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Using The Information From An Activity Tracker

Thursday, October 06, 2016

I have had my activity tracker for almost a year and a half. With the exception of when I was in the hospital, I have worn it every day. Do I wear my tracker because I'm obsessive about exercise? Well, under ordinary circumstances, I would say yes. However, since I am recovering from several major surgeries, the answer is a bit more complicated.

I do have obsessive tendencies for exercise. The current way I am using my tracker is to get in touch with the way my body feels and to understand why. Not all trackers are the same. My particular tracker measures sleep (including how often I wake or move around at night), hours with over 250 steps, overall steps, non step exercises, calories burned by my level of activity and it hooks in with Spark People as well as my smart phone and my iPad. I can enter my food, set up challenges and cheer on friends who have the same kind of tracker. My tracker is water resistant. I have found a new model that is waterproof. I hope to purchase that model when I return to water exercise. Maybe Santa will bring me one for Christmas!

So what kind of information to I get from my tracker? One of my goals is to get at least seven hours of sleep every night. Fatigue is my biggest stumbling block when it comes to staying on a healthy eating plan. This makes evening eating an issue after an active day. It also makes the day following an over active day, a prime time for me to crave sugar or to feel hungry all day long. If I find myself wanting to eat all day on a certain day, I can pull up my tracker record on my iPad and look for sleep and activity patterns. If I sleep poorly or am way too active, I can pay special attention to the kinds of foods I eat and adjust eating accordingly. I am definitely starting to see patterns involving lack of sleep and/or over activity.

Another goal of mine is activity pacing. In my obsessive exercising days, I would do workouts that were 2-3 hours long. According to recent research, unless I am training for an Olympic event or professional sports, this is bad for my heart. It is healthier to do a one hour workout, let some time elapse and take one or two short walks later in the day. This will burn more overall calories in a shorter amount of time. The best part is that I won't be as fatigued at the end of the day. I don't need to work harder, I need to work smarter. My activity tracker enables me to see how active I am during the day. Since I am currently healing from surgery, this is a very valuable tool. I tend to like to be busy and move around a lot. The tracker helps me in my efforts to practice activity pacing. By that I mean spreading out my activity over the course of my day instead of working out intensely for 2-3 hours and hurting myself or wiping myself out physically.

Following my first hip surgery, I was able to show my home therapist how active I was during every day. He was able to adjust my program accordingly and make suggestions for what would work better for my therapy. He also was able to tell me how much activity was too much or too little for where I was in the healing process. I thought this was really a cool thing and so did he. He said he was going to incorporate the possible use of an activity tracker in treating patients who have trouble making progress. Information is power and my tracker has been an important component in my progress.

Unfortunately, I read an article yesterday about weight loss and using activity trackers. It said that most people who use a tracker to help lose weight, end up giving up on it after a couple of months. Therefore, they don't lose as much weight as people who don't use it at all. I respectfully disagree. I think the problem is how people use the information gathered by their trackers. Most people don't use it except to look for their overall steps. They go for huge numbers of steps all at once and burn out. Eventually, they give up activity and their health program altogether. But what if they were to use the tracker to look at more than just steps?What about looking at sleep patterns, overall activity patterns, eating patterns and the whole enchilada? It could give the tracker user and their physician loads of valuable information about their health in general. How cool would that be?

Okay, I admit that I love numbers, trends and patterns. I love using technology that helps me. I am a former math teacher and I just can't help myself. I'm wired to look at data and patterns.
I want to use that talent along with my tracker and technology to make my life better. It is an exciting prospect for me!
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    It is exciting! I'm a numbers person, too. I weigh every day. I need to know what that number is...just to know where I am at. Not because the scale is my god. It is not. It just helps me to see the measure, the a number. I get it. Yes analyzing the numbers can help those of us who are wired that way. Good for you! Do what works for you! Keep up the good work! Thanks for the encouragement! Spark on! emoticon
    1452 days ago
    great post!!!
    1453 days ago
    I do hope Santa brings you just what you want and need! ..... emoticon
    And, like you I have to rest more now (At retirement age) .... It is most hard to shake 'fatigue' so
    I have to be kinder to my body and sensitive, not expecting my body to perform as when I did at
    25 ....Anyway, may you continue to get well and enjoy all your dreams!
    1453 days ago
    Enjoyed your blog a great deal, Cyndi. That is wonderful how you use your data, and that is really cool that your physical therapist could use the data to really individualize your therapy. I have never used an activity tracker although I do have a Garmin Forerunner 10 for running that will track my distance and pace, temperature and elevation. It will track walking at 3mph (maybe slower, I'm not sure) but will not track steps or general activity. I have never gotten the sleep data. I have used pedometers but am terrible at losing them or putting them through the laundry! I've probably gone through 6 in the 2 years I used them.
    1453 days ago
  • L*I*T*A*
    emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1453 days ago
    I use mine as a reminder to move. It doesn't matter the type of movement, just movement. I agree that some people use them for good and bad. But overall, I think they are a good thing.
    1453 days ago
    "Information is power and my tracker has been an important component in my progress." Yes! So, is mine!!!

    Good to hear that you're also identifying patterns. Trackers can be incredibly useful tools in our journeys. Like you, I admit that I love numbers, trends and patterns. emoticon

    We're kindred spirits. Mathematician/Physicist? Yeah. We're wired to look at data and patterns.

    It's so nice to hear that your home therapist made use of the information. My mother had a physician that keyed in at some point that I was a numbers person. I remember him asking me if I was familiar with computers and could gather and graph some of my mother's health data for him. Of course, I said, "yes." emoticon
    1454 days ago
    1454 days ago
  • MAYIE53
    I'm glad that your activity tracker works for you. I have worn some type of pedometer for years (likely 7-10). A few years back I upgraded to a FitBit One (as soon as they made it into Canada). I LOVED it (as long as it was working properly). I had it replaced twice due to malfunctioning and suffered greatly while awaiting the replacement. It also tracks sleep activity. About 3 months ago I stopped using the sleep activity function as I felt it was messing with my head. Every time I moved affected the 'quality' of my sleep and even though I sometimes awoke feeling well rested, I started to feel bummed if my readout told me I only slept 80% or whatever. It's been much better to simply record when I retire and when I wake up and judge my sleep efficiency on how I feel. I recently lost my tracker while out for a 70 minute walk. I was devastated because I this little piece of technology had become a part of me. Alas, as the unit is not covered under warranty and finances prohibit the purchase of another, I am once again learning to rely on myself to remain active. As for losing weight, yes I did lose weight but learning to live healthfully was a much bigger priority for me.
    May you continue to enjoy your activity tracker!
    1454 days ago
    Excellent information. ...thanks.
    1454 days ago
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