31 March 2015

Oh me, oh my–tracking my vacation steps

While my wife and I were on vacation in California (see the next post in my blog), we walked A LOT. I know that because I wore my activity tracker throughout the day. We logged 11 miles of walking on two consecutive days in San Francisco. I think even my wife was surprised by that.

One day, we took a city bus to Golden Gate Park. We walked around in the park, and then we walked to Haight-Asbury and then all the way back to our hotel in the Financial District. According to the tracker, that was 11.32 miles, 24433 steps. The next day, we walked from our hotel around the Embarcadero to Fisherman’s Wharf, and then continued up Van Ness to Union Street. There we shopped around, had lunch, and then walked back via the Wharf and North Beach. That was 11.41 miles, 24861 steps. Whew!

I bought the activity tracker in February. My wife questioned why I needed one, and I probably don’t. I don’t use it to motivate myself to exercise more. I have a pretty regular exercise schedule and I’m disciplined about sticking to it.

But there were a couple of things that I specifically wanted. First, I used to have a heart monitor, and I found that useful for pacing my workouts at the JCC. That was an old system that required a monitor that straps around my chest and connects wirelessly to a wristband/watch. The thing that appealed to me about the new activity tracker was that it’s all integrated into a wristband. It’s kind of amazing how it works. But I’ve been able to determine that it’s pretty accurate.

The other thing I wanted the activity tracker for is to help me understand how much exercise I get from working around the house and yard and walking with my wife. (The walks are part of my exercise regimen.)

While I was trying to decide which device to buy, I looked at several comparisons online. I quickly narrowed it down to either the Fitbit Charge HR or the Mio Fuse. (Both are Editor’s Choices in PC Magazine.) At the time I was shopping, they were both the same price. I liked the style of the Fitbit, and it had a couple of nifty features. For one, when it’s connect via Bluetooth to your iPhone, if you get a call on the phone the Fitbit displays the caller ID so you don’t have to fumble for the phone to decide whether to answer. It also tracks stair steps. That would be very helpful to an office worker who wants to take the stairs to get exercise.

But in the end, I opted for the Mio. (Is it pronounced My-oh or Me-oh? I still don’t know.) I don’t really need either of the nifty Fitbit features. I’m retired, and I don’t climb office stairs anymore, and I don’t answer my phone while I’m exercising. The Mio is more waterproof than the Fitbit (not that I’d wear either while swimming). But more to the point, it was available immediately while the Fitbit was on back order.

Frankly, the hardest part about using the activity tracker is remembering to wear it. The Mio is a little bulky so it doesn’t fit comfortably under long sleeve shirts, so lots of times when I’m just working around the house, I don’t remember to put it on. That kind of defeats the purpose.

As best as I can tell, it’s pretty accurate in measuring heart rate and distances. The default setting for tracking steps taken is 10,000 steps daily. So who decided that 10,000 steps is an appropriate goal for daily exercise? When I take a 4-mile walk with my wife (which is her daily routine), that totals about 9000 steps, so I hit the goal easily on those days. But when I do a workout on the elliptical machine, I know I burn a lot of calories and get a good cardio workout, but it doesn’t tally the equivalent number of steps. I’m eager to see how it works when the weather warms up enough for riding my bike.

Lastly, it now links to the Health app on the iPhone. So I’ve started to accumulate data there. First of all, it’s interesting to note. We’ll see how useful the info is over time.

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