Activity Trackers 2.0 | Can I Improve My Health Using A Fitbit?

fitbit activity tracker

Activity trackers and I haven’t always gotten along. I’ve had a Jawbone, which was terrible; a Vivofit, which was good but not hugely useful at the time; and a Nike Fuelband – that was more of a toy to compete with my friends than anything else. A year and a half ago, I said myself:

“I think activity bands are good for encouraging mainly sedentary people to hit movement targets”

Having always had active jobs (from a stable yard hand to retail assistant) I never dreamed I’d be one of those sedentary people – but now, seven months into my desk job, that’s exactly what I am. Sure, I train for around an hour and a half most days, but those hours being seated day after day can decrease metabolism and have also been linked with diabetes, cancer, and premature death. Eek.

I’m starting to feel the ill affects of being sat down, from slowly putting on weight to even tighter hip flexors than before. But what can I do about it? Do I just accept that now I have a desk job I should be sedentary?

fitbit activity tracker

In steps my newest activity band – the Fitbit Charge HR* – and connected wellness app, Active Health. Initially I chose this activity band as it has constant heartrate tracking, so you have a log of your heartrate all day and also more intensely during exercise (just hold the button down to indicate you’re starting a training session). Whilst it’s cool to see your HR throughout the day, you can’t use it for HR training as it’s not constantly visible on your wrist.

Anyway, when you begin on the Active Health site, you add in your details, sync other devices and apps, then you’re encouraged to take the Health Age test. It calculated mine as 27, which isn’t bad considering I’m 30. There’s a couple of things I can’t change like my family’s health history – but the calculator did point out that I could improve my health age simply by getting up at least once an hour when sitting.

fitbit activity tracker

There’s a few studies that have looked at how dangerous sitting can be. One piece of research included a massive 800,000 people and compared those who sat the longest to those who sat the least. The results were pretty shocking – it found that the people who sat the longest had a:

  • 112% increase in risk of diabetes
  • 147% increase in cardiovascular events
  • 90% increase in death caused by cardiovascular events
  • 49% increase in death from any cause

Grim, but unsurprising, seeing as our ancestors probably spent hours out hunting or seeking water – plus they didn’t have televisions to sit in front of for hours on end.

fitbit activity tracker

Improving the amount you move around each day is easier said than done. I used to scoff at those who couldn’t hit 10,000 steps a day, as most days I’d get through around 22,000 steps – but now at work, I can be so engrossed in something that hours have gone by without me even moving, and I wouldn’t even notice. Now I’m wearing my Fitbit constantly, I’m aware of how little I’m moving around as I’ll check up on my step counter will be rather on the low side.

I’m now aiming for 5,000 steps by the end of my work day, hitting 10,000 including CrossFit at night. Even breaking up bouts of sitting with just one to two minutes of activity can help, according to a report, so walking to the kitchen to get water each hour will help (plus increase the amount of water I drink!). I can’t help but click the buttons on the Fitbit throughout the day so I can start setting hourly targets to reach that too. Fitbit has its own app, which I log into daily to see how I’m getting on, and the Active Health app also connects to it so I get a broader view of my health and progression.

There’s a saying by McKinsey: “what you measure you can manage“. Strictly it relates to business, but it also works for life in general, too. By measuring the amount of movement I’m doing throughout the day I can act upon it and improve it, thus improving my overall health, too.

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3 Comments

  1. January 10, 2016 / 11:24 pm

    I’m in the same boat! Desk jobs are awful for seeing how little you move – when I was using my tracker regularly I was always getting much more movement at the weekends, and only around 5k during the week. Maybe I should start wearing mine again! I’ll add you on FitBit if I do! Oh and the other benefit of getting up to get water every hour is that it will encourage more walking by the increased number of loo trips you’ll need haha!

  2. January 17, 2016 / 7:52 pm

    I’m so tempted to get a fitbit! Two of my colleagues got them for Christmas and have a daily competition for who can do the most steps haha. I think I’d be shocked by how little I actually do…