I started last summer on a mission to really test out a Fitbit Alta. I was motivated by a few reasons, and the things I learned were both surprising and not surprising at the same time. As the research mounts about the importance of overall daily movement, many of us are looking to incorporating activity trackers. I hope the findings of my experiment can help to provide a little insight into this sector.
My reasons for the test
1) Research. The facts are that we need to workout AND move as much as possible all day. Even as a fitness professional, was I getting enough movement in EACH day? I’d never measured this before.
2) Knowledge to recommend to clients. We are a concierge for our clients at Hyatt Training. Having hands-on knowledge about fitness trackers allows us to recommend them and help our clients achieve their goals.
3) Test out a specific, reasonably priced product.
Like any research project, I needed a baseline and parameters. I decided my test would run from June 1 to Sept. 1. I had Jeremy bring home the calipers (gulp) and for the first time ever he measured my body fat. My goal was 10,000 steps a day. My pie in the sky goal was that I would get these steps in addition to any workout that I did.
Here’s what I learned on that initial test
- Just like food journaling, there are patterns to movement. After a couple weeks I was able to identify certain activities that ensured my 10,000 steps. Running was one of them and walking to and from school to pick up Max was another.
- Being outside leads to WAY more steps. You move a lot more outside than inside. On housebound days I would log 5,000 steps unless I intentionally exercised.
- We probably overestimate our activity. At least I did. I fancied myself pretty active and I feel like I do a decent job of getting the kids moving and keeping them active. But when real measurement came into play, I found out I could do better. Even Jeremy wore it to work one day to see how many steps he got. He’s on his feet and moving all day, but he only logged 7,000 steps during his day at the studio training.
- I would say less than 50% of days I got 10,000 steps without my workout. I’m looking forward to testing this out again once the movement of school pick ups, errands and activities reaches its normal fever pitch this fall. For me, 10,000 steps outside a workout remains pie in the sky.
- I feel better with more activity.
- I feel like ensuring activity (and getting my steps each day) throughout the summer was a cushion for the indiscretions I had with eating, both during the summer on vacation and in these birthday-filled months.
- Because of the trial and what I learned, I’ve added a 20-30 minute hill walk or run on the treadmill on the days I do yoga. I wasn’t getting enough activity on days my workout consisted only of yoga.
As for my test…
I was gardening (a sure fire way to get in lots of steps!) and my Fitbit fell off on August 4th. I looked and looked but it was no where to be found. MY RESEARCH I thought to myself.
I wrote this post initially twenty days after I lost the Fitbit, I was already committed to getting my next activity tracker. And here’s why: I had three weeks without one, and while I had a good idea of my activity level, I really like to KNOW. I like the presence and importance of movement in my whole family when the kids are asking “did you get your fireworks yet?” And I like to meet a goal. It feels good.
Can I recommend a Fitbit Alta?
I cannot. The strap closure came off a couple times while putting on sweatshirts prior to falling off in the garden. But to me, falling off in the garden is inexcusable.
Tracker #2, the Garmin Vivoactive
I purchased a Garmin Vivoactive on Sept. 1 and have been wearing it for two months. It has a proper watch closure. And a little more sophistication for tracking exercise besides walking. So I can use the GPS when I go for runs to know how far I’ve gone and what my pace is. Like with the Alta, you get no steps per se for family bike rides or yoga, but you can at least log them as exercise time.
I really do like the Garmin. It seems like a good option for me personally, and I like the user interface that the Garmin Connect app provides.
Like all good lost things that have been replaced, Gigi came running through the yard a couple days after I started wearing my Garmin screaming that she found my Fitbit. And sure enough there is was. Battery totally dead but still in good working order.
In the name of research, one day I wore both the Garmin and Fitbit on the same wrist. After wearing the Garmin, I felt like the Fitbit was a little more generous with steps. Sure enough, when I reached 10,000 steps on the Fitbit, I was only at 8342 on the Garmin. To me, this is just a data point to take into account. Like any measurement, the important thing is consistency of mechanism.
Where did 10,000 steps come from anyway?
A Japanese walking club in the 1960s used a slogan that translates to “10,000 steps meter”. But the idea resonated and stuck. And for good reason. While there is not yet much longitudinal data supporting health benefits associated with this activity level, we do know that the more active we are, overall, the better. For me, 10,000 is a good number because I’ve learned that is a stretch each day. And after five months of consistent activity at this level, I feel great and am sleeping great.
I read an article this week that said only 10% of people are still wearing their activity trackers after a year. And that they don’t really increase people’s activity in the long term. And I get this. After the bells and whistles wear off, it’s just a watch. To make real, meaningful, longterm change it takes far more than an app or device. Goals, accountability, support and education all need to be part of the equation as well.
Five months later…
While my initial test had a breach in systems, after five months of 10,000 steps most days, my scale weight is down about 5 pounds, and I’m guessing that when I let Jeremy re-caliper me, my body fat will be a bit lower too.
But what’s actually important to me is this: 1) I feel great. 2) I’m sleeping great. 3) If I skip a workout, I most likely won’t get my steps, so I’ve been much more consistent about my daily exercise time. 4) I have a much better idea about how much activity the kids are getting based on where I am with steps.
Lee’s personal training philosophy
Our bodies are incredibly efficient. If there are joints, muscles and functions that we don’t use, our body stops maintaining those areas, putting attention to what we do use. Yoga is a powerful way to keep our joints moving, our muscles at their proper length and fresh, oxygenated, nutrient-rich blood moving throughout our system. These aspects make yoga a tonic of youth.
Hyatt Training is a collective of certified, enthusiastic and innovative personal trainers in Portland, Oregon. To learn more about our personal trainers or to set up a free consultation to see how they could help you, email us at Go@HyattTraining.com.