How the Unexpected Gift of an Activity Tracker Changed My Life

It is amazing how an unexpected gift has completely turned my life upside down. About a year ago I came home to a package sitting at my front door. Upon ripping the package open, I saw a note from one of my best friends, and a small unfamiliar device. It was a Fitbit.

Little did I know that my life would never be the same — because it taught me a lot about myself! I considered myself an active person. I go to yoga two times per week. I eat a healthy whole foods diet. I am slim and shapely and I have never been outside of the normal weight category. Consequently, I didn’t think this activity tracker would change my habits much.

The Fitbit is one of several devices on the market that are considered activity trackers. They are sophisticated pedometers. They also measure sleep, heart rate, blood oxygen levels, skin temperature, body weight and body mass. These measurements can tell you so much about your general activity and fitness level.

On my first day with a Fitbit, I discovered that I'd walked less than 2,000 steps. What would healthy numbers be?

Here is a breakdown from The Journal of Sports Medicine’s 2004 article "How many steps/day are enough? Preliminary pedometer indices for public health.":

  • Less than 5,000 steps per day is considered sedentary lifestyle
  • 5,000-7,400 steps per day is typical for daily activity but considered to be low active
  • 7,500-9,999 steps per day is somewhat active
  • 10,000 steps per day or more is considered active
  • 12,500 steeps or more is considered highly active.

Here is what I learned from my first day. I was sedentary, and that is unacceptable to me. So I had to change my habits fast. It also taught me that I am very, very goal-oriented! Once I set the goal I would do everything to make my goal every day.

I’m so goal-oriented that I almost cried the first time I left my Fitbit at home when I traveled to New York City. I knew I would be missing some major steps! My activity tracker has gotten me back outside more. I live in a small apartment, so I had to go outside to get my steps in. I love being in nature, it always calms me.

I am spending more time in Rock Creek Park, now and it has improved my mood. I also learned how an activity tracker can help you create a community, anywhere, with anyone.

One of my schemes to increase my steps occurred when I went to watch my brother coaching soccer. I started walking around the field to get my steps in, and something incredible happened. I started making friends with the parents of the team.

I found other people that had a Fitbit and we started walking together and exchanging ideas about everything. We shared stories about how well or how poorly we did on different days. Parents that weren’t using Fitbit would start up conversations about my walking, and moved on to other topics.

Finally, it confirmed my sleep patterns. There were certain days I felt more tired than others. Fitbit tracks the number of times you move around at night. It counts any significant movements like rolling over. So when I woke up tired, I usually had been tossing and turning all night.

My activity tracker changed my life in many ways. And now it has changed the life of my patients as well. I encourage everyone to get more steps in, and to invite their friends to create a healthy community to support their health efforts!

Live Vibrantly,

Dr. Dae