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
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.
*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, that 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?”
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).
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.
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!