STEPPING OUT

One of the main things I have been tracking this year is the amount of exercise I am getting. Not just the time I spend in the gym or on my bike, but also the number of steps I am taking every day.

It is a fairly common view, although not a formal recommendation, that people should try to take at least 10,000 steps a day, although most people probably average far less than this. I was interested to know how I was doing against this target.

For the first few months of the year I used the “Moves” app on my phone to measure the steps I took. The app runs in the background on your phone and tracks everywhere you go, doing its best to guess your mode of transport (walking, cycling, transport, and so on) based on how the phone is moving. It is pretty good at doing this, and is certainly one of the key apps I use for tracking other aspects of my life (more about that in future posts).

Whilst the app isn’t intended to be a precise activity tracker I thought it would give me a good indication of how I was doing against the 10,000 target. The results for the year to date are shown below and don’t make pretty reading. You can see that according to the app I normally fluctuate between 2,000 and 3,000 steps, and rarely hit or exceed the 10,000 target. The number shows a gradual decline from March through to August as the weather heats up and I am less likely to go out at lunchtime.

According to Moves the only time I have exceeded 10,000 steps this year is on holiday in Spain, on the days when I was on “going to the shop duty”, plus we walked out of the resort to a restaurant for dinner. And I have no doubt that on those days my calorie intake far exceeded the extra calories I burned taking all those steps.

Disappointing statistics

Disappointing statistics

To be fair to myself I recognised early on that Moves wasn’t the best option for accurately measuring my steps. Aside from the fact that it isn’t designed to be incredibly accurate, it depends on you having your phone with you at all times. This is certainly not the case for me, especially when I am walking around the house (which accounts for the days showing as zero above – these are weekend days when my phone probably sat in the same place all day – I’m lazy, but not that lazy!), or around the office when I’m working.

I therefore resolved early in the year to buy myself a proper activity tracker. Having done my research I was about to order a “Fitbit Force”, when it was suddenly withdrawn from the market due to a significant number of users getting a rash from the strap. Around the same time there was a technology exhibition in the US at which lots of forthcoming trackers were announced. I therefore decided to wait to see what hit the market in the next few months.

For various reasons that I won’t bore you with by the summer I had gone from having no activity tracker to having three. Two are well known, the Fitbit Flex and Garmin Vivofit, the other less so, the Goccia.

The Fitbit Flex

The Fitbit Flex

Garmin Vivofit

Garmin Vivofit

Goccia

Goccia

Of course I was now in lifelogging heaven. Three activity trackers AND my Moves app to track my steps! For a couple of weeks I have to admit I was wearing all three to see how they compared but I decided I should stop when people at work started asking what I was wearing, and why my tie kept lighting up (the Goccia was attached to the back of my tie, and has a habit of lighting up when it is at the wrong angle).

The data for these two weeks is shown below. The first thing to note is that they show that I do considerably more steps than the Moves app was recording, and am getting closer to the 10,000 target, if still some way short on most days. The other reassuring point is that the Fitbit and Garmin track each other pretty consistently, so hopefully this indicates that both of them are accurate enough for my purposes.

The Goccia broadly tracks the Fitbit and Garmin but consistently records less steps. Apart from on the day that we went to Yas Waterworld, when I removed the Fitbit and Garmin because I didn’t want to risk them in the water, but I kept the Goccia on because it is waterproof.

Lifelogging heaven: steps taken according to four sources

Lifelogging heaven: steps taken according to four sources

At the end of the two weeks I decided that the tracker I would continue with is the Garmin Vivofit. I’ll probably do a separate post on the pros and cons of each of the trackers (for anyone who may be interested!?) but the main reason is that you don’t need to charge the Garmin every few days (like the others), as it has a battery which should last for a year.

So there we are, my official activity tracker is the Garmin Vivofit. As the weather cools down over the next few weeks I need to start using it to motivate myself to get out for a walk at lunchtime, or to walk in circles in the office, to build my steps up so that I get closer to the 10,000 target on a higher proportion of days.

Still falling short

Still falling short

As I was no longer using the Fitbit Jo decided to have a go with it. So for the last three weeks she has been doing just that, and as you can see below she is consistently beating, no, thrashing the target of 10,000 steps. I wish I could claim that on one day, 26 September, I actually beat her. Unfortunately this was the day we went for brunch and Jo decided not to wear the tracker as it didn’t go with her outfit, so I have no doubt that had she worn it she would have beaten me that day too.

Women rule!

Women rule!

To reinforce this point I note that whilst Jo was back in the UK last weekend, and I was looking after the kids, I exceeded the 10,000 target on two of the days and was close on the other two. Do I need to say any more?

So, that’s two “lifelogging” posts recently which have demonstrated I am fat and lazy. Maybe this project wasn’t such a good idea after all!

Do you use an activity tracker? If so, which one and what has it told you about your activity levels?

Thanks for reading as always.

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