My Sportswatch: What is it Good For?

Back in September, I mentioned adding a Fitbit into my life and said I'd talk about it some other time. This, apparently, is that time.

First, what it is: A Fitbit (like several other brands of sportswatch, I'm assuming) gives you data. It can track steps and types of exercise, as well as specific exercise sessions. The distance you've gone. How much you weigh, how many calories you have burned or should burn based on a goal weight, how restful your sleep was, how mindful you've been (based on their own meditations), and a bunch of other stuff. 

A caveat: the data isn't even necessarily especially accurate. I mean, we've all heard stories of people clocking steps while lifting a wineglass, right?

So here's a thing: I'm not in training for anything. Other than life, I guess. Sure, I've competed as a swimmer, runner, and triathlete (though not very competitively, if you know what I mean), and I've tried and obsessed over various methods of improving my health in several recent decades. I like walking. Sometimes I challenge myself, but not officially, for a team. I'm just not there anymore.

So it really doesn't matter to me how exact any type of sportswatch is. If you're looking for data about reliability and how exactly any equipment calculates distance walked, steps taken, calories burned, etc., you'll need to look elsewhere. Sorry!

I've come to see that it's a tool, like astrology, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the enneagram, or your Spotify Wrapped results. It can give you a new way to think about yourself, based on mysticism, theory, practical experience, or data. What you do with that data is your business, but I'd be careful about making huge changes based on what it says--at least without a little further investigation. 

In fact, the biggest value I’ve found is in its most annoying feature: the alarm that tells you you haven’t moved enough in the last hour.

So close.

If asked, and a physiotherapist has, whether I’m generally active in a day, I’d have said “totally.” My main office is in the basement, and the washroom I use is in the second floor of the house. I go upstairs and downstairs all day. Right?

Yeah, no. I don’t. It’s been eye-opening to see how little I actually move. I do sedentary work and I enjoy focusing on something until I get it done. In fact, I value my ability to focus. Ergo, I sit more than a little. 

But now, every hour, my wrist vibrates with a reminder to move. Sometimes I ignore it, sometimes I miss it (focus and all that)—but I’m aware and it’s my choice.


Also, my Fitbit came preset with 10k steps as the daily goal. I reduced it recently, because 10k steps is a nice, reasonable challenge in summer, but in the icy season, when my formal workouts happen indoors, I wanted a goal that was more realistic for me. Because I do like getting cheerful messages about meeting goals. 

Mostly, it's nice to make deliberate choices in relation to the data coming into my life. Making deliberate choices feels good.

I don’t have to use this like everyone else, or anyone else. A freeing feeling. One applicable to so many things beyond Fitbits. A feeling I plan to take into 2024.