How do you make it easier to find opportunities to be healthier in our busy lifestyles?
Lots of people say health and fitness are important to them. Too often, that is an aspiration rather than a resolution.
A Healthy Equation.
The key is burning more calories than you consume. Yes, that is obvious … but isn't easy.
How do you measure your real caloric intake, and accurately track the calories you burn?
Image via CrunchBase
I found a tool that helps. It is called Fitbit; and it tracks your sleep patterns, eating habits and activity to help you become healthier.
It also wirelessly syncs that information with your computer, and presents it to you in a way that lets you compete to reach your goals and out-do your friends. Yes, fitness has gone social.
Gamification is getting a lot of press recently. Apparently, it works.
Competition often brings out the best in people. There is a part of me that it doesn't believe it. Experientially, however, it's clear that I'm more likely to take action in competitive situations.
In a way, you can think of the Fitbit as a game where the challenge is to get at least 10,000 steps per day (and you can also get bonuses and brownie points for doing other healthy things).
The tracking and reporting component add enough competition to change behavior.
For example, there is a certain venture capitalist who is consistently kicking my ass by generating much higher numbers than I do. In addition, there is a short and portly industry analyst (old enough to be my father) who somehow took more steps than I did last week. These things cause me to get out of my chair and exercise. It has become so persistent that I've started parking farther away just to add to my count.
The proof is in the results. Here's a graph showing my weight over the past two months.
You Can't Get There From Here.
It was harder than you might guess to get started.
I remember hearing a funny story about someone asking for directions after getting lost in a city and asking for directions. The response was "you can't get there from here." Well, it turns out that my goal of taking 10,000 steps a day was impractical; I couldn't get there from where I was.
In other words, even on a day when I exercised, my lifestyle didn't come close to an activity level of 10,000 steps per day.
Last summer, I celebrated the fact that I went to the gym three times per week. On one hand, I'm sure that's an improvement from not going to the gym three times a week. On the other hand, as I measured my activity levels and steps, that's a 5,000 to 7,000 steps per day activity level. By that, I mean that 5,000 steps is average, and I might be able to get the 7,000 steps if I really pushed myself.
As a practical matter, I couldn't get to 10,000 steps per day unless I changed something. For me, that meant jogging. And trust me, jogging was something that I didn't want to do. At a little over 240 pounds it was hard to drag my well-marbled meat suit around the park (especially in the Texas heat).
So, after going to the gym, I would reluctantly find my way to the park to waddle the extra mile. That increased my steps; and it also took me past the tipping point where I started to lose weight. That made running easier. Soon, I was shuffling 2 miles. Now, 4 miles is within my comfort zone.
Again, the key is that once your activity burns more calories than you eat, weight comes off quickly. Like I said, simple, "just not easy."
Intent and Focus Help Too.
The other area where the Fitbit has made a big difference is with the intent to be healthy. It's one thing to say that you will be healthy. It's another to vote with your feet and actually do healthy things.
The Fitbit helps bring the intent to the forefront of your consciousness. That means you will think about it more often. That also means you will notice more opportunities to be more active more often. As a result of the increased activity, you will burn more calories and lead a healthier lifestyle.
It's easy to manage what you measure. So making it easier to measure something can actually make it easier to achieve better results. That's where the Fitbit shines.