Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Fit To Be Tried?

It seems today if we don’t have a devise in our hand or on our body that provides loads of data we can’t function as a human race.  While smart phones and sports watches (they started the data thirsty craze) have been around for a few years, there is a new partner joining the party. 

Interesting this new entrant is so new; we have not yet crafted a “catch all” name like smart phones.  The newbie in today’s fitness technology is host of wearable tech gadgets that track your every move, the number of steps you take, the calories you burn, your active minutes and can even track the quality of your sleep.

While the new gadgets don’t tell you to put down the donuts, scream at you to run faster or play soft music when you are not sleeping well (that would be a bit too close to the Twilight Zone) they do provide a lot of data to those that are keen on using technology to improve their health.

While most technology is designed to make us inactive, wearable technology such as Fitbit, Jawbone UP24, Nike+ Fuel Band and the Garmin Vivofit among others does exactly the opposite.  What estimates to be a $30 billion industry by 2018, these “get off your butt” gadgets are flying off the shelves with one in 10 Americans now sporting one of these devices.

Being a highly active person, I was hesitant to see the value in these modern day pedometers. Giving into peer pressure and never being at a loss to purchase something new, I bought the Fitbit for May and me. It didn't take long for me to see the value these devices hold for anyone.

A 2010 study of 123,216 people, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that the more leisure time spent sitting, the higher risk of death!  While I’m not sure we had to spend buckets of money to come to that conclusion, wearable trackers can shine a light on the inner couch potato you don’t know you had.

The main benefit of these devices, in my opinion, is the awareness users have regarding their activity level, calories burned and sleep patterns.  Based on the Hawthorne effect, a sociological phenomenon in which people behave better when they are being observed, these gadgets provide a constant stream of data that can be viewed on the device or in an app on your smart phone.

Fitbit says its users take 43% more steps than they did before the bought one.  Add in the social features these devices offer such as sending friends cheers or taunts or simply receiving an “Atta Boy” for achieving your goal, the modest costs is well worth the investment to add a little awareness and self-pressure to improve your fitness.

Ironically we now have another device to bury our heads into and instead of talking about the ball game last night; conversations are turning towards “Hey did you hit your step goal?”  While my office is usually as quite as an abandoned building, I often hear a periodic outburst of “Yes” or “I Nailed It!”  No they are not crazy but I do know they just hit there step goal for the day and that motivates me to get up and walk around…after all I have to have the most steps for bragging rights during our coffee talk the next morning.


Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer and exercise and endurance enthusiast.  He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons and other endurance events.