Just over twelve months ago I invested in a fit bit and Aria Scale. There has been so much media lately around wearables such as the fit bit and apple watch (coinciding with its launch). Often the articles focus on the downfalls of each device, the battery life, the accuracy of measurement etc. For me, none of this really matters. People ask me quite frequently why I bought the apple watch, so I'd love to share with you in this blog what my experience has been for both my time with the fit bit and few weeks with the apple watch.
Normally I would describe myself as someone who is generally active and loves exercising. However, there comes a time in everyone's life when its a daily struggle to maintain the balance. Whether it be work hours, social demands, family commitmentss or just the hours needed to upkeep your life, time is precious and sometimes there isn't enough to allocate to fitness.
I'm a believer of two phrases in life
- Everything happens for a reason.
- Time is all we have.
For this blog, I'm going to focus on the later, time.
For the 2012 and 2013 I was involved in the very intense study of completing my masters. In the final semester in particular, I threw myself whole-heartedly into studying and abandoned all aspirations of keeping fit. The occasional hockey match on a Saturday gave my legs a run around and maybe a swim during the week. Beyond that there just wasn't time.
So it came to that time when I desperately needed to regain my balance and prioritise my time. Without that balance I was struggling to get the most out of every day.
Beginning of 2014 I really wanted to focus on my fitness. I cut back my work hours by 3 hours per week in the hope of making time for this change. But making the time and using it productively are two different things.
I remember coming home on many nights after work at 7.30pm and sitting down to a lovely warm dinner and few glasses of wine. Sounds lovely doesn't it? It was. Except that it had almost become a daily habit as a means of decompressing from a days work. The only problem with this form of relaxation is that for me, I quickly loose conditioning, feel fat, and get lethargic.
One day my husband encouraged me to go for a walk after dinner and I replied "I've just worked for 10 hours and I'm just too tired". He then asked me "are you mentally tired or physically?" This was a valid question. I felt physically tired but couldn't actually account for doing much physical activity. In search of an answer to this question we invested in a fit bit and aria scale.
My goals were to determine:
- How much exercise I actually do every day?
- How well do I sleep?
- What is happening to my weight when I go through periods of feeling heavier & lighter?
- How long does it take for improvements in diet and exercise to reflect changes in the way my clothes fit and in my weight?
Firstly, exercise, the days I was more tired were the days I walked <5000 steps. The days I spent longer hours at work I felt far more tired at the end of the day and also had achieved far less exercise. Making time during lunch on my longer days to go for a 30 minute walk, or walking to and from work became a quick and easy solution to this problem and I felt less fatigued almost immediately.
Secondly, my weight. Aside from the 2kg change that regularly occurs within my monthly cycle, I felt heavier a few days after overeating on consecutive meals. In contrast, it takes my body about two weeks to reflect healthier habit changes and feel lighter. This is not to say I eat particularly badly and I've never been one for tracking calories, but have to admit that I love chocolate, chips, coffee and alcohol, and these 'treats' can easily be consumed on a daily basis, which for my body, is not good.
How much exercise should I do every day and what was I achieving?
I set myself the challenge of 10,000 steps a day (the recommended starting point for a fit bit user). One downfall of the fit bit it is doesn't measure my yoga or swimming. So I created a habit chart. On the chart I documented 3 things: the amount and type of exercise (in black), if I ate chips/chocolate (blue), and if I drank Alcohol (red). Exercise got a description while the foods got a tick or cross. These were the three habits I wanted to be more conscious of. Sometimes I added coffee to the chart too (if I felt I was going to through periods of indulgence). It was an easy way to make myself accountable for each day. At the end of the week I would tally up the minutes of exercise and hope I reached 150-300. 150 minutes being the minimum recommended amount of moderate intensity exercise required per week to prevent chronic disease.
The habit chart lasted for 6 months until I was regularly reaching my daily/weekly goals:
- 10,000 steps a day or 30 minutes moderate intensity exercise
- Chocolate <4 days a week
- Alcohol <3 days a week
WHAT HAPPENS TO MY WEIGHT?
Then I correlated this chart with what was happening with my weight fluctuations and was happy to find that as my habits became more consistent, I was fluctuating between a 75-77kg, very rarely above and very rarely below. I came to realise that my body is really comfortable in this range, and that if I really want to be lighter, I need to ramp up exercise to 300 minutes and cut alcohol and chocolate to 2 days a week. It was wonderful to feel accountable, motivated and in control. What goes in must come out!
