I’m sure many people reacted as I did when the new activity trackers started sprouting up in 2012 (although they were around before, they gained momentum only in the last couple years). It’s excessive, unnecessary and just one more data point that a company can track about us and figure out a way to sell us more products. I still think that most of that rings true to an extent, however, since I started wearing my own step and sleep tracker (thanks to a free UP band given to me from my company), the mantra “You can’t improve what you don’t measure” rings much louder. The truth about my fitness is that it’s highly erratic. I’ll run and workout three weeks in a row, and then do nothing for the next two weeks. I’ll eat extremely healthy one week, then gorge on junk food and eat out every day for the next week. But the activity steadily reminds me to do a few key things to improve my health:
- Walk 10,000 steps per day
- Sleep 8 hours per night
- Log foods you eat
Now when a day is almost over and I’ve taken a mere 3,000 steps, I’ll grab the dogs for a long evening walk. When I’ve slept less than 6 hours a few nights in a row, I’m excited to get a good night’s rest in that night. I’ve had the band for a few months, and the more consistently I wear it, the more I am aware of my activities and am motivated to stay on track. There are tons of new apps to keep track of everything, including your spending, your workouts, your runs (I use the Nike running app) and your calories. Are you thinking, is this a bit much? Do we really need to know this much about ourselves? Isn’t it enough just to go to bed at a decent hour and make sure to get a workout in 4 to 5 days per week? Sure, it can be enough. If you’re disciplined. But maybe tracking this stuff for a while can help you become disciplined, getting enough sleep, burning more calories than you eat, and generally staying on top of your physical activity.
It can also be reassuring when you feel like you’re not seeing any progress in pounds lost, to look back and see your activity and sleep steadily improving. If you’ve increased your step average from 5,000 to 8,000, your body will improve in endurance and strength and even better, regular activity will become a vital part of your day. You might think you’re athletic because you’re wearing yoga pants or because you work out three times a week, but what are you doing with the rest of your time? If you’re not eating healthy almost every day, getting up and walking and exercising every single day, and getting regular sleep, you’re probably not as healthy as you think. This can even affect your energy and performance levels.
Tracking what you do is the best way to improve what you do. Why should sleep and exercise be things we wish the best for, but make no effort to track? I wonder how I will feel on a week where I sleep for over 8 hours every single night and take over 10,000 steps every single day, while recording all of my food intake as well? Although right now it feels like those will take up my entire week, the reality is that once I make those activities essential habits, my days will open to tremendous new potential.
What do you think? Are you on the “track and measure” bandwagon?