Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Fitness Tracking

I'm not a fitness tracking person, nor am I ever willing to spend the kind of money fitness trackers ask for. However, my father had a stroke last year, and one of the therapies involved was simply trying to walk 10,000 steps a day. There was no chance he could use a fitness band, either, but I bought him a pedometer. It was the Ozeri tri-axis pedometer, so that he could wear it around his neck. It's a simple setup: you set the clock on the pedometer, and it resets to zero every morning. If you stop and look at the device, it tells you how many steps it's taken. There are a few other buttons for paging through the last few days of data, but that's it. Simple, easy, and effective. So much so that I bought another for my mom (they come in 2 colors), and then was inspired to try out an ancient pedometer I had sitting in a drawer somewhere by replacing the batteries.

Believe it or not, I bought that in the pre-GPS days to help determine hiking distance. It worked but I never calibrated it enough to be useful in that fashion and abandoned it when GPS units became reasonably priced. It clips to your belt, and counts steps.

One thing that it doesn't work for is cycling. Cycling makes it go crazy with step counts. Another thing that makes it go crazy is Bowen. He saw it and wore it for an hour and the step counts also jumped. In this case, however, I think he actually was taking that many steps! This is one situation where the smartphone app Moves is significantly better, since it knows when you're cycling, driving, running, or walking. But for obvious reasons, I don't always walk around the house with my phone in my pocket, so Moves doesn't capture all the data a pedometer does.

In any case, I didn't bother with any goals for step counts. I just wanted to see how much I was moving each day. In practice, however, wearing a pedometer makes you more willing to run errands like taking the trash out. You're also more likely to deliberately park further if you're driving so you can walk a bit more. That has a significant impact, so I'm less likely to dismiss the fitness tracking craze (though I still wouldn't pay $100+ for one).

In any case, it's fun but I suspect it's also a matter of time before I lose my device or just get tired of wearing it. When that happens I probably won't replace it: I was happy to give up a watch after starting to carry a cell phone, and see no reason to go back.

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