When my husband first mentioned that he wanted a Fitbit and would I like one too, my response was, "A what?" He explained that a Fitbit is a wireless device that tracks your activity, sort of like an advanced pedometer. Simply put it on your wrist and it syncs with your smart phone to track your calories burned, steps, even your sleep. I wasn't too enthusiastic. It struck me as something akin to a diet—a way to monitor my exercise and then feel guilty whenever I fell short. "I dunno," I responded, uncommitted. He, on the other hand, really wanted one and came home with two shortly thereafter.
As I held the rather ugly slate-blue rubber bracelet in my hand, my mind turned to radiation: Would this thing emit radio waves like a cell phone? My husband assured me that its wireless transmitter didn't emit enough of anything to do any damage. A web search confirmed what he said. I decided to give it a try.
Three months later and I'm hooked. Rather than making me feel guilty about lack of exercise, it serves as a motivator. The motivation comes from wanting to hit my daily goal of 10,000 steps. This number, which represents about 5 miles of walking, is generally agreed upon as a healthy daily walking goal. On average, most people hit about 3,000 steps a day.
Conveniently we got our Fitbits just before leaving for a two-week beach vacation, where we walked a lot. A gentle tap on the bracelet lets you know roughly how many steps you've taken that day. As dusk hit each day on vacation, my husband and I would often check our steps and then take a walk if we needed more steps to hit 10,000. We often hit 15,000 or even more. When I did fall short, instead of making me feel badly, a low number of steps made me want to hit the pavement.
When we returned home, I realized how little I walk in my suburban lifestyle. The Fitbit doesn't monitor activities like riding a bike or kettlebell training—my two primary workouts. So without a concerted effort to walk, I can easily only hit 3,000 steps or so in my daily life.
Determined to keep hitting 10k steps each day, my husband and I are continuing with our vacation-level walking as much as we can. Throughout the summer we've begun getting up at 6:30 in the morning a few days each week to walk about 3 miles round trip to a café for coffee. On weekends we walk instead of drive to neighborhood restaurants. Walking has become addictive—it's effortless, relaxing, and quality time together.
Although the bracelet isn't exactly a fashion statement I'd choose to make, it's lightweight and totally waterproof—I've swum with it in the ocean and in pools. It only needs to be charged every seven days or so. My husband, who isn't a great sleeper, uses his to track his sleep. (He often discovers he's slept better than he thought he did.)
And, no, this isn't a plug for Fitbit. There are several other wireless activity trackers on the market, such as the Jawbone UP and the Basis band. We opted for the Fitbit because of the good reviews it got and the price, $100.
Wearing an activity tracker brings me a surprising awareness of my physical self. It serves as a mirror of my current level of the primal activity that we all need in order to be healthy: walking. It doesn't promote shame or guilt, as I feared, because I sincerely enjoy walking. When I see I haven't hit my steps, I don't feel dread, but rather excited that I have an excuse to get out and walk.