October 15, 2014

My Fitbit Obsession and Hiking Addiction

Over this past summer, I got hooked on hiking. Of course, when you are living in a place where all you have to do is walk out your front door and be enveloped in the verdant alpine glory of Park City, Utah this is something that can happen quite easily. My family and I relocated to what I deem to be a slice of heaven for a good part of our summer. I think the only days that I didn't hike the trails were the ones when it was pouring rain. But there is another reason that I became so addicted to hiking and movement in general. I bought a Fitbit.

The Fitbit became my personal trainer offering constant encouragement to get me moving. As a full time resident of Los Angeles who spends way too much time sitting behind the wheel of my car, my life was becoming more and more sedentary. The Fitbit sets a goal for you to take 10,000 steps each day and I was lucky if I was getting in 7000 even after an hour workout on an elliptical machine. No wonder I was having trouble losing undesired pounds. Aside from my daily workout, the only real movements my body made on a regular basis involved my right foot moving from the gas to the break and back again while I sat in miserable traffic. Once I clipped the Fitbit One onto my brassiere the obsession began. I started off by driving to the beach to walk on the bluffs above the ocean-7865 steps. Then to avoid the horror of sitting in traffic trying to cross the 405 freeway I started to go to the park and walk around and around and around and around the supposedly 5/8 mile circumference-8500 steps. The Fitbit will send you an encouraging text when you are close to 10,000 steps. It encourages you to keep going and find ways to achieve your 10,000 goal steps by just moving around the house, parking farther away from the entrance to the grocery store, and making that trip up the stairs that you might have considered doing later. The Fitbit One also tracks flights of stairs and expects you to climb 10 each day.

When I got out of LA and into the mountains, I was not only able to meet my goals but to exceed them. One of the great things about this little device is that it not only prompts you with texts to reach your goal, but pumps you up when you have already met it. At around 13,000 steps, you might get a text telling you that you are an over achiever. At 20,000 steps in a day you get a special badge commemorating your achievement. When you climb great heights on your hikes, it is tracked as stairs and you get fun badges for cumulative feet like the hot air balloon, helicopter, skydiver, 747, and even rocket. All of that positive reinforcement only feeds the addiction. A 2 mile hike to the top of the mountain-99 floors. A moderate hike not quite to the top and back-46 floors, about 15,000 steps, and close to 7 miles. You cannot help but to start competing with yourself and attempting to better your best. I would head out on the mountain every day with water, a few of my Almond and Goji Berry Trail Treats, and the intention of getting in a minimum of 12,000 steps, 4-8 miles, and 50 flights of stairs. Fortunately for the sake of my feet and body, I would often have limited windows of time to overindulge in this madness as I still had to shuttle my kids around to camps, play dates, and activities. Even on those days I would get in a 3.5 mile hike and a couple of 1 mile walks with the dogs-14,000 steps.

I have been back in Los Angeles and confines of my car for a couple of months now. I no longer have the time to take long indulgent hikes and my energy is zapped by reality, but I have found a special place close to where I live to take the walks and hikes I yearn for. The views are nothing by comparison to the mountains, but it is a welcoming sanctuary in this crazy traffic filled city. My days are made better by the sycamore shaded streets, hiking trails, and the lake that is well inhabited by quacking ducks and turtles. My only complaint is that early fall brings the hottest weather to Los Angeles and it is yet to cool down. I find myself setting my alarm to get up early on weekends so I can get out there and clock those steps before it gets unbearably hot. I am hopeful that cooler weather will be here soon along with a season filled with a lot of drought relieving rain.

I know this post seems like an advertisement for the Fitbit. It is not. I am merely obsessed with this thing and I felt the need to share as I honestly think it is the best thing I have bought for myself in ages. Wearing it has inspired me to be more active and I am healthier as a result.

Note that I chose to buy the Fitbit One which attaches to your belt, pants, bra, or shirt. Before I made the purchase, I studied several articles about the device. The bracelet version which is the Fitbit Flex is a good one for people that are concerned about losing such a small unit, but it is not as accurate as the Fitbit One. The Fitbit Flex does not count stairs and in most studies it tends to overestimate your steps and mileage. In a side by side comparison of a 3 mile walk, the Fitbit One underestimated the distance by about 2/10 of a mile and the Fitbit Flex overestimated the distance by 1.2 miles. The Fitbit Flex seems to also calculate bumps in the road when driving as steps as well general arm movement. I use an app that is an exercise tracker when I hike or walk that triangulates my location on a map. The Fitbit One generally calculates my overall distance as less than the actual distance by about 10%. To me, that is better than making me think I am doing 25% more.

Categories: Food for Thought