The Inevitability of the Fitness Tracker

The Inevitability of the Fitness Tracker

It’s undeniable that watches have evolved. We aren’t witnessing a digital revolution on our wrists-it’s already happened, and, for me, it started with the chunky Baby-G. I remember I wasn’t allowed to have the purple one when my older sister had received a pink digital watch that buzzed everyday since her ninth birthday. Two years later, when I turned nine, Baby-G watches were still trendy but my parents didn’t get me one on account of my skinny wrists and clumsy nature- they were just broke and making excuses but I wonder how parents defuse their screaming children demanding Apple Watches now?

Around the same time pedometers became fashionable- I remember my first came from Tesco for a whopping £9.99 and a voucher for a free eye test. I quickly discovered I was very short sighted. No, literally, short sighted, I had just thought everyone was blind until the day I wore my purple spectacles. I also thought 10,000 steps sounded like a lot, it isn’t.  10,000 steps per day was, and still is, the recommended daily steps-count expected for a mediocrely active lifestyle. Turns out, when you’re eleven, insisting you are one-of-the-boys and feeling  semi-blind, 10,000 steps are achieved by the time you’ve finished eating second-Breakfast.

In my early twenties I spent £79.99 on a Fitbit from Amazon. It was blue, and had four, or five (I can’t remember) flashing lights. It couldn’t tell me the time, my heart rate or monitor my swim stroke- hell, it wasn’t even shower proof, but it did tell me how many steps I was doing. I had an app on my iPod touch (because back then I didn’t even have an iPhone), and I could track my steps through there. By now I was rocking huge black-framed glasses, an original Casio watch (practicality-Argos) and attempting to assert some individuality. I wasn’t one of the boys anymore, I wasn’t one of the girlz either. If I’m totally honest I was a loner, but clearly still interested in my pedometer scores. My wrists were cluttered with watches, pedometers and clunky charm bracelets and hair bobbles. The Fitbit app allowed you to race others with the same branded pedometer and I regularly came out on top against my sedentary sister. It helped that I was a student living two miles from campus, working four different jobs in each corner of the city and had stupidly adopted a fluffy puppy- anyone could’ve told you that I was fit and active, I just wanted validation from an overpriced piece of wearable tech.

Sadly, the Fitbit was retired when it just gave up about 18 months in. By then, fancier watches had come about. People weren’t having to wear heart rate monitors strapped around their chests to get an idea of how healthy they were. Touch screen watches, solar powered watches, watches with GPS and watches that could read your text messages. Watches that woke you up with a gentle caress, watches that stalked your sleeping patterns and watches that celebrated your birthday and your fitness achievements all flooded a market of inactive consumers desperate to feel accountable. Shopping for an Fitness Watch last week I was bombarded with options; Fitness wristband, activity tracker, heart rate monitor, Bluetooth connectivity…. All things I had not considered, aren’t they all the same?!

Having assumed Fitbit was the only provider of these types of watches, a face-consuming smile emerged when I discovered that, in actual fact, there is a huge amount of competition for this wearable tech. A quick scroll through Amazon will take hours to go through the lot; prices range from around £10 to over £200 depending on aesthetic, functionality and popularity. Fitbit remains on the more expensive end although, in their defence, do have some more affordable, although less impressive, accessories for those less concerned with touchscreens. Eventually, I found a Huawei Band 2 Pro Wristband Activity Tracker. It boasts a longer battery life than competitors (apparently lasting up to 21 days), built in GPS, fancy waterproof-ness, continuous heart-rate monitoring, scientific sleep tracking, and optional phone connectivity and all for a considerably smaller price at just £39.95. For the first few days I wore the band I was struck down with a cold and the band measured less than 3000 steps as I pottered around my house from sofa, to kitchen, to bog and back to bed. It did automatically link to my phone which meant my wrist vibrated when I received a call or text message, although this is switch-off-able. The wristband measured my sleep quality and so since acquiring this silicone accessory, each day over breakfast I study the in-depth analysis of my night of REM, deep-sleep and light-sleep, as well as how many times I woke up to pee because I’m also concerned about not being sufficiently hydrated. Living in this world obsessed with documenting our health online has made me a paranoid, but I suppose I am healthier for it even if I would like to manage one night without my bladder exploding or my phone recommending I lower my heartrate. 

You will never ever catch anyone living alternatively wearing a fitness tracker. Well, it's unlikely. Firstly, how would you keep charging it! Truth be told, when you live outdoors, and live according to your own ideology, you know when you are active, you know when you are healthy, you know when your legs are taking steps or when you have been lazy for too long or when your sleep has not been restful. There were days last summer when I worked physically outdoors all day until I collapsed with exhaustion on a picnic blanket beside the sliding door to the Bongo. There were days I could afford to not work and went on an all-day hike through woods, along the coast, on beaches or through muddy fields. And not once did I ever measure my step count. I was the healthiest I had ever been when I didn't have a clue what I weighed, or how fast my pulse was. It's our sedentary and mediocre lifestyles that require constant monitoring and thus, the inevitability of the fitness tracker.

Nonetheless, perhaps what I like the most about the Huawei band is that it reminds me to get moving. After one hour of inactivity my wrist vibrates with an image of enviously skinny stick-figure practicing over-head side-stretches. Now that winter has got me curled up under a blanket working from home under multiple layers of The Boyfriends old hoodies, I rarely move at all and could spend hours tapping away at a keyboard. Since last week, every sixty minutes I leap up and do a few jumping jacks or burpes (provided I decided to wear a bra) or pace around the house in a stressed-out worry over my physical health whilst contemplating my career. I’ve noticed an increase in activity levels and a constant awareness of the importance of getting up and getting out, even when its cold and when I work from home. I even sold my office chair in favour of the yoga-ball that I forgot I bought a few months ago. 

Have any of you transitioned from van-life to house-life and noticed any health benefits or side-effects?