My Fitbit Experiment Part 1: What I’ve Learned So Far

fit bit self tracking live fix quantified self

It’s time to take another detour from our usual Live Music Experiments and explore the exciting world of self-tracking.

Over the last few months I’ve been experimenting with Fitbit and the emerging trends of Quantified Self.

Like our other curious detours into community management, social business and road running, I’ve started to discover some pretty cool stuff with this Fitbit exploration. And I’m inspired by several exciting connections I’m made between self-tracking, the live concert experience, mood awareness, human emotions and my creativity.

So let’s dive in and see what I’ve learned so far.

Is It Worth It?

For starters, what I’ve learned is that setting out to walk the recommended daily 10,000 steps is hard. Almost as hard and challenging as touring.

But, without a doubt the journey has all been worth it and rewarding in several ways.

I started my experiment on September 1st when I bought the Fitbit Ultra ($100) and since then I’ve walked a total of 784,221 steps (roughly 361 miles) and climbed 2,270 floors.

I mentioned earlier that setting out to walk 10,000 steps a day is hard. And to be honest, I’ve only been able to hit the 10k mark for three days in a row.

Most of time, without any significant change in behavior, I’ve averaged between 3,000-7,000 daily steps, with my biggest days of activity (over 10,000 steps) being on Saturday and Sunday.

What I love about using Fitbit to track my steps and other activity is that both the Ultra device itself and the online dashboard analytics make it easy to measure your progress every step of the way. (Note: the Ultra, featured above, was discontinued right after I bought it in September and replaced by the One. I haven’t purchased the One so all this info is from using the Ultra and I’ll explore the device differences on a future post).

fitbit_dashboard_quantified_self_live_fix

Okay, now that I’ve shared some baseline stats and backstory, I’ll take you through four areas that my Fitbit experiment has impacted my life thus far and what future possibilities I’m most excited about .

1. Positive Impact On Mood, Creativity, Stress and Spirituality

When I was in those string of 3 days and walking 10,000 steps a day I did notice that I experienced a positive impact on my creativity and clearity about work projects I was working on.

And like I do during my road roads, I used my walking time to think through mental roadblocks. The reason I love the road runs is that I love the feeling of rush of endorphines from “runner’s high.”

But, unfortunately, I’m not able to run everyday nor is it actually physically beneficial to do so. So what I’ve begun to learn is that I can have the pretty much the same physiological and mental benefits during my long or short walks.

I’ve also found that having a daily goal of 10K steps has helped my spiritual health too. I’ll be honest and say that taking care of myself spiritually isn’t always as important to me as it should be.

But again, during this Fitbit experiment I’ve found that setting out to use Fitbit to track my steps and hit daily goals has really help support and motivate me to maintain a regular practice of mediation and reflection.

For example, when I go on my walks to get my 10,000 steps, I’m also setting out to have quiet time to mediate which usually involves prayer, reflection and visualization of daily and long-term goals.

My usual times to do these types of walks have for the most part been early in the morning or at night before bed. I enjoy those times the best because it’s a great way to start the day and wind the day down.

And these walks almost always put me in a better mood because:

1) The basic physiological benefits of walking calms me

2) When I’m relaxed I can sort through problems better and find resolution

3) I’ve achieved a measurable goal of 10K daily steps and I feel great about doing so (and I just unlocked a cool badge)

Again, I haven’t been perfect at walking 10,000 steps everyday and it’s a been a challenge ever since Calvin joined us.

I’m also going to try to change my daily routine with an afternoon or mid-day walk when possible just because that has proven to help give me a welcomed break during the day.

But, again, this is a big behavioral change and my job doesn’t always allow me to do so. But I’ll see how creative I can get.

One thing’s for sure, having a simple and measurable goal of “I gotta get my 10,000 steps today” has been a extremely helpful little nudge I need to get me out the door and walking, especially when I don’t want to do it.

And these next sections have also been powerful motivators too.

2. Building Relationships & Community

The next thing that I have noticed during my experiment is the strong connection that walking has to building relationships with other people. This has happened in a few ways for me.

For example, Fitbit offers forums to connect with others who are looking share their experiences and tips to keep walking and they offer leaderboards so those competitive folks can be motivated to walk knowing that they’ve got more steps than their friends.

To be honest, depending on the day each of these things and the other areas below have motivated me on those tough days.

And going forward I want to try to develop the community aspect more and join up with groups of my fellow fitbitters for a fun walk and chat about life as we cruise down the road.

