Fitbit

FBApparently, bending over and tying my shoes is worth about 25-40 steps.

The act of leaning over to my left side while I’m sitting at my desk, unzipping my briefcase and pulling out a phone-charging cord and then plugging it in, is also worth about 25 steps.

Rubbing my wife’s shoulders while watching TV, about 30 steps per minute.

Steps, however, don’t always count as steps.

These are the kinds of things you think about when you get a Fitbit, one of those wristbands you wear that supposedly keep track of your fitness. It does this using a three-axis accelerometer that can detect when you’re taking steps, even if you’re swinging your arms, walking with your hands in your pocket or carrying something. The device also keeps track of the total mileage that you walk or run each day, how many flights of stairs you climb, and how long and how well you sleep. By pairing your Fitbit with a mobile device and/or a computer, you can track your steps and other metrics over time, which is great for a stat geek like me.

At my work, we started the year with a fitness program, which involves Fitbits for everybody in the office, twice-weekly group workouts during our lunch hours, and weekly competitions to see who can log the most steps, along with a three-month competition to see who can improve their body-fat percentage the most. All good stuff. And after the first quarter, in the office, we recorded modest improvements in weight, waist measurement and body-fat percentage.

Some observations on Fitbit:

•  I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the step counts, or the other metrics measured by the Fitbit. Sometimes, I can take the stairs to our office, and the number of “flights” of stairs can be different from day to day. Sometimes I’ll try counting steps, to compare with the Fitbit. It’s usually pretty close, but not right on. But hey, close works. And as I mentioned at the top, sometimes other activities will generate “steps,” but on the whole, it’s not enough to worry about.

•  The goal of a Fitbit isn’t necessarily “fitness,” so much as “movement.” Walking won’t really give you the kind of cardio workout that will make you “fit”: you need to do some kind of exercise that will get your heart rate up for that. BUT, there’s definitely something to be said for movement; you’re definitely better off walking than sitting.

•  The basic goal with a Fitbit is 10,000 steps per day. On days when I go for a run, that’s definitely a makable goal. Otherwise, I really have to make an effort to be up and walking if I want to reach 10,000. Which I guess is the whole idea, right? Unfortunately, though, I’m not running as much these days, and (warning: stat geek!) I’ve only reached 10,000 steps 27 times since we started in mid-January—that’s fewer than a third of the days.

•  However, a recent addition to the Fitbit app is that it will keep track of your steps per hour; the goal there is a much more obtainable 250 steps per hour. The app will tell you how many of the one-hour periods between in a given day you’ve gotten up and moved at least that much. So even if 10,000 steps for the day seems attainable, you can still go for 12 hours with 250 steps. Which, to be honest, might just be a better goal than 10,000 steps in a day.

•  I wish they had this technology for swimming, so I wouldn’t have to count laps.

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