Monthly Archives: December 2013

A FitBit World: Better Health through Technology

Better Health through Technology

I am a recovering addict of shiny things. Little health and fitness tracking devices and pieces of technology that claim to make me more efficient, healthier, happier, and all around a better person. Well….who am I kidding? There’s no way I’m giving up my shiny things. Maybe I’m extending my wish-list instead of impulsively buying everything as it is introduced, but several little devices, mobile apps, and websites  HAVE made me better in the area of fitness and awareness of my overall health. At last count, I use approximately 24 different technologies to help me understand myself and accomplish my health, fitness, and beauty goals. I started to list these out all at once, but quickly realized it would be easier for you to take in piece by piece (and more likely that these posts will see the light of day). Today marks the start of my ongoing series: Better Health through Technology.

Gadgets #1 : Fitbit Fitness Tracking Devices

FitBit One

For starters, lets talk about my Fitbit One. Well, to be honest, this is my third Fitbit tracker, and I’ve had every generation they’ve made (addiction perhaps?). During the day, I tuck my Fitbit inside my pocket, or if my outfit does not have pockets, it hides clipped on my bra or underwear while I roam about.* I wear my Fitbit all day, EVERY DAY. I’m naked without it. Funny thing is, I rarely actually look at it during the day. But what it tells me about my habits is astonishing.

The Fitbit One device clipped onto shorts

*Note: I have lost a Fitbit Zip tracker by wearing in the manner shown in this posts’ picture. I normally wear my Fitbit with the front toward my skin so that it does not wedge itself out of the rubber carrying clip.

In one day, this little device tracks…

  • my total steps taken,
  • my total distance traveled by foot,
  • how active I am in any 5 minutes period of time through my day,
  • how many flights of stairs I climb,
  • how many calories I burn,
  • my sleep patterns (awake, restless, or actually asleep)
  • total length of sleep.

it also provides words of encouragement if I do happen to look at it, and shows (via a growing flower stalk) how far I have progressed in my daily goal (which I set through the website or app).

 

 

 

As far as tracking sleep, Fitbit Sleep Data Pie Chartthat is done by inserting the Fitbit device into an included velcro wrist wrap/strap with a mesh pocket on it, and then pressing and holding the main button for a few seconds to start the sleep clock. I’ve recently had some issues with my device falling out of the strap while I sleep, so lately I’ve just been flipping the pocket on the strap toward my wrist instead of leaving it exposed, and that seems to do the trick.  I can’t stand the sensory overload of wearing bracelets, so the Fitbit Flex is out for me, but I’ve heard great reviews from friends who have that device. It solves the whole “transition the device to sleep mode” issue. (plus the Flex is waterproof, and can be worn in a shower, FTW)

The best part of it all- my Fitbit tracks all of those steps I take to let my aging dog out 2-3 times in the middle of the night. They count!

FitBit Aria Scale

Then there is my Fitbit Aria Scale. This beautiful little white glass scale recognizes up to 8 people (and knows when your friend comes over and decides to weigh herself- it tracks her as a guest), and tracks…

  • my weight
  • my BMI
  • my Body Fat Percentage.

Both of these health and fitness tracking devices quietly sync to the Fitbit website via either my phone or my home computer through Bluetooth or Wifi. Even if I purposely don’t choose to look at the scale, their website does, and it tracks my journey for me.

Fitbit Website Dashboard

The pinnacle of the Fitbit family of products is the personalized Fitbit.com dashboard. Here is where the rubber meets the road and I meet accountability.

What did I really do yesterday, today, or this week? Did I sit at a desk for hours on end or did I walk about the building at least 5 minutes every hour?

Did my weight fluctuate drastically or did I keep on a smooth and steady pace? Where am I with my goals? How many times did I wake up to let my dog out to do her business this week, or did I actually stay up later than I wanted just to watch shows that I can easily catch up on the next day?

If I journaled my food intake, I could see how much I consumed and if there are any trends I need to work on. I can track my intake of water, enter my heart rate, blood pressure or glucose levels, and even see trends in things I’ve set up to track, like “Did I take my meds at the right time(if at all) this week?”

The Fitbit dashboard shows graphical representations of weight, activity, steps, sleep, calories burned, distance, and calories in versus out.

 

Fitbit even offers a premium membership ($50 for a year) that offers a digital trainer, benchmarking, more in-depth reporting, advanced heart rate tracking, and unlimited glucose and custom tracking. I personally have not decided to use the premium membership. I haven’t ruled it out, I just don’t feel like I need that data right now, since some of it I get from other sources (which will be covered in later posts in this series).

Fitbit Friends

Finally, there is a social and competitive component to the Fitbit universe, should you choose to opt into it. You can add friends to your dashboard and compete against the for the most steps taken. Results are shown in a Leaderboard every week. I’m not a super competitive person, but it is nice to see that when I’m having a less than optimal week, someone I know is also doing the same. (Sorry Fitbit friends!)

