Tuesday, August 11, 2015

FitBit Mania

Pres. Obama with his FitBit

Dear George,
Katja bought me a FitBit for Xmas last December.  I didn’t even know what it was, but her sister Ami had told her I would absolutely love it.  The box gave a website address rather than including an instruction booklet, and, being phobic about new technology, I put it in a pile of papers on my desk and forgot about it.  When our son J visited in July, I remembered the FitBit and asked him to help me activate it.  It wasn’t that hard after all, and, before I knew it, I was FitBitting left and right.

A FitBit is a band that you wear on your wrist, and it hooks up in some mysterious WiFi fashion with your computer.  It acts as an exercise monitor.  It counts how many steps you take, the stairs you climb, minutes of activity, and calories burned.  And it downloads all this info into the computer where it’s summed up in the form of tables and graphs.  When you exceed your goals for the day (e.g., 10,000 steps), FitBit vibrates on your wrist and enthusiastically proclaims CHAMP! on your computer screen.  Frankly, it was a thrill the first time I saw that, and FitBit’s praise still provides the emotional highlights of my day.  

Even more remarkable than tabulating steps and stairs, FitBit monitors your sleep activity.  It records when you went to bed, when you fell asleep, how many times you woke up in the night, how restlessness you were, when you awoke, and when you got up.  From all this FitBit computes a measure of “sleep efficiency.”  My score was 99% last night, very reassuring for someone who imagines himself an insomniac.  

For a mere $49.95 a year, you can also sign up for FitBit Premium.  This allows you to compare your scores with the umpteen million other FitBit users around the world, and you can break it down by gender and/or by age category.  That’s so good.  I wouldn’t say that I’m overly competitive, but I certainly want to be in the top 10 percent of FitBit exercisers the over forty age category.  Consequently FitBit has altered my exercise patterns.  While I’d gotten into the habit of taking the free shuttle bus for my one-mile trip to the university, now I’ve gone back to walking.  I’m more reliable about taking our sheepdog Mike on an eight-block stroll each morning, and I’ve walked half a mile to the library nearly every day this week.  I also climb the six floors to my office at the university.  I just really want those FitBit points (more than cheese and crackers or red wine).
I was talking with my friend Royce about FitBit the other day.  She’s an ardent dog walker and likes to hike in the forest.  I was certain that FitBit would be right up her alley.  Here is how our conversation went: 

Dave (D):  This FitBit thing is really amazing,  You would be so interested in it.
Royce (R):  (laughs)  Why would I be interested in it?
D:  It keeps track of everything.  How many steps you’ve taken.  How many minutes you’ve been active.  How many calories you’ve burned.
R:  I already know how active I’ve been.  I don’t need a FitBit to tell me that.  
D:  But you don’t know exactly how active you’ve been.  And a FitBit tells you if you’re meeting your goals.
R:  I already know if I’m meeting my goals.  And I know when I’m not meeting my goals.     
D:  Also it keeps track of your sleep.  How many times you wake up during the night.  How restless you are.
R:  David, you are so silly.  I know all this.  I don’t need a machine to tell me these things.   
D:  But the FitBit keeps a record of all these things every day of the week.  And you can compare yourself with millions of other people. 
R:  I’ve got more than enough to think about in my life.  I’m happy you like your FitBit, but I would never use that in a thousand years.  
D:  Do you think you would like to try out my FitBit for just one day?
R:  No.  Absolutely not.   You are incorrigible.   

I still hope Royce will see the light.  In the meantime, I need to get to work on my FitBit records.  Their home page allows you to keep a food diary and a workout diary, and I’ll get those started momentarily.  You can also correspond with other FitBit users and share healthy living tips.  Maybe I’m overly optimistic, but I’d say FitBit’s going to revolutionize the world!

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