I loved the fit bit because it was easy to wear, comfortable, had a great battery life, and I could share my progress with my friends and family. More importantly it opened my eyes to the fact that fatigue is not normally physical for me, and that exercising more frequently makes me feel more energised than tired. The weekly email updates telling me about my progress were an added bonus. Honestly, the days I got an email saying I had not achieved my goals made me so sad and was the only motivator I needed to kick it up a gear.
The other great side of fit bit is a monitor of over-activity. I injured my hip last year and it has took a long time to get back to regular walking and running and I needed to start at 1000 steps a day and slowly build. Although I wasn't reaching my goal of 10,000 steps, I could accurately measure if I was overdoing my walking and tried to keep my progressions to a 10% increase each week. Some days I would overdo it and then next day feel more sore, but looking at my fit bit was a great way to understand where my physical tolerances lay.
How well do I sleep?
The final bit of fit bit, which I no longer use, is the sleep monitor. This was amazing for me. I was waking some mornings more tired that others and never really knew how well I'd slept, how many times I woke up and if I'd had the occasional sleep walk. But fit bit could help me work that out. Below is a night where I monitored my sleep last year and it shows me how well I slept. This again was another reminder to keep tabs on all aspects of my health; diet, sleep, and exercise.
WHY DID I SWITCH TO AN APPLE WATCH?
After writing such a positive review on the fit bit (and it really changed so many habits for me) you might now be wondering why I made the switch to the Apple watch? In no particular order...
- I'm inquisitive about the behavioural change this wearable will have on my health outcomes.
- My watch broke and I really need to be able to tell the time.
- I wanted to try something new.
- I wear both my watch and fit bit on my left wrist, so having a device that measures both is handy.
Only having it for a few weeks here is what I can say:
- It is so comfortable. The best watch I've ever worn.
- I love being able to tell the time again.
- The notifications are equally as fantastic and distracting. I don't usually check my emails and phone as regularly as I will now check to see what notification comes into the watch.
- The weather and date (which is how I've customised it) is really handy in my profession.
- Answering phone calls on my watch is a fun party trick :)
- The activity monitor - my favourite part!
I love that I can input my spin cycle classes, monitor my yoga and easily sync the information to put towards my daily goal of 30 minutes exercise, standing once every hour, and burning 750 calories (again just my personal customisation).
The reminders that tell you to stand up after one hour sitting are very addictive. I feel bad if I don't comply with my watches suggestion and feel even more satisfied if I do comply and receive a message of positive feedback 60 seconds later.
After yoga, spin class or a run I have really enjoyed viewing my heart rate on my phone. It is a such a good measure to compare to my perceived rate of excursion. I am also surprised to see how high I can get my heart rate... its a lovely way to measure my cardiovascular fitness.
The next phase for me is to link this data to my scale and to see if the watch can replace my habit chart, help track improvements in my fitness, and lead to an increased and sustained motivation to exercise.
If you've read this far in my blog and you're thinking "Why bother?" I'd reply that "Everyone is different and responds differently to motivation and feedback."
Personally, I love positive reinforcement but also I love doing things my own way. Both these wearables have empowered me with that. At the end of the day I want to feel satisfied with how I spent my time, I want to feel that I've learnt something new, and taken care of my body.
The main message that both these wearables have taught and reinforced to me is that:
- All we have is time - its my choice how I use it.
- I am accountable for my own health.
- There are no excuses only choices.
- If I don't wish to reach my daily fitness goals IT'S OK, but there is always a reason for this which I need to both accept and be happy with.
- Paying attention to the small goals achieved is a strong positive reinforcement for change.
I have been blessed with a healthy and capable body. It is my aim to cherish it, to nurture it, and to show gratitude for what I have been given.
Whether you wear a wearable or not it doesn't really matter. Its about how you choose to spend your time. Make the choice which is right for you.
Test your limits, be happy with your achievements and know you are always stronger than you think you are.
Here's a fun stat to finish up with. If you think that 30 minutes is hard to find... it's actually only 2% of the 24 hours we are given every day. Make the choice to find the time and give 2% of your day back to your body.