February 5th, 2015

Current Obsessions: Fitness and Fitbit

I’ve got a lot of little pet obsessions going on these days, so I thought I might get organized enough to do a little post on each one. I’ve had lots of great ideas for blog series that have gone no where lately, so no promises, but here’s the first one…

Mark got me a Fitbit Charge for Christmas, which is basically a watch with a pedometer inside. It does a few other neat things too, like track your sleep habits (it can only measure motion, but motion and poor sleep correlate pretty well) and count the calories you’ve burned in a day. Before I had this, I was using the Noom Walk app on my phone as my pedometer. That’s a pretty good pedometer app (I had other ones before that barely functioned) but it’s just hard to keep your phone on you all the time, especially when you are say running on the treadmill. And Noom wasn’t really totally accurate–the Fitbit is much sharper.

I LOVE it! I have some obsessive tendencies and I love to count things–I find it deeply satisfying to know how many steps it is from my desk to the bathroom, and how many in my daily commute and so on. I check the step counter many times throughout the day and feel like the information is really valuable.

What a Fitbit is for is to make you MORE fit, not just assess what you are currently doing. I am trying to be more fit and active this year–what an original new year’s resolution, I know–so this is a good test of its usefulness. And it does work, in certain ways. For example, the ideal active lifestyle person takes 10 000 steps in a day. When I started keep track, I discovered that I normally take that many without thinking of it, but some days I’m just under and sometimes I’m way under. It was very easy to just do the things I do on the successful days on ALL the days, and now I’m almost never below 10 000, but it took the counter to make me think of it.

I’ve also stopped “wasting” steps. Like, I live on a fairly high floor in my apartment building, but not so high that I’m incapable of walking up the steps–I just never did because who does that? Now I do, at least when I’m not carrying anything heavy. It gives me like 400 steps each way–obviously much easier on the way down, but either way. I’ve also realized that waiting for the bus or subway is a waste so I’ve started pacing. This only works on fairly empty platforms, but it is a good use of time and certainly no one cares what I’m up to. It was funny, one day I didn’t wear the fitbit and I didn’t bother to pace–what was the point if it wasn’t being recorded? It’s funny the way these things will trick the mind. And I’m just in general better about walking a little extra whenever I can.

I haven’t made any big lifestyle changes but every little bit counts, and I’m consistently between 10 000 and 15 000 every day. I would like to try for 20 000 but I think I need the weather to be a bit nicer first. David Sedaris went good and bonkers trying to up his step count, but I’m trying to be more moderate in my goals.

If you’re thinking of doing the same, some tips:

1) Shopping has a million steps–even the grocery store, but especially the mall. If you like the mall, mind you–if you hate the mall you won’t wander around and go back and forth. Strolling through anything that interests you–stores, museums, parks–has lots of steps, because you’re less likely to be linear and thus take more unnecessary steps. All to the good.

2) Running is a better workout than walking, and going uphill is a better workout than level ground, but everything counts the same on a Fitbit. A 10 000 step day is a totally average day for most of us–around 17 000 I’m pretty tired, but I could still do more if I had to. So the Fitbit encourages general healthy practices but isn’t going to make any of us track stars.

3) The flights-of-stairs function has something wrong with it–one day it said I climbed 58 flights of stairs, which no one would ever do, and other times it doesn’t count flights I know I’ve climbed. It’s amusing, but not that helpful.

4) If you are scared pacing will cause the bus driver to zoom right by you, hopping from foot to foot in place also works fine.

5) There is a HUGE difference between transit commuting and car commuting. You don’t realize how many steps even a short walk to the subway, then through the station and down all those stairs, then back up and out and to wherever you were going can be. There’s no where far enough you can park the car that will equal that–plus you can’t pace when you are stuck in traffic.

6) Similarly, there’s a big difference between transit commuting and pedestrian commuting. One day I talked my husband, a walking commuter, into wearing the Fitbit, and in getting to and from work, plus errands at lunch time and the gym in the evening, he was over 22 000 steps. There is no way I could do that without dedicating a significant chunk of my day to the project, a la Sedaris, but Mark has it built right into his schedule.

7) When I forget an item and have to go back for it, I feel less stupid now because at least the steps count.

So, Fitbit–one of my many obsessions and darn entertaining!

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So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum

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