As a sports technology researcher, I have a drawer full of gadgets for measuring sports performance, many are self-made but there are quite a few commercial ones in the mix as well. These include cycle computers, watches and various sensors as well. Sometimes they are leftovers from old projects, sometimes something to evaluate or something we have been building. Anyways the latest is a Fitbit (see fitbit.com). I bought one after hearing Stefan Litzenberger talk about it at the most recent Sports Engineering conference in Lowell. Like all good technologies it looked deceptively simple and easy to use, so I forked out the ~$100 to find out more. It is a neat unit, came through mail order in a day or so and without reading the manual (Yep I have the Y chromosomal curse) it was up and running in no time. It counts steps and makes some assumptions to come up with distance and calories like pretty much every other advanced pedometer type device on the market. It looks to perform better than some and worse than others. Interestingly it counts flights of stairs using an altitude (pressure sensor)…nice idea. One would have thought though that it might check to see if you were walking or not, rather than count my trip in the elevator as an activity.
So what’s the take home for me, well I have used it every day for a week (more than can be said for many other devices), I think this is in part because it clips on my pocket and stays there, it sync’s automatically, it brings out some of that competitive spirit in me and I’m also curious as to how my lifestyle matches up to the much vaunted 10, 000 steps programme. See http://www.10000steps.org.au/library/why-10000steps-a-day/
So how do I stack up, well apart from the slightly inane “you climbed the statue of liberty today’ email messages, the milestones (sic) of the first 50km etc.. are kinda neat to see in my inbox. Turns out that my average day is close to the 10, 000 steps – probably due to parking the car at childcare and walking up the Fitbit measured 20 flights of stairs and back to work each day. Weekends and on Thursdays (when I play house dad) Mr 2 and Mr 4 push me well over the 12, 000 steps without out doing too much. Practising my Aikido (twice a week) seems to bring me an extra 3,000 steps or so, but I’m fairly sure that getting up after a body slam is worth more than just a few steps (I think the sensors rings a few times though…like my head on a big one). My wife took the Fitbit to Zumba one night, being a hip mounted device she racked up 5, 000 steps in little over 1/2 an hour…..shake it baby!!
Fitbit is also social-media integrated to bring out the competitive spirit with your peers, my only trouble is the only person I know with one is Stefan, and every morning of the conference I met him coming in after what looked to be a fairly serious morning run….umm yuh like I’m gonna show him what I’m doing every day driving my desk and a few reams of paper around!