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I bought a FitBit Flex about a month ago. I seemed to be the only person I knew who wasn’t walking around with some kind of tracker on, so now I’ve joined the club. I’m not doing the FastDiet right now and not training for any races until the end of the month, so I needed some kind of motivation to get me moving. NYC in the summer is hot and sticky. It’s so tempting to just stay inside all day and not move. That’s basically what I did last summer. I want this summer to be different.
I’ve been through the tracker thing before, several years ago, with a device that counted my steps and not much else. I liked having the feedback – I found it motivational – but this particular device clipped on to a belt loop or waistband. I was always dropping it, forgetting to put it on, etc. I knew that for a tracker to work this time, it would have to be wearable. I narrowed my search to devices that I could wear on my wrist.
After doing a ton of research on the different trackers out there, I chose the FitBit Flex – not because I thought it was the very best one, but because there would be at least a few new/improved trackers out in the next year, and I knew that I’d want to upgrade, and the Flex was only $97 on Amazon. I figured I could use it for a year or so and get my money’s worth.
This isn’t a review of the Flex – I’ll do that in another post. It’s more to answer the question, will tracking your steps get you to move more?
The Flex starts you out with a daily goal of 10,000 steps – a number that is commonly thrown around as a good goal. It’s up to you if you want to increase or decrease that goal.
In the month or so that I’ve been wearing the Flex (minus the three days when my battery was dead and I couldn’t find my charger!!!), I’ve averaged 9,565 steps per day.
This was pretty predictable. Living in NYC, I walk a lot. Basically, any day that I leave my house at least once, I shouldn’t have too much trouble getting to 10,000 steps. And since I’ve had this thing on my wrist, I’ve found myself helping the steps along in small ways, like pacing on the subway platform or taking the long way wherever I’m going.
Sometimes after dinner I’ll have to take a short walk to get to my goal, but most days nothing major. There were several nights when it was too dark and late to walk outside, so I walked around my house, making laps around my first floor, for fifteen minutes or so to get all of my steps in. So there you go, on those days the Flex was definitely altering my behavior.
I’m the kind of person who does well with schedules, goals, and machines telling me what to do. I like seeing the little smiley face on the FitBit website calling me a champ when I meet my goal. If you’re like that too, then this will probably work for you.
If you’re competitive with other people, this will also help you. The FitBit gives you the option to become friends with other FitBit users, and (assuming they’ve chosen to share this info) you can see how you rank amongst your friends at any given time. I was at the top of my friends list for several weeks!
Falling TOO Short
But then there are the days when I don’t leave the house – I have no errands to run, I have no children to pick up from anywhere, I have no appointments. Those days are usually very productive work-wise, but I get to dinner time and I’ve only done 3,000 or so steps! It’s one thing to head out for a 20 minute walk to complete my goal. It’s quite another to head out for a two hour walk to make up for a slothful day.
The FitBit only seems to motivate me when the goal is within reasonable reach. When I know that I’m not going to have time to get to 10,000, I just kind-of give up and I don’t try to do any kind of extra at all.
So, I now know that I need to pace myself on those days when I’m planning on working a lot. I usually know when those days are coming, they’re not a surprise, so I need to stop acting like I’m automatically going to be fairly active every day.
I also want to pay more attention to my weekly average than to my daily goal, so that doing extra will seem worth it no matter how high or low my numbers. If I’m already at 18,000, why walk a few extra blocks if I’m not paying attention to my average? And if I’m really low, I’m hoping this kind of thinking will help me to make at least some effort, even if I know I’ll fall short of my goal.
The FitBit makes this fairly easy, since it shows my rolling 7-day total right on the dashboard.
10,000 Is Not Enough For Me
The other thing that the Flex has taught me is that 10,000 steps a day simply isn’t enough for me. If I were just trying to maintain my current weight and fitness level, then maybe 10,000 would cut it. But I still have a lot of weight to lose, and obviously my own status quo isn’t enough for me to lose weight – my baseline number of steps is just higher than other people’s. So this morning I upped my daily goal to 12,000 steps. We’ll see how that goes, and if it makes a difference.
That means a weekly total of 84,000 steps. My highest weekly total so far has been about 71,000, so this will definitely be a challenge!