Fitbit provides groups you can join (or create) to track certain sections of your social sphere. A great example might be to create a group for an office, and involve employees in the group by introducing some healthy competition. At the time of writing, there are 9,476 public groups in the Fitbit universe, with more added every day. There is a group that is bound to fit you.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Fitbit line of products have become invaluable to me over the past few years, creating automatic accountability and awareness of my habits and lifestyle. In another post, I plan to talk about how the data collected by these devices works with other tools I use to create a holistic and strategic healthy living approach. Until then, remember to keep your devices well charged and let your eyes look up once in a while! Happy gadgeting!

Health: Interesting Observations on the Health Fitness Beauty Quest

abstract treeWhen I started my Health Fitness Beauty Quest in early September, I wasn’t quite sure what I would discover. I was pretty sure whatever it was I would be more knowledgable and healthier. What exactly that would be had yet to be found. Well, here I am on December 10th and I have had many AHA! moments as well as some, Hmmm….interesting moments.

In this post, I will share those moments as it relates to taking the USANA nutritional supplements provided to me by Penny Muckelroy who is an Independent Distributor for the company. Penny gave me a bag full of nutritional items she felt I would need in order to move in a positive direction. The goal was to improve my nutritional health on a cellular level. Penny explained to me that if each individual cell was healthy, then my entire body would be healthy. Sounds simple enough. In order to do that I needed to take a handful of supplements twice a day. These were given to me in AM and PM packs. As in, take this handful of pills in the morning and this second handful of pills in the evening. Seemed like overkill to me, but I was on the quest and listening to my advisors and following their instructions towards better health was the entire point.

USANA AM/PM Pack Supplements

USANA AM/PM Pack Supplements

The Ride

So for a few weeks I took them and other than fluorescent bathroom breaks, nothing seemed to change. At least that was what I thought. About 3-4 weeks into the AM/PM packs, I went for one of my weekly bike rides with my bike group. We went for a normal weekday ride of 18 miles. No big deal, right? Well, actually it was a big deal. About 1/3 of the way I noticed I didn’t feel tired. Then at the halfway mark I still didn’t feel tired. Then we finished the 18 miles and I felt like I could have ridden 18 miles more. What was going on? Then it hit me. The only big thing I had changed was in adding the AM/PM packs to my day.

I thought about all those rides and bike tours I had done in the past (20-54 miles) where I had always felt the fatigue during the ride and pushed myself to complete the tours. All this time I thought that the fatigue was part of the ride. Little did I know I was pushing my cells to do so much on what apparently was an empty gas tank. When I started taking the AM/PM packs my cells began receiving the nutrition they were missing. They charged themselves up and then I really felt what it was like to ride at full power. What a difference!

A Glance In The Mirror

At about two months into taking the AM/PM packs I noticed something else entirely. I was fresh out of the shower, going from robe to my clothes for the day when I happened to glance at my full-length mirror. I was so surprised by what I saw…or should I say what I didn’t see that I stopped for a closer look. I am a 44 year old woman who has a couple of kids under her belt and has lived a bit on the frivolous side of life. So I am sure it is no surprise that I have cellulite and stretch marks on my body. What caused me to stop and stare at myself was what appeared to be smooth skin in places that hadn’t seen smooth skin in years. I went closer to the mirror and I could see the stretch marks, but they were very faint and my skin felt smooth and soft to the touch. I was amazed. Am I saying that if you take the AM/PM packs that this will happen to you? No. I have no idea what will happen to you. I am merely sharing what I am noticing is happening to me.

Shiny and Thick

It is no secret that as we ladies get older hair dye becomes an important part of our beauty routine. Hair dye is not the kindest thing we can do to our hair. In my case, it exasperated things by drying out my hair. So, I now had dry thin hair that on good days I could manage with lots of deep conditioners, leave-in treatments, mousse and hairspray. On bad days my hair resembled a dry haystack.  So, in the third month I was surprised to discover that my hair which has always been fine and in recent years thinning felt thicker to the touch. It also looked shiny. I mean healthy shiny. It was actually bouncy and soft to the touch. When the heck did this happen?!

My Thoughts

When I started taking the AM/PM packs, I had no idea that where I would see the biggest difference would be in the challenging areas of my body. My hair had become more and more of a problem the older I have gotten. I had long ago written off the stretch marks and cellulite as just part of getting older. I thought the energy levels I was experiencing when cycling were what they should be and had no idea how much I was missing.

I cannot say that anyone reading this will experience what I have in just the few short months of my Health Fitness Beauty Quest. In my opinion I am still in the infancy of what I will learn and experience as I move forward. What I can say is that I have found a whole lot of positive benefits to taking the USANA AM/PM nutritional supplement packs on a daily basis.

In the beginning I took the AM/PM packs with little expectation. Now I look forward to taking them. I wonder what the next AHA! moment will be and can’t wait to see how my body will improve as I nourish it on the cellular level. I now am beginning to understand what Penny meant when she explained the importance of doing so back in September. I am so much wiser now than I was then.

I do appreciate all of your encouragement here on the blog in the comments as well as your replies and tweets on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you for continuing to support me on my journey.