I got a FitBit

FitBit One.  photo: Donna P Feldman

FitBit One.
photo: Donna P Feldman

I joined to brave new world of techno health recently and got a Fitbit activity tracker.  A few weeks ago, I wrote about a colleague’s experience with her FitBit, which went through the washing machine.  And I have to say I’m surprised more people haven’t put their FitBits into the wash.  This thing is small, and it’s really easy to forget where it is.  If you’re not a conscientious detail-oriented person, and tend to be klutzy and forgetful, a FitBit might not be the gadget for you.  On the other hand, the holder that attaches it to your clothes is extremely tight, so it isn’t likely to fall off.

If you’re confident you can keep track of it, FitBit is a handy little tool to help prod you into staying active.  It counts steps and stair climbing automatically, and uploads your counts to the computer.  Your online FitBit profile stores your activity data, and you can enter specific activities as well.  I’ve added cross country skiing, snow shoeing, snow shoveling, walking, stationary biking and weight lifting.  It’s not clear to me how the FitBit system classifies “step” counts that happen during a biking session.  And snow shoeing through 2 feet of powder up a very steep hill only counted as 400 steps, despite the fact that it was a serious amount of work.

Conventional wisdom is that everyone should take 10,000 steps per day to maintain fitness and a healthy weight.  After wearing a Fitbit for a few days, I can safely say 10,000 steps is a lot.  Where did that number come from?  There’s no particular reason for 10,000 or 9000, but it does correspond roughly to 30-60 minutes of daily exercise.  Of course, pedometer makers, like FitBit, use the 10,000 step figure as a marketing tool, and it’s not a terrible idea.  Inactive people, by contrast, take 3000 of fewer steps per day.  And I can safely say, that would be hard to do unless you were sick in bed.  Or just extremely sedentary.  In which case you do need to get motivated.

It may seem silly, but simply seeing your step counts on a pedometer can be a wake-up call to get up and move more.  So if you’re struggling with a weight loss diet, or just feel like you need to be fitter, I’d recommend you get one.  There are many pedometers, and you’ll get what you pay for.  Less expensive ones mistakenly add up steps if you’re just fidgeting, so go for quality.  You don’t want inflated step counts.  FitBit doesn’t do that — I’ve tried.

The FitBit food database apparently leaves something to be desired.  I’m not sure why they bothered with a food logging option, as there are other better ones already established, some of which can be paired with Fitbit data.  As usual with a food database, GIGO.  Most start with the basic USDA food dataset, but that is very limited and doesn’t include many of the tens of thousands of food products and restaurant meals out there.  But bigger isn’t necessarily better.  The best database is one that allows users to enter data for products and recipes, and then independently verifies data accuracy and makes necessary corrections.  For now, I’m happy with FitBit as an activity tracker.  I’ll track my food separately.

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