I HAD NO grand plan when I got my Fitbit, my first-ever pedometer. I’m not usually into fitness gadgets, but some otherwise sane friends had become obsessed with their Fitbits.
Their obsession rubbed off; I decided to try one out. The only plan was to wear one for a couple of weeks and see what happened.
The Fitbit, which syncs to your computer and smartphone, comes preset with daily goals for 10,000 steps per day and 25 sets of stairs. Teaching yoga keeps me on my feet, and I also do something active at least five days a week, so I wasn’t that concerned about hitting 10,000 steps. At first.
My first day with the Fitbit Force (the higher-end model) was admittedly a doozy. I taught four yoga classes that day, and thanks to the Fitbit, I found out I walk roughly 1,000-1,500 steps for each yoga class I teach. Between running to studios and a couple of meetings, I hit 11,002 steps my first day, or 4.52 miles. (When you reach the goals, you get the Fitbit equivalent of fireworks complete with buzzing and flashing lights.)
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This is easy, I thought smugly.
The next day, after a full day of teaching, meetings and other work, by 8 p.m. I was exhausted and on the couch. I looked at my Fitbit — 8,000 steps. Dangit Fitbit, I thought, how can I be off by 2,000 steps?
I soon learned an active job didn’t guarantee 10,000 steps. One day, I barely reached 3,000. Another, I went for a hike and hit 19,000 steps and 119 floors. After two weeks, my daily average was 8,724 steps. Almost all days included something active: yoga, CrossFit, salsa, walks, among others.
As you might expect, the Fitbit has some limitations to its ability to gauge activity. There’s an “active minutes” function that supposedly helps you reach the recommended 20 to 30 active minutes per day.
I had a hard time figuring out what the Fitbit was measuring. Thirty minutes on a trampoline garnered me about three active minutes. I got mildly peeved when I saw it doesn’t do well tracking yoga, pushups or burpees, either in steps or active minutes. (You can add those activities yourself on the website or on your phone.)
The most effective way to reach my daily walking goal was — surprise, surprise — to walk. If I took a leisurely 20-minute neighborhood walk, I almost always reached 10,000 steps. If I ran, I definitely got my Fitbit fireworks.
There are other tricks to squeezing in more steps during the day, like getting up to change the channel on the television. Cleaning always gave me a good bump.
The Fitbit also will monitor sleep, telling you how many awake or restless minutes you had each night. I liked seeing if my energy was correlated to how well I slept.
The Fitbit makes it easy to see progress throughout the day, and I liked having real data on activity. It was easy to predict low step days — they were the ones spent on the computer.
You also can set nutrition goals and track calories burned and food consumed.
I mostly liked tracking my steps. The data proved what I suspected: I have some sedentary days, and those are the ones I focus on adding in extra activity.
The Fitbit is basically a fitness diary, and a useful one at that. If you really want to see what’s happening in your fitness universe, strap one on.
Nicole Tsong teaches yoga at studios around Seattle. Read her blog at papercraneyoga.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.