Monday, January 3, 2011

A bit about the Fitbit: my new BFF.

Have I raved about the Fitbit?  No?  Allow me a moment or three to rave about it now, por favor.  Ahem. 

After incessant, not-so-subtle hinting, my husband purchased it for me for Christmas.  He's a sharp man.  It has everything an information nerd's little heart could desire.  It essentially serves as a glorified pedometer and also tracks sleep efficacy, calories burned and so forth.  And before you say anything, let me confirm that it is indeed a non-essential device.  Obviously, I'm painfully aware already of how much or how little I sleep, eat and exercise. But here's the genius of this little device: it's not only a wonderful indulgence for the data-obsessed, it also encourages better behavior.  As an example:

I hop in bed a bit abashedly just before midnight, knowing I probably should have hit the sack around 10:30 p.m.  However, I know that I can still sneak in my bare minimum nightly goal of seven hours of sleep if I push it just slightly on our morning routine (never a good idea, by the way).  I hit start on the Fitbit just before my head hits the pillow, doze off quickly and wake up at 6:45 p.m. assuming I've gotten in my seven hours.  However, the Fitbit tells me I actually woke up 17 (!!) times during the night and despite being in bed seven hours, logged only six hours of sleep.  So, I know that I'm going to have to get to bed earlier to get the amount of sleep in I need - no wonder I feel tired!  Now, honestly - I sleep far better than this and plan accordingly.  And, for the record, this is not because I have a newborn in the house - she sleeps like a rock, just like the rest of our family.  But you get the picture.

This handy thing also logs my daily steps as I strive for 10,000+ per day, but most intriguingly, it gives me charts that show my level of activity.  So, if I sit in front of a computer working all day versus running to errands and appointments, it shows by making me feel guilty over 4 - 6 sedentary hours.  That's awful!

The related website lets me obsessively journal my food, water, weight, measurements and more.  I'll point out that all this works only if you are an information junkie.  I am absolutely affected positively by chronicling my meals, exercise and so forth - and in the process I'm forming better habits.  More on that, incidentally, in The Classic I-Will-Get-Organized-Tirade.  And, if you're also a fan of (or positively influenced by) regular monitoring, check out cool tools for implementing resolutions and better habits such as these:

1. - cool concept that socializes your better life challenges into a Foursquare-esque game.
2. - sends daily emails to check your progress over 21 days on habits you'd like to form.
3. - I'm a fan of their free plan - great concept that relates to my previous Foodie Fun rant.
4. - for the truly committed, set your own stakes.

It most certainly tracks daily steps quite accurately, but also tracks activity levels, calories burned, sleep efficacy and much more.  I've transitioned from using Lose It! and the Lose It! app for iPhone (and prior to that, CalorieKing) to enter my daily calories consumed.  And yes, I'm a bit obsessive about it.  It would be pretty simple to not track every morsel and just realize how well I'm doing, but I like to have this information ad nauseum.  Likewise, I obviously know whether I worked out in a day, but I like that the Fitbit monitors me all day and reports the hours I was sedentary (gasp!), lightly active, very active and so forth.

Honestly, I could ramble here about this for days - it's worth checking out.  Particularly if you are gadget or tech-oriented and would enjoy seeing graphs and comparing your stats with others in the fitness community, this is a cool tool.  I'll still use my MotionX GPS app (see favorite apps in the right hand sidebar below) and probably even the Runner's World log, but this is hands down one of the coolest tools I've run across.  At $99, it makes sense to upgrade from a very nice pedometer at around $40 to this for the extra information.

I've started a group on the Fitbit forum if you decide to pursue it and want to connect.  This thing is definitely not for everyone, but it's perfect for those who need to obsessively control food journaling, workouts and information as they work toward fitness.  And, while I'm on the subject - I've been impressed with the health trackers (recommended daily fat, protein and carbs, for example) at as well as this BMI calculator.  I'm a bit more inspired when I have all the hairy details on where I stand.

Happy fitbit trails, and here's to a healthy 2011!

P.S. Are you a runner?  Read a bit about our downtown efforts here, and check out the great running log at Runner's World.  But, if you're a runner, you're probably way ahead of me, since I'm a novice.  RunKeeper is a great app for smartphones, but I'm partial to the MotionX GPS for multiple sports - it's a fantastic app and well worth $1.99.  More on running and biking in a later post.

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