Wearable Tech as Your Fitness Pal
The secret to getting healthy when you think you don’t have time? Make it a game.
I have a friend who, like me, is battling his weight. He’s fond of saying, “I’m an expert in weight loss. I know just what to do: eat less and move more.” I know just what he means. The problem is, I don’t like to do the first and I don’t feel like I have time for the second one. I love good food. I like flavors and textures. Getting me to reduce intake is difficult. For me, the more likely successful solution lies in the movement part of the equation.
But there’s the nagging issue of time. Thankfully, there’s new technology designed to make movement appeal to people like me, and it does so by making it easy to add in little bits of movement throughout your day, rather than giving you the insurmountable task of carving out an hour of time several times a week. Various forms of wearable tech are turning movement into a game. Better still, some of these items allow you to share information – and, therefore, compete – with people you know. And the little bit of accountability and competition that it provides is, so far, making all the difference.
Fitbit offers a pair of tiny digital pedometers powered by accelerometers, as opposed to the “chunka-chunka” mechanical step counters of old. Both are small: one is about 1/3 of an inch thick and about the size of a return address label; the other is about the size of two stacked nickels. Both communicate wirelessly with some smartphones and most computers via Bluetooth. Why the connection? Because they offload the data they collect to web services that you can visit to see your data charted and graphed and (if you’ve given each other permission) compared to your friends and family members. That’s where the motivation and competition elements come from.
Fitbit’s not alone. There’s been a virtual explosion in digital pedometers that collect, graph and share data. Nike has its FuelBand, which is a rubber wrist strap that does what the Fitbit devices do and more. The Striiv ups the ante with a beautiful color display. Jawbone recently reengineered and re-released its Up device to compete in the same space.
All of these devices collect basic information (steps taken, miles walked/run, and calories burned). Some collect additional information, like run timers, sleep quality measurements or the number of flights of stairs climbed. Why? Because it’s weirdly motivational. Now that I have this little gadget in my pocket, I park a little further away to get in a few extra steps, or I park on the third level of the garage because getting back to the car gets me three extra flights of stairs climbed. At the end of the day, when my Fitbit says I need another two flights of stairs to get my digital ribbon for climbing ten flights of stairs, I do my house stairs twice just to get that silly little badge. You can get those badges for going 10,000 steps in a day. Or 15,000 (that one’s cool). Nike will tell you when you’ve taken enough steps to climb the Eiffel Tower or Mt. Kilimanjaro. Striiv makes donations to charities when you reach certain milestones.
So if you’d like to be in better shape and don’t know how you’re going to fit regular blocks of exercise into your overscheduled calendar, invest $50-$150 in one of these tools. Doing so will help you move more in small increments, and you’ll start to discover that you can fit little bursts of exercise into your life in ways that you’ll hardly notice. The good news is that when you do so, others will notice and they’ll mention it. And before you know it, you have all sorts of motivation to continue. Isn’t that what makes a game compelling?
Image credit: Fitbit