"What's that thing on your wrist?"
I hear this question a lot in reference to the Fitbit Flex
strapped to my wrist day and night.
The Fitbit is a fitness tracker that does so much more than
count your steps - like the small, less accurate pedometers
you may have clipped to your waistband at one time.
The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of a
moderate activity (like walking) at least five days a week.
This can improve blood pressure, help you lose weight, lower
cholesterol and make you more aware of your activity level.
Plus, walking is one of the easiest ways to get exercise.
Fitness trackers have been on the market for several years,
and a few of the brands available are Fitbit, Jawbone and
Garmin. Each brand carries several options and price ranges
to fit any budget and lifestyle.
Trackers use accelerometer technology to sense user movement
to count steps and miles traveled, flights of steps climbed,
calories burned, heart rate and sleep patterns. They also can
include silent alarms and text/call notification
capabilities, food-tracking, GPS for run-tracking and ways to
connect with friends to challenge one another. The batteries
on most trackers last an average of 5-7 days and can be
charged within an hour or two.
Depending on the brand and style of fitness tracker, the user
can see results at the touch of a button on the device
itself, via a smartphone app or by logging into a computer
for more detailed information.
The Fitbit Flex - which I have been using for more than a
year to motivate me to move more and lose weight - has a
display that lights up with a series of five dots to track
your progress. When you reach your set goal of steps for the
day (mine is set at 10,000 steps - or roughly five miles) the
tracker vibrates, and the dots are all filled in. You also
get a message from the app relaying you have reached your
daily goal and an email with your stats for the week.
As silly as it sounds, I get excited when that little wrist
strap vibrates and lets me know I have reached my goal. On
occasion, I have extended a walk for 10-15 minutes or made
laps around my apartment trying to reach my goal. That little
flashing light and vibration is a huge motivator.
Jennie McMullin, a Fitbit Surge user from Springfield, said,
"In combination with the MyFitnessPal app, I can be a lot
more mindful of calories in/calories out. If I see I'm close
to a round number, I will run in place or pace around. (My
husband Chris) laughs at me jogging before I get into bed
Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine
found in a 2007 study that users increased their physical
activity by more than 2,400 steps a day versus those who did
not wear a pedometer.
"Just over 2,100 steps might not sound like that much, but it
equates to a 27 percent increase in physical activity - which
is really astounding," said Dena Bravata, the study's lead
author and a senior research scientist in medicine.
Trackers can help give people the incentive needed to reach
multiple fitness goals and can be synced with apps like
Weight Watchers and MyFitnessPal to be fully integrated into
a healthy lifestyle for weight loss and physical well-being.
Jennifer Evans, a Fitbit Flex user in Fairfax, said, "I got
it for two reasons: to track the steps I walk at work and to
track the distance I go when I exercise. I have had it for 10
months. I also use the app to track food and calories in
versus out. I have used other apps or tracking systems
before, but having the Fitbit info all in one place has made
it easier for me to stay on track. I also find that setting
step goals or joining in competitions has helped me go just a
bit further than I normally would. I also have taken it on
vacation to judge how my poor eating matches against my
Trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle isn't easy, but with
simple tools like fitness trackers, it can make those goals
seem a little more attainable and are just an arm's length
Rausch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.