I recently explored the “Quantified Self” (QS) landscape with two guys who have a passion for it. They had some pretty interesting insights and predictions. A number of us at ConnectedHealth are “practicing what we preach” and using different devices and apps to track and improve our health, and I thought it would be fun to share some of what we’ve learned.
Here’s my story…
I’m an avid runner, which for me means that I usually run about six miles a day, six times a week. But, while I have been patting myself on the back for that, it has become difficult to ignore the research about how bad sitting and being sedentary is for your health. I started getting a little concerned about my activity – or lack thereof – during the rest of the day. Was I undoing all of the good from my running?
So, back in January, I bought a Jawbone UP band because I was curious about my activity throughout the day, not just when I was actively exercising. After using it for just a few days, I had some interesting a-ha’s. First, I am pretty sedentary during the day – bad news overall, even though I am running religiously almost every day. To try to counteract that, I’ve set my band to buzz at me when I’ve been inactive for an hour, and that sometimes helps get me out of my seat and moving throughout the day (although it often leads me downstairs to the kitchen where the snacks are, which isn’t the desired result!). I’ve also started seeking out small ways to increase my activity during the day, which has led me to treat activities and chores around my house differently. I no longer get annoyed when I get all the way upstairs and realize I’ve forgotten something, and I sometimes invent little tasks that require movement. Another trip = more steps, which helps me meet my daily step goal.
When I polled my colleagues, I found similar stories and further insights. Most of us who are using tracking devices and apps are doing so to track activity, food intake and sleep. Here are some themes from our team:
- Embracing – and seeking – “inefficiency” – I have a new attitude about being less efficient in my daily household tasks, but Lynne Handler (part of ConnectedHealth’s Quality Assurance & Testing Team) says that she and her husband actually try to be “inefficient” when they are out running errands, parking farther away from the door so they walk more during the day. (Hmmm…my dad always does that too, but he said it is because he didn’t want his car to get dinged. Maybe it is his way of getting my mom, the self-proclaimed non-exerciser, to get a few steps in?!)
- Lucky dogs – Many of us noted that we look for ways to add activity at the end of the day if we are short of our daily step goal. For Shannon Callaway (VP of Marketing & Development), that means a few extra trips up and down the stairs, but for Maureen Fiacco (part of our Product Development and Operations Team) – and her lucky dogs – it means an extra walk around the neighborhood at the end of the night.
- Smart substitutions – John Fiacco (CEO) travels a fair amount, and he’s adopted a strategy of replacing airport lounge time with an airport lap or two during a layover, which translates to trading calorie consumption (think bad snacks and a drink or two) for calorie burning. If he has enough time, he even times his first lap to see if he can best his time on the second go-around. (It’s also made him a fount of otherwise useless information…”Did you know that one lap of the McNamara Terminal at the Detroit airport is 1873 steps long? That’s nearly a mile!”)
- Tracking what you eat changes what (and how) you eat – This is not necessarily a new idea. Studies have shown that the simple act of journaling or writing down everything you eat when you are trying to lose weight will in and of itself help you lose weight. John backed this up with his personal experience. When he wants to lose a few pounds, he starts tracking everything he eats, and monitors the calorie intake to ensure that he’s taking in fewer calories than he’s expending. He also notes that, since entering restaurant food into the tracker is a pain in the butt, it is easier (and often healthier) to eat a home-prepared meal.
This is just the beginning of our own personal health tracking journey here at ConnectedHealth. Understanding what we do (and don’t) embrace about it, and how it does or doesn’t change our health, is giving us some important insights into how we can help others achieve health and financial security. Stay tuned for more as we start cracking the code…