If you are like me and many Boomers, it is just difficult to find time to get in regular workouts. Travel, work, meetings, family activities, social activities, and on. It sometimes seems that everything and everyone are conspiring to keep you from working out. But I chanced upon an often overlooked “trick” to getting a reasonable amount of exercise on an almost daily basis and began a journey by introducing regular walking into my life. I found a digital friend to help and now walk 10,000 steps or more on most days.
A Christmas Present to Me
Well more than two years ago in early December (2011), I was doing some Christmas shopping and decided to buy a present for myself. I bought a device called a Fitbit. My first Fitbit was the Ultra model, shown below, which has been replaced with the Fitbit One.
The Fitbit One is an amazing piece of technology. It fits easily in the palm of your hand, or will clip onto your shirt or your slacks, if you are a man or woman. Many women clip them to their bras. The point is, for the Fitbit to work, you have to carry it with you. The Fitbit One is powered by a rechargeable battery that connects to your PC. A charge lasts up to several days. The One is the middle product below.
There are two other Fitbit products, the Flex (left), a wristband offering, and the Zip (right), a small device with a replaceable battery. I do not like the Flex because it lacks a visible display. To see your steps, you have to synch and look on your iPhone or PC to see daily results. And I don’t like the Zip, because it is less waterproof than the One and the battery is a pain to replace when it runs out. I’ve given a few Zips as gifts and this has been a common complaint.
The three products are shown in the following shot.
You can see them all above, but I’m sold on the Fitbit One. This shot will give you a good idea of its size. It comes in a case that will clip to a belt or a bra. I just carry it in my pocket and it does its magic.
After using my Fitbit for about a year, I gave myself a second Christmas present, the Fitbit Aria, a set of weighing scales that integrates with my Fitbit via bluetooth technology. Of course, I have the Fitbit app for my iPhone and iPaD. And also a bluetooth connector for my computer. By logging into my Fitbit.com account, I can see my Dashboard, and learn lots about my activity.
It may seem complicated, but it is really simple, at least from a user’s point of view. The Fitbit “talks” to my Mac and to my iPhone and iPad apps, so that I can keep track of progress on the phone, as well as see the daily progress of friends who connect with me. I keep tabs on my daughter, my sister, and my girlfriend this way. I know when they are moving!
And, of course, they can keep tabs on me. We often motivate each other with “Fitbit messages.”
What Do the Fitbit and Aria Do?
The Fitbit One (and the other models) are technological marvels that count and infer a number of things. You can set daily goals for several of these things. My goals are shown below.
- Steps. It counts my steps, and pretty accurately. Recently, I walked 4.60 miles on a treadmill in bad weather. The Fitbit logged 4.58 miles. My goal is an average of at least 10,000 steps per day. For the last year, I’ve averaged about 9,500.
- Stairs. Don’t ask me how, but the Fitbit counts changes in elevation and is pretty accurate with measuring stair climbing. My office is on the 26th floor of an office building. When I walked the stairs, I kept getting 25 flights of stairs on my Fitbit. Something wrong with the Fitbit? No, there is no 13th floor in my building. My goal is 10 flights of stairs per day. That’s easy since I live in a three story house.
- Calories. Give some basic information about your height and weight when setting up your Fitbit, and it measures calorie expenditure. I’m not sure how, but it does a pretty good job of measuring the intensity of activity when counting calories and steps. By watching this and my weight over time, I know that if I work and burn 3,000 calories per day, my weight will be fine.
- Active Minutes. The Fitbit measures the intensity of activity and measures what it calls “active minutes.” If you walk at 3.5 to 4.4 miles per hour for an hour, you will get 60 active minutes for sure. My goal is an 60 active minutes per day.
- Periodic Intensity. There is a timer on the Fitbit that, when activated, will measure all of the above for the period until you stop the timer. Neat, but I don’t use it.
- Sleep Patterns. If you wear the Fitbit at night, it will measure the duration and quality of your sleep. Since I have no sleep issues, I don’t use this feature, but some people I know do use it.
- Goals and Tracking. You can set goals for all of the above. I’ve shared my goals at this time. Fitbit encourages you when you achieve, e.g., your daily step or stairs goal. You can track your progress toward weight or BMI goals as well. The premium version of the otherwise free service enables diet tracking and more detail for your historical tracking. Maybe I’ll upgrade to premium service one day. It isn’t expensive. But for now, the free service works just fine.
The Aria scale also does some neat things. Once you set it up, And it will recognize several people in your household.
- Weight. The Aria measures weight, of course. And pretty accurately.
- Body Fat. If you step on the scales barefooted, the Aria calculates the percentage of body fat in your body.
- Body Mass Index. When your weight is synched with your Fitbit account by your Aria, you cal get calculations of your BMI on your Dashboard.
When you weigh, the Aria will communicate through your home’s Wi-Fi to your other devices, so you always know what’s going on with your exercise, weight and more.
Wrap-Up on the Devices
Let me say that while I am a Fitbit evangelist, I am not on their payroll and earn nothing from talking to you about my Fitbit journey. For me, it is not the simple tool that I clip to my shirt pocket each day, but really fun behavior modifier.
I warn you, though, the “Fitbit habit” is addictive. Do your steps really count if you forgot your Fitbit one day? There’s an app for that, because Fitbit allows you to log onto your dashboard and input estimates of otherwise “lost” steps. That’s a nice feature.
My next Fitbit post will talk about “7 Ways the Fitbit will Change Your Life.”