How A Fitbit Is Helping Me Develop Healthy Habits
Like many people, I presume, I struggle to maintain healthy habits. At various points in my life I have dealt with typical health issues associated with a mid-Western United States diet. I eat too much junk, fast food and not enough vegetables. But when my wife began a new eating plan last summer -- and bought a Fitbit to keep her on target with exercise -- I finally decided to buy a Fitbit to see if it would help me become healthier.
But, the $150 price tag was too much for me. It felt overpriced for what I was getting so I waited until Black Friday, bought it online for $119 and called it an early Christmas present. I've been using it regularly ever since and must admit it is addictive in a good way. It has a few cons, which I list below but, for me, the pros outweigh them.
I have a dog so I was already in the habit of walking when I bought my Fitbit. For the past two or three years, I've walked 20-30 minutes every day, rain or snow, cold or hot. Although I never logged the minutes or miles walked, I presumed I walked a 15-minute mile so I was getting close to 15 miles in a week -- or so I thought.
My eating habits, though were poor. They consisted of drinking a lot of Mountain Dew, eating junk food (sweets) 'balanced' by a semi-healthy meal in the evening. I drank little to no water on a daily basis and I paid for my poor health habits. They cost me a gall bladder and I take blood pressure and cholesterol medication.
Post Fitbit Habits
Before using the Fitbit, about seven months ago I adopted a modified version of my wife's eating plan, which basically meant I increased my consumption of vegetables and proteins. I did not drop Mountain Dew from my menu until the first of the year (and despite drinking it for 40+ years, it wasn't as hard to quit as I thought it would be). I started taking multi-vitamins, minerals and fish oil. My water consumption is growing (currently around 16 ounces a day) and now my primary drink is Propel-type flavored waters.
Over the past three to four months my walking habits changed to mirror my wife's habits. I now walk about three to four miles a day, five days a week. I easily walk 20 miles weekly.
What The Fitbit Offers
Several versions of the Fitbit are available, but I went with the HR version because as a 50-something, I am interested in my heart rate. Less expensive Fitbits do not include the heart rate monitor. The more expensive models add GPS tracking and a few other bells and whistles which did not interest me.
Here is what my device automatically tracks:
- Heart Rate: This is a great tool for determining if your exercise routine is taxing enough to really give your heart a workout. Since it tracks, and graphs (in the app), your heart rate continuously, you can instantly know your resting heart rate. You can also see if your exercise routine pushed you into the fat-burning zone.
- Steps: Several health organizations suggest that the daily minimum steps required for good health is 10,000. With the touch of a button, you can know the amount of steps you have walked in your day.
- Miles: Fitbit also tracks miles for those who prefer to know how many miles they walked in a day.
- Levels: This tracks how many floors you have climbed in a day. If you work in a multi-floor building, bypassing the elevator can add up quickly on your monitor.
- Calories Burned: Based on the steps and floors, Fitbit calculates how much energy you have consumed in a 24-hour period.
It also has a watch function.
Pairing It With The App
The real strength of the electronic device is the accompanying app. Although the Fitbit gives you real-time information, it is the app that allows you to see your progress over time. The app also adds a couple more functions to increase your healthy habits:
- Sleep Monitor: I have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, so this is another important feature for me. I set a goal for 8 hours of sleep each night and the Fitbit monitors my sleep, recording when I am asleep, restless and awake. This allows me to determine sleep patterns so I can adjust and improve the quality of sleep.
- Water and Food Intake: With the app, you can manually input your daily food or water consumption. I use the water segment since I am trying to increase the amount of my daily intake. They have a couple of icons -- various water battles -- to simplify the input process. By clicking an icon, you do not need to type the ounces consumed, the app will do it for you.
- Track Your Weight: Input your current weight and then at intervals (determined by you) input your weight, and the app will track your progress.
- Active Minutes: The app will total your daily active minutes. It stores the information and you can view a graph to see your activity levels over a longer period of time.
Pros And Cons
My wife and daughter have used their devices for more than six months, I have used mine about a month, and I'll admit I'm hooked. It has worked so well in fact that I see very few downsides to the product.
- Battery lasts about 5 days between charging
- Sleek, non-invasive look
- Fitbit (and app) are easy to learn
- Quick setup
- Non-invasive alert notifies you when 10,000 steps have been walked
- Not waterproof (splash proof)
- Have to tweak settings for better accuracy. This is especially true concerning steps walked. I place my Fitbit on my non-dominant wrist, but tell the device it is my dominant hand to improve accuracy.
Do You Use A Fitbit Type Device?
What It Will Not Do
It will not change you.
It is simply a tracking device so if you are not motivated to change your health habits, it is not the solution. It will not motivate you to exercise, and it will not be a driving force in change. However, if you have decided to make some healthy changes, then the device can provide positive reinforcement by creating a track record.
This works really well for people who love stats and want an electronic record of what they have accomplished. I am goal-oriented, so it's a perfect fit for me. I like browsing through the collected data and charts to view how much I have improved -- or where I faltered -- over the past few weeks.
I was a reluctant buyer and I'm still not sure I would pay $150 for the Fitbit. Although, it appears well built, I am curious about the longevity of the product and the battery. But, if it last a year or longer, and I successfully alter my health habits, then its worth the $12 or less a month it costs.
Also, after using it a year my habits would be established. Replacing it would be less of a concern, for me, since I view the device simply as a tool for creating good habits.