Can a Biometric Device Change My Behavior?


For the past few months, I’ve wanted to get back into shape and lose some weight; concurrently I’ve also been interested in playing with some of the newer biometric devices. Having previous experience with an early FitBit device and a number of health and exercise tracking apps like mapmyrun and Noom; I decided to start this adventure by purchasing a FitBit Flex as the first one to test and see what impact it would have on me.

The Fitbit Flex was easy to set up, track on the website and set up on the iPhone.  As a competitive person, I instantly decided that I had to beat whatever I had done the day before and as is sometimes the case when one gets older; during the second week, got a bit of pain in my hip and hamstring from over-exercise. At that point I also read an article discussing exercise at various ages and decided to save my joints for playing soccer and moved off the treadmill and onto the elliptical. This appeared to help.

Its pretty clear that a 10,000 step daily goal is fairly achievable but

if one has a desk job and doesn’t go anywhere during the day they’ll never get close.  I was working out in the morning on the elliptical and when traveling also walking to places for lunch and dinner.  This made achieving the goal and well exceeding 10,000 steps fairly easy. One late night I even walked around my hotel room to get the last steps in to clear 20,000.

The unit is pretty accurate when walking, running or using an elliptical, although on one elliptical unit at a hotel it severely under-logged my total.  The Flex seemed to track steps closely when I rode my BMX bike a few miles around the neighborhood.  As it was a BMX bike I was standing the entire time so I assume it picked up the vertical pedal motion. I did not check to see if it counted steps while sitting on a bike. The Flex also worked during a soccer game and was not noticeable at all.

One issue I noticed while driving was that it was counting steps when I was driving on the highway on a road that set up a rhythmic bounce due to the grooves and surface. I estimate that it picked up about 300 steps crossing a 3 mile bridge. If I moved my arm off the steering wheel and placed it on the door-sill, the Flex stopped counting.

The sleep app is interesting, although it took me a few days to get the tapping correct to get it in and out of sleep mode. With practice it became easy enough. The information on sleep the Flex provides is of some value, but I’m not sure for what as I do not know if my sleep patterns are normal or not, perhaps a comparison to a large group might be interesting.

Entering meals is like other devices and apps that link to large databases, it still takes some time and I  found that because of this I am less likely to enter my meals data regularly. This is certainly one of the major issues with most of these trackers at least as far as I have seen and heard. Creating an easy to enter meal tracker that works is perhaps one of the most sought after features.

There is also a social component to the Flex and you can link to friends and share information.  I have not used this feature set yet, but we all know the power of relationships and connections to change your behavior so I would expect this feature to make the Flex even more engaging.

Tracking weight is simple and it does accept weight data from the Aria scale.

Overall the graphing functions are nice, and the silent alarm is great, one of my favorite features.

If one is competitive and likes to measure their daily steps this is a good device to use and it does allow me to enter other exercise I might do such as weight lifting or swimming.  I have not used the device in the pool,   it claims to be waterproof to a certain depth but recommends not swimming with it.

Charging is easy, but I try to find times to charge the Flex when I know I won’t be walking around much as I do not want to lose steps! The Flex has not yet run out of power on me and only once has it sent me an email that the battery was running low.

So far the Fitbit Flex has made me much more aware of my daily activity and I  look for opportunities to walk or add steps (park further away, walk up and down escalators, look for stairs, take the longer route, etc.).   The iPhone app is a bit addictive (which is a good thing) and my activity level has gotten much higher. In the few short weeks since using it I’ve dropped a few inches in the midsection and I certainly drink more water

Got my  250 mile badge last week:

FitBit 250 miles

All good. Now to sustain it.

I’ll be purchasing some of the other trackers like the BodyMedia Device, the Nike Fuel and the Jawbone Up and we’ll see how they work as well.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Can a Biometric Device Change My Behavior?

  1. on meal/food tracking apps, i have tried one or two in the past but felt drained after guessing, trying and likely failing to figure out the closest item that matched my food diary portion by portion. maybe a simpler, basic approach to meals/foods more often would help and would help in more ways than one. enjoyed the post!

  2. Pingback: Basis Watch and Fitness Tracker – Water Intrusion Issue with First One | Accountable Health

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