Wellocracy: What kind of tracker(s) (device/app) are you using and when did you start wearing it?
Jeff: I have been through quite a few trackers. Initially, I started with the Jawbone UP24, which I really enjoyed. I found the Jawbone UP App to be particularly good at providing insightful information and suggestions. I then moved on to the Fitbit Flex, which unfortunately stopped working after a few months. Next, I upgraded to the Fitbit Surge, which I used to train for the 2015 Boston Marathon. I loved it’s “hardcore” features, such as built in GPS, a heart rate tracker, and a longer battery life. It got me through some hard runs! After the Marathon, I purchased an Apple Watch, and have been using (and loving) it ever since.
Wellocracy: Why did you start using a tracker? Do you have specific health/wellness goals?
Jeff: Being a technophile, I initially purchased a tracker out of curiosity to “see what it could do.” I was in residency at the time, which involved 70-80 hours work/weeks, and didn’t have much leisure time for exercise and physical activity. The tracker gave me insight into how (little!) I was actually moving during the day, which motivated me to jog/run, or walk more than I would have otherwise. I made it my goal to reach 8-10k steps/day, and to try to sleep at least 6 hours, which, for residency, is pretty good!
As a doctor, I started using a tracker because I wanted to be able to speak intelligently when I met patients and talked to them about tracking. I love it when I see my patients wearing a fitness tracker! It gives me an opportunity to talk about physical activity, sleep, and it lets me know that a patient is taking an active role in managing their health. I’ve started to think of average step count as another vital sign.
Wellocracy: What did you learn about yourself by using a tracker?
Jeff: A few things: I learned that I wasn’t as active during my routine day as I should be, and also that I wasn’t sleeping enough to recharge. The tracker also provides great insights into my runs. I was able to see where I was running too fast vs. moving along too slowly.
Wellocracy: What do you like best about your tracker? What do you like least about it?
Jeff: I love the real-time feedback. On the Apple Watch, I’ve become obsessed with “closing my rings”, meaning that I reach my exercise goal, activity goal, and standing goal each day. When I was using the Fitbit, I really enjoyed the social component. Because many of my friends have a Fitbit device, we were able to track each other, compete, and support one another. It was a lot of fun. Unfortunately, fewer people have an Apple Watch, so there are fewer people to share with these days. I wish that Fitbit and Apple would play nice so that I could share my Apple Watch data with my friends who use Fitbit and vice-versa.
The only aspects of the tracker that I don’t like are technology limitations that will someday be improved. I have to charge my Apple Watch every 1-2 days, so if I travel I need to bring the charger with me, which is annoying. Also, my older version of the Apple Watch isn’t waterproof so I need to take it off when showering or swimming. The newer model solves this problem, but I wish mine had this feature.
Wellocracy: Do you share your data with family or friends?
Jeff: Right now, due to the limits of data exchange between Apple and Fitbit, I am only sharing with a couple of people (including my Dad!), but I wish I could share with more. I find it to be very motivating!
As a physician, I run a Wellness Group with patients who struggle with chronic diseases, such as obesity/diabetes, and high blood pressure. Through an exciting partnership with RecycleHealth.com, we have been able to provide free Withings fitness trackers to our patients. Withings, like Fitbit, has a great app that allows patients in the group to share their data with each other. In interviews, patients have stated that one of the things they enjoy best about their tracker is the ability to share their activity data with their fellow patients, which allows them to encourage and support one another. In fact, our findings were so exciting that we recently presented them at the Partners HealthCare Connected Health Symposium!
Wellocracy: What advice would you give someone thinking about tracking or, do you have other thoughts you would like to share?
Jeff: Because the choices can be so overwhelming, I would recommend someone interested in tracking check out a site like Wellocracy.com, which can help narrow your choices based on budget, type of tracker, and features that you are looking for. Don’t spend too much money! There are quite a few great trackers available for around $100 or less. Unless you are an athlete, most people don’t need heart rate monitors and other fancy features. Just knowing your step count is an important aspect of your health.
Also, please don’t be intimidated! I think the people who can gain the most from tracking are those people with some health issues. Just because you don’t walk 10,000 steps/day doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t get a tracker. It just means that there is room for improvement. For some people, 2000 steps/day is a move in the right direction. Once you build confidence, you can start increasing even more.