Monday, June 2, 2014

Are you stepping enough each day? Too few steps could cost you.

The FitBit Flex
Most of us wake up in the morning, walk to the kitchen to prepare coffee or breakfast, get in the car, drive to work or school, sit down at our desks, walk to lunch, return to our desks, drive home, prepare dinner, and sit down at the television before going to bed.  Think about your day and how much you walk around.  If you’re lucky, you might clock 4,000 to 5,000 steps a day with this routine.  Many of our modern conveniences reduce the need to be active, and we’re paying a heavy toll.  The Disney movie WALL-E drove this point home.

There’s more to net worth than just money
As a pure definition, net worth is just about the value of your assets less your liabilities, but I’ve always believed that building a large net worth and living a healthy lifestyle are closely related.  When you live an unhealthy lifestyle, such as when you smoke, drink excessively, exercise infrequently, or make poor dietary decisions, you’ll lack the energy and the drive to work hard and to succeed.  Unhealthy lifestyles can ultimately serve as a big drain on your net worth due to lost productivity and high medical costs.  Plus, what good is a large net worth if you’re not going to be around to enjoy it?  The famous saying “you don’t want to be the richest person in the graveyard” comes to mind.

With Unlimited Net Worth, rather than only talking about how to invest, make smart financial decisions, or how best to save money, I also like to write about products, recipes, and other healthy lifestyle choices that enable you to grow your net worth and to enjoy it as long as possible.

The FitBit and an oncoming wave of smart wearable fitness devices
I recently received the FitBit Flex as a gift in early January and I’ve used it ever since.  It was timely coming in right after overindulging during the holiday season.  The FitBit is a smart wearable device that tracks your daily activity and other facets of your life.  There are several similar devices on the market, like the Nike Fuel Band, that serve a similar function.  It’s changed my life by making me become more active and concerned about my health.

The FitBit melds together old and new technology to create an engineering marvel that not only keeps track of your activity, but motivates you to do more.  The FitBit tracks your steps, just like pedometers have done for decades; however, the FitBit added syncing technology and web services to bring the old stodgy pedometer forward to the 21st century.

Taking the FitBit for a spin
My particular Flex came with two wrist bands, one smaller and one larger to fit different wrist sizes.  The Flex also comes with a small electronic device that serves as the heart and brain.  The device tracks my steps, distance covered, active minutes, calories burned, and sleep each day.  When I first wore my FitBit, I noticed that it synced automatically with my computer and phone, giving me up-to-date information on the aforementioned areas.  You can set goals for these different areas or you can use the default FitBit goal.
Desk jobs and steps don’t go hand-in-hand

I decided to go ahead with the default, which encourages 10,000 steps a day and 30 active minutes.  I always thought of myself as a relatively active person and that this would be easy to achieve.  Boy was I in for a surprise.  My desk job is a poor match for logging steps and I clocked 6,000 steps on the first day, well short of my 10,000 step goal.

Thee FitBit.com dashboard. I need to walk a lot today to hit my goal!
Changing my lifestyle and feeling better
This realization that I was walking so little each day encouraged me to add more active time into my lifestyle.  Now when I return home from work, I walk for 20-30 minutes to make sure I exceed my 10,000 step goal.  I’ve also incorporated more activity into my daily routine.  When I need to return a book or movie to the library, rather than driving or riding the bus, I walk instead.  Similarly, when I commute home from work on the bus, rather than connecting and taking a second bus the rest of the way, I walk.

As a result, not only have I noticed increased stamina, but I also feel more energetic.  When I hit 10,000 steps, the FitBit vibrates and flashes, indicating that I’ve reached my goal.  I look forward to this each day and it serves as motivation to hit my goal.

Rich web experience at FitBit.com
The device also syncs with my computer.  When I log on to FitBit.com, the site presents rich historical information on how many steps I’ve taken over the past week, month, and year.  Additionally, I can compare how I’m performing against friends on a leader board by connecting to Facebook.  This added some friendly competition into my fitness goals, serving as additional motivation.  Plus, as I hit different milestones, such as my first 500 miles or first day with over 10,000 steps, I receive different badges celebrating the achievement.

Where do I get one?
The FitBit Flex runs for a one-time fee of around $99 from retailers such as Amazon, Walmart, and others.  FitBit offers premium services, which cost extra each month, allowing you to compare your progress against a larger segment of the population (i.e. you’re in the 80th percentile of steps each day or your sleep duration each night is in the 50th percentile).  Overall, I’ve become more active and have recommended the Fitbit to friends and family as a way to promote a healthier lifestyle.

Are you using a similar fitness tracking device?  Share your thoughts/comments below.

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