When I started my experiment I was curious to see if my social network friends would get annoyed with my step updates. Yes, I’m sure some of them have but I don’t have any real data to confirm the true level of annoyance or not.

But what I can confirm is that one of my friends bought a Fitbit and started her own challenge because of my Facebook updates.  In future posts, I’ll report on how this social influence and motivational element has developed.

Earnedit_fitbit_sself_tracking_quantified_self_live_fix

3. Earning Activity Points For Products

The next part of the process that I’ve enjoyed and found valuable has been the points and product rewards I’ve received by linking my Fitbit account to sites like Earndit, Health Month, Endomondo, EveryMove, Walk with Walgreens and the Walgreens Balance Rewards Loyalty program. (Disclaimer note: I work for Walgreens and these comments are my own and not those of my employeer.)

So what exactly have I earned through my Fitbit activity?

Well, for example, over the last two months my Fitbit activity has translated in to hundreds of Earndit and Balance Rewards points that I have used to purchase products that I would actually use like Redbox rentals, fitness gear and home products like the now vitally important baby formula, wipes and diapers.

As self-tracking continues to become more popular in the mainstream and the technology advances, I expect more companies to offer customers the option to link their step and activity data with their rewards or loyalty program.

Besides product rewards, studies have shown that being more active helps to reduce health care costs, and with the issue of affordable health care being a hot topic for our country, I think encouraging and rewarding people to be more active by using a Fitbit or other type of step tracker will continue to be an important discussion and a growing ask of health conscience and data-empowered consumers in 2013.

And to be honest, my experience with Fitbit has been much better than using the usual pedometer because the Fitbit data wirelessly updates making the behavior change easier and the dashboard analytics and mobile app gives me the opportunity to gather more valuable health data than just the average pedometer.

But rewarding myself with discounts and a healthier lifestyle haven’t been the only motivation to change my behavior.

earndit_self_tracking_quanitfied_self_live_fix_sandy_relief_red_cross

4. How My Fitbit Activity Helped Hurricane Sandy Victims

During the last three months what I’ve found most rewarding and promising about the future of self-tracking with Fitbit is the ability to transfer my Fitbit activity into points that I can use to support other people in need, such as Hurricane Sandy victims.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, here in the Midwest I was struggling to find a way to help out and just a few days after the storm hit, I received an email from Earndit telling me that they I could redeem all my points and they would translate them into donated dollars to the American Red Cross.

I immediately redeemed my points and had an epiphany!

After that moment, I then realized that my physical activity could not only benefit my own health, but it could be used to help others in need.

And even better, especially on days when I didn’t feel like hitting my goal, I was challenged by the truth that my inactivity could keep others from getting the help and financial assistance they needed.

This is such a profound discovery to make in my Fitbit experiment and it’s been one of the most compelling reasons why I’ve told other people to use Fitbit.

In my research of other similar activity trackers like the Nike Fuel band, I don’t see a lot of users or companies highlighting this as a benefit of self-tracking. And that’s a shame, because it’s a great selling point and could be used to help drive the needed behavior change.

That said, I didn’t see a lot of other companies and organizations partnering with Fitbit and Earndit to do stuff like this, but I hope more companies get onboard in 2013 and that Earndit adds more organizations to their giving tab, because what could be better than rewarding a behavior that helps people stay or get healthy and empowers people to use their healthy lifestyle to help others.

What’s My Goal for 2013?

There are many other things I’ll be exploring and sharing here on Live Fix in 2013, such as:

  • Tracking and learning from the Fitbit activity and baby/daddy exercises I’ve created while raising Calvin
  • Emerging self-tracking trends
  • Using the Fitbit mobile app to make tracking easier and more rewarding
  • Testing the impact of gamification and sharing my activity in my social networks
  • Using Fitbit to discover connections between my daily activities and my sleep habits
  • Using Fitbit to enhance, measure and make our experiences at live music festivals and concert venues more valuable and meaningful.

To wrap up this post, I wanted to let you know that all these positive experiences and results I’ve had thus far with Fitbit have led me to create a goal for 2013.

Yes, my friends, I’m setting out to see if I can walk 10,000 steps a day in 2013 and chronicle my challenge here on Live Fix and on Live Fix Radio. Feel free to ask me how I’m doing and hold me accountable. I know I’m gonna need the welcomed nudge along the way and I’d love to hear about your experiences and challenges too.

As always, it’s been a great year and I’ve had tons of fun sharing  all our other Concert Experiments with you.

How About You?

Are you using Fitbit? What have you learned? What types of live music Fitbit experiments should we do?

 

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