Life As Video Game : How The Fitbit Might Save Me

For 20 years or so, most of my work is involved me sitting in front of a computer. This is included everything from video production to graphics and visual effects to writing. All of it extremely sedentary work.

Unfortunately, most of my leisure time has also involved me sitting in front of a computer, too. Video games or social media or just web surfing. More sitting. Not that much moving.

None of this is been particularly awesome for my health. A few years ago I was diagnosed with type II diabetes, which is pretty much punishment for getting fat due to a sedentary lifestyle and not great dietary habits. I written about my diabetes before, but it affects me daily; I have chronic foot pain and it’s affected my eyesight very badly. I take a bunch of pills and vitamins to try to stave off things getting worse but I have largely failed to do the thing that I really should do – make a serious effort to change the sedentary lifestyle part.

Ironically, because my eyesight has deteriorated so badly I’ve used public transit a lot more in the past couple of years which forced me to do a bit more walking, even for things like a trip to the grocery store. The downside, is that things like going to the gym became much more of a pain. What I need to be doing is some consistent daily exercise but like a lot of people it’s been hard to actually get that done. It’s very easy to lose motivation.

Well, I lost a couple of friends in the past year or so. Most notably, Andrew Breitbart passed away on March 1 and my childhood friend Bob Anderson left the year before. Add to that, my close friend Paul Montgomery and died of a heart attack at age 38, about 12 years ago. All of these friends had  their own unique health problems, none of which are mine. Still I’d be lying if I didn’t say that their losses haven’t been on my mind. Want motivation? Lose some friends at an early age.

So, we got a treadmill a few weeks ago but owning a treadmill doesn’t mean you’re going to get on the darn thing. In fact, we got the treadmill free from craigslist from someone for whom it had become a daily reminder that they weren’t using it.

Then I heard about the Fitbit Zip Wireless Activity Tracker; (affiliate link) basically, a high-tech pedometer that automatically syncs with your phone and computer. The idea is that you wear it all day and it measures your steps, how many hours you are active versus sedentary, and other data. The more advanced models actually let you measure how many hours sleep you’re getting, as well.

Because this data is all automatically sent to your devices, you don’t have to go through the process of totaling things up or writing them down. Using the long-time standard that you’re supposed to walk 10,000 steps a day, the Fitbit also does modern social media type stuff like give you badges as a way of motivating you. Since the device itself is totally passive in the data sending is active, you end up “keeping score” throughout the day. You can even tweet your progress

After a few days, here’s my verdict: darn, this thing works!

I’m going to guess before the Fitbit, I was walking about 2,500 steps a day; enough to slowly walk myself right into an early grave. In the few days I’ve had the Fitbit I walked 10,000 steps every single day. And you’re darn right I’m tweeting it. The psychological effect is pretty amazing. I end up keeping score with myself and it’s a terrific motivator.

So there you go; I hope this helps someone out there. Highly recommended.

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