Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Fitbit – My New Toy

I have sort of wanted a Fitbit ever since I first heard of it, but I thought $100 was a bit much to spend.  Well, with health and fitness being my first priority this year, I decided to make the investment. 

Do you all know what Fitbit is?  It’s a tracker than you wear like a bracelet, that counts your steps on a daily basis and also tracks your sleep.  It was the sleep-tracking that finally got me convinced to buy it, as I often find myself awake in the middle of the night, and then sleepy when I’d like to be getting up.

Here’s what I got:

 I immediately liked the way the items were packaged, and the fact that they just send everyone the small and large wristbands, so you can try both, rather than having to guess when ordering.  The “owners manual” had just one sentence:  “To setup go to www.fitbit.com/setup”.  (As with everything these days…)  The setup was slightly less than foolproof, since I had already set up my account ahead of time, so I just had to add the device, but I got it working pretty easily. 

There is a little thing called a “dongle” that provides wireless syncing with the computer.  I just plugged it into the network slot on my Mac, and now when I open my laptop to do anything, the Fitbit on my wrist magically sends the latest data to the Fitbit website server.   (Too techie for you?  You just need to know that you sign onto the website to see your number of steps and sleep stats.)

The Fitbit website is pretty cool.  Once you sign in, you are at your “dashboard” that shows your information.  The first “tile”, or little window, on the dashboard is for “Friends” and I was happy to easily find my two friends who I know use Fitbits – my daughter Melanie, and friend Sharon.  Now in that window I always see their number of weekly steps, motivating me to keep up.  (Sharon is usually way ahead, but Stan and I took a long walk yesterday.  Melanie works full time - doesn't that always get in the way...)  You can see today I've only taken 86 steps - down the stairs, past the coffee pot and into my chair.  Better get moving!

I did think it was a bit odd that I had to add the “tiles” for Steps and Sleep, the two items I am most interested in, which did not show up by default.  However, once I added them, I could drag them to the top so I always see them first.  It’s fun to come back from a walk, and by the time I’ve checked my email or looked at the news, my number of steps has zoomed up to include the walk.

I’m still working at understanding the sleep tracking function.  The Fitbit Help articles explain there are three “modes” of sleep – asleep, awake, and restless.  It detects these based on your amount of movement, and shows a graph of when in the night you were awake, restless or asleep.  Here are my graphs for last week:

During several nights, I have thought I was awake a lot, only to find the graph in the morning says I was sleeping.  I wonder if it thinks I’m asleep when I’m awake but not moving?  There are two sleep settings – normal and sensitive.  So far I’m only using normal, but after I have some data, I’ll switch to sensitive, where even very small movements count as being awake or restless.  There are fancier Fitbit devices that use heart rate as well as  movement to detect sleep.  For my version, called Flex, I tell it when I’m going to sleep and getting up in the morning by tapping it several times, and from there it uses only movement.

  The website also has functions for tracking food and exercise.  I’ve been adding my swimming and weight machines at the gym, but I already know I’m not faithful about entering everything I eat, so I’m not even making the attempt.   It tracks glasses of water separately, and I might track my water for a while, although I know I don’t drink anywhere near 8 glasses per day.  In fact, that is another whole area of research – I have read that it’s not critical to force down a lot of water, as long as one remains hydrated.  So how do you know if you’re properly hydrated?  I’ll save that for another post.

You can track your weight too.  I have only wanted to enter it on the days when it is a new low, not when it is back up again, so I don't have many data points.

Bottom line:  I’m enjoying my Fitbit, though I don’t think it’s a necessary part of getting strong.  It provides that little extra motivation that is so helpful in starting new healthy habits.  I think I would have enjoyed it even more when I was still working – walking to and from the bus and at lunch time, I might have been motivated to get off the bus a few stops away from my office, or taken more stair-climbing breaks.  In retirement, since I am swimming twice a week and doing the weight machines twice a week, I know I won’t meet my weekly goal of 10,000 steps per day.  I can reset the goal to suit myself, or just watch to see if I can get closer.  Aaargh – that would mean actually getting out of this comfy chair by the fire and getting moving

If any of you readers are Fitbit users and want to be my Fitbit friend, please comment! 

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