Monday, September 28, 2020

‘Stepping’ into the Fitbit routine

| May 31, 2020 1:00 AM

My daughter Heather gave me a Fitbit for Mother’s Day, so I am now among the millions of people who are slaves to the wearable fitness tracker strapped to their wrist.

The sleek, fashionable device not only tracks the number of steps you take during the course of a day, but also monitors your heart rate, how much water you drink, how much you eat, how much deep sleep you get and probably a number of other things I haven’t figured out yet. A Fitbit is a little like Santa Claus — it “sees you when you’re sleeping, and knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so [get your steps] for goodness sake.”

Heather and her husband Will are complete Fitbit addicts, to the point of trudging 20,000 steps a day. That’s double the daily goal of 10,000 steps for us normal people. Lucky for them, they have plenty of wide open spaces to explore in Alaska, and because of their dedication to fitness they can climb up and down mountains with the greatest of ease. I asked Heather what they do on days of inclement weather, and they go steppin’ out rain or shine. And if they have to, they walk around their house, up and down the stairs to reach their daily step quota.

The 10,000-step goal isn’t some random fitness guru’s idea. The American Heart Association recommends taking 10,000 steps a day to help improve health and decrease the risk of heart disease.

I’m still getting to know this little device that’s taken up residency on my wrist. I was startled the first time it buzzed, and let me know, “only 163 more steps to win the hour.” It’s constantly nudging me to take more steps, which is annoying, but probably a good thing. Fitbits seem to insidiously change your mindset on exercise, and before you know it you’re parking in the far reaches of the grocery store lot so you can get a few more steps in.

It’s easy to fall under the spell. I found myself marching at the oven the other day while cooking dinner — “only 119 steps to win the hour!” The payoff? The device exclaims “You nailed it!”

I wore the Fitbit to bed a couple of times and decided I really don’t need the intrusion of something monitoring my shut-eye. I sleep just fine most nights, but immediately found myself becoming anxious that the Fitbit would track too little deep sleep. So I take it off at night.

I was surprised to read an article in USA Today this week that noted wearable devices such as a Fitbit or Apple Watch are being researched to determine whether the devices could track a person with COVID-19 or the flu.

“The potential for such data-driven advances could be reassuring as the nation reopens after the shutdown to prevent the spread of the virus,” USA Today reported.

Research is being conducted to determine whether a Fitbit could help build an algorithm to detect COVID-19 before symptoms show up. That kind of technology is mind-blowing to me.

For now, I’m happy to strive toward that daily — and sometimes elusive — goal of 10,000 steps. It remains to be seen how much of an addition it becomes.

News Editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or