Wednesday, August 5, 2015

a month of monitoring

My husband gave me a Fitbit for my birthday last month.  Using it has been ... interesting.  :-)  Our daughter had been wearing a "Jawbone" she won in a drawing and she piqued my curiosity, though i wasn't inspired enough to run out and get a tracker of my own;  i hadn't gone farther than to start looking at what might be the best product out there.

Well, after weeks of wearing the thing most of the time, my Charge HR has shown me some thought-provoking data.  First, a note on its inaccuracies -- the assumptions built into its algorhythms seem to be based on a hip lifestyle, not mine.  I noticed almost from the beginning that it was very lax in counting my trips up the staircases (it doesn't count flights DOWN, just the steps involved), but it increasingly dawned on me that it was when i don't carry anything that it does the best job -- the arm-swings are significant to it.  If you keep your "fitbit arm" on the bannister, or if you're carrying a laundry-basket, or a meal tray, or a couple glasses of wine, you're not likely to get credit for the stair-flight in question.

Conversely, i do get credit for "steps" even before i'm out of bed in the morning.  Merely adjusting a pillow is enough movement sometimes (though "sensitivity" is adjustible).  And speaking of sleep, the f-b was a little disruptive at first, because its display turns on, as a default, when you raise your arm as if to consult a watch!  I learned to turn that off, and to slide the f-b up my arm to mask the bright little lights on the back.  Not being in the habit of WEARING a watch since i retired from my last "real job," i've also been unusually conscious of having it on my arm -- i've always disliked watch-wearing.  I see that the moving around and getting comfortable before drifting off is shown as "restless sleep" ... and then there's the "awake" periods which can be truly periods of wakefulness or merely of increased movement and heart-rate.  I wonder if it might see dreaming as wakeful?  This morning, i woke up fully and got my ipad out and started reading, and the f-b interpreted that as being asleep a half-hour longer than i really was.

Despite my extreme variation in amount of "exercise" taken from day to day, the "calories burned" function seems remarkably consistent in the 1500kcal/day range.  To me, this echoes study observations in which people who are active in their jobs or hobbies subconsciously do less spontaneous moving around when they get home.  I do intensive shopping, then i come home and sit down with a book;  if i spend the afternoon with a movie and ipad-puzzle, i spend more time and effort in cooking dinner, and make more trips up and down all my stairs.  There's a "workout start and end" function, but telling the f-b what you're doing is a little cumbersome -- you have to look at their activity database in the computer software and match your chores with what they consider to be basic movement patterns.  Can't just look at the wristlet and choose from a list.

The software also allows one to track dietary intake, but the list is long on fast-food and deficient in the kinds of things i actually consume.  Naturally, it's CICO-oriented.

But i do find it very instructive, after taking into account what it can and cannot perceive.  One can enter a weight, sleep, exercise, or food-intake goal and it will report status.  One gets a weekly summary, and/or congratulatory emails on milestones reached.  The first time i achieved 10 flights of stairs climbed i got a commendation, but haven't received another one for even higher readings;  ditto for the first "marathon" walked.  For a person who appreciates acknowledgement of goals achieved, these things are probably supportive.

I'm enjoying it ... taking into account that it's a cross between an expensive watch and a pedometer.  I also like the heart-rate feature -- it already has informed me that the T-100 supplement i take is effective, when i ran out for a few days and my basal metabolism visibly slowed -- not something i would have noticed otherwise!


  1. Interesting to read your experience with this Tess ... not sure that it's me though!
    Not to say others may / would find it a fantastic piece of modern technology ...

    I like your idea of chilling out after shopping with a book. For me it's the kettle on and a nice cuppa.

    All the best Jan

    1. :-) the book is often accompanied by a cup of something here, too ... or if it's late afternoon, a glass of wine.

      I need to remember to start the "vacuum activity" function next time I do the rugs -- I think that may be as illuminating as the miles covered when I shop!

  2. I was wondering how those gadgets worked...I think I'd have the same results. Similar lifestyle.

    1. i'll bet you'd be impressed to see how many miles you cover, just at work!

  3. Tess, I love my Fitbit Flex (gift last April 2014) and the integration of Fitbit with MFP with Apple Health. I agree, my sleep can be falsely high based on me just reading in bed.

    I find it very valuable to see how much or how little I've moved on work days vs home days. Very distinct patterns. I also see patterns when I walk to walk fast vs walk to take photos.

    Great data!