before the study begins.

To top it all off, I plan on showing before and after images. So, I’ll take a pic of what my abs look like before the fitness case study.

Committing to Repetition

In order to collect viable data, you need to commit to performing the same actions throughout the time frame. If you’re maintaining a certain diet, this isn’t all that difficult as you can simply buy groceries that adhere to the plan.

However, remembering to do certain exercises every day is one of the hardest things for me during my studies. I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting older, I’m incredibly busy, or a mixture of both, but I often forget to do specific workouts.

This is when setting an alarm on your phone to remind you can come in handy.

The bottom line is that you need to maintain your plans for the case study if you want to have viable and actionable results. If you have a 12-week case study about the effects the keto diet has on you but spend a weekend eating cupcakes, it’s going to skew the data.

Example:

In my Stealth Board example, I would need to set an alarm before lunch to remind me to use the device. This means that I have to drop whatever I’m doing when that alarm goes off and perform the action. Otherwise, I would surely forget.

Since this example is looking at a 28-day window, I would need to commit myself to use the board every day over the next four weeks. Deviation from this would give me incomplete data by the end.

Identifying Variables

Variables are those elements that will contribute to your case study that may or may not be related in some fashion. These things can ultimately affect the results in profound ways, which could lead to data being inconclusive.

For instance, what if you’re working on a personal study of the keto diet but you wind up spending a lot of time at the gym? You can’t say with absolute surety that the keto diet caused you to lose X amount of weight as exercise is going to contribute as well.

Instead, you would have to rely on the conclusion of the study to reflect on the exercises as well as the food.

Depending on the premise of the case study itself, the list of variables could be exceptionally long or non-existent. It really depends on what you’re trying to determine.

Example:

Because I am maintaining my Net 600 Calorie Diet for weight loss, seeing if the Stealth Board helps me burn fat would be difficult to prove. This is because my diet will already help me lose a lot of weight throughout the week.

However, I can determine if the board helps strengthen core muscles by only using it instead of various other exercises throughout the time frame of the study.

So, when it comes to core exercises, only the board would be used.

Record the Data

Recording the data and monitoring the numbers is perhaps my favorite part of any case study. I am a bit of a dork when it comes to data of any kind and love to see if I can identify trends and patterns.

I really should have been a scientist.

At any rate, you’ll need the commitment to record all of the data you want for the study. If you’re using automated tools, such as apps or programs, this isn’t all that difficult.

Obviously, without the data, the case study is meaningless. The whole idea is to discover what works best for you, and those numbers will help you determine that fact.

Example:

Because of the nature of using the Stealth Board and the data I want, it’s simple enough to set up a spreadsheet and enter the numbers after every session. In this case, it’s simply how long I can hold a plank within three separate rounds of playing the Stealth games, the total time per round, and the total calorie burn.

Just these three numbers will provide results for:

  • Calories burned per minute using the device
  • Calories burned per overall session
  • How long it takes to increase the amount of time spent planking

And this is on top of the overall study; to demonstrate whether the board improves muscle development while showing photographic results.

Though, the images are going to be a variable because my diet plan is going to eliminate that fat on my core anyway. This is why I want to focus on the actual muscle development and practice use through other core-based exercises.

Considering the Results

Once the case study is over, it’s time to go over the results. At this point, you’re able to determine how effective your subject matter was for your health and fitness.

How much weight did you wind up losing on your diet study? Are there pronounced results using a certain workout routine?

Just remember to take into account any variables that can skew the results one way or the other.

Example:

Because I would start the study with something like the maximum reps I could do performing sit-ups or other core exercises, I would end the study by seeing how many more I could do after using the planking board for 28 days.

Since I would avoid other core workouts, any improvements in those other exercises would be purely the result of using the board itself.

Not to mention being able to see if using the device is worth my time compared to other workouts based on calorie-burn-per-minute or session.

The Best Thing for You is Whatever Works

Now, you don’t need to go to such lengths to determine if something works for you or not. This is just something I do to keep myself motivated for health and fitness in general.

Plus, I really love recording data.

In any case, the best diets and workouts are those that work for you. We are all unique and have specific wants and needs. Spend some time exploring your options, but don’t get frustrated if something works for your friends that has no effect on your goals.

Find the best path for your specific needs.

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About Author

Michael Brockbank

Since 2015, Michael has put in the effort to lose more than 80 pounds by gamifying fitness and eating proper portion sizes. He conducts extensive research into various health and fitness products to provide the best answers possible according to his own experience and knowledge.

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