Lately I’ve been thinking lots about gamification and using game strategies to achieve goals, particularly those related to health and fitness. I’m the sort of person who responds well to numbers and data, and quite like the idea of attaching rewards to data-driven results.
So last December I decided I wanted to buy a pedometer to help motivate me to stay active while visiting Chicago over the holidays. A little research and some chatter with my sister, Stephanie, quickly saw my $12 pedometer lust balloon into something more sophisticated. And so we found the Fitbit One, a $90 gadget that tracks steps, distance, calories burned, stairs climbed and sleep. We both bought one (go Team!).
In the four months since owning the Fitbit, I find I’ve become – quite literally – attached to the thing.
It’s not just about the device – it’s the whole Fitbit website / web app package that syncs up with it. The app lets you set goals for various parameters (steps / miles walked, floors climbed, weight, etc) and then tracks your progress towards those goals on a daily basis. Feeling good is very much a one-day-at-a-time thing, and the Fitbit really does make the whole fit and active thing a lot more interesting. Who doesn’t like a good chart?
The Fitbit features I like the most:
- Good apps: The Fitbit web and iPhone apps allow you to track other things besides data recorded by the Fitbit, including weight, activities (handy for swimmers like me – the Fitbit is NOT waterproof!), and food. In fact I’ve even read on some of the Fitbit forums that there are people using the apps without actually owning the Fitbit – the food, weight and exercise tracking is good enough to use even without the Fitbit.
- iPhone friendly: And speaking of the app, I especially like the iPhone app, which is almost exclusively what I use. Even the Calorie counting aspect is better than most I’ve seen.
- Social: The web app lets you follow friends who have Fitbits, which I love because my sister has a Fitbit, too. Go Team Shaw!
- Motivating: I guess this is the most important thing of all. The Fitbit really does motivate me to walk more and reach my daily target (currently set at 10,000 steps). What really shocks me is when I wear it on a day out in London and I realise how LITTLE I walk now that I don’t live in the City. Not that I’d give up the country idyl and working from home, but it’s a much needed reminder to get off my duff once in a while and go for a stroll.
- Gamifying: Steps walked, floors climbed, calories burned, they’re all “points” in the game of getting fit, and Fitbit “rewards” you with various badges for different achievements (e.g. walking 40,000 steps in a day, getting to 100 total lifetime miles, and so on). I’d like to come up with a system for attaching these achievements to more interesting goals – it’d be nice if I could define my rewards in Fitbit, so it could tell me when I’ve earned, for example, something off of my Amazon wishlist, or a pint at the pub (though having said that, one of my goals in using the Fitbit is to find non-food / non-alcohol motivators, so I better stick with Amazon, or tattoos, or original art).
- Hackable: The Fitbit API lets you program your Fitbit to trigger events. For example, one guy hacked his Fitbit to turn off the power to his fridge if he didn’t walk enough. You could do the same to turn off your TV, computer, Internet, etc. Hardcore, though I’d be more apt to use the API for good (reward) verses evil (punishment). This would, of course, require me to be a mad elite computer programmer, which I’m not. So I hope someone else will step up to the plate for me.
The Fitbit isn’t perfect, however…
- It’s really easy to lose, but on the plus side, Fitbit has a very responsive and understanding customer support team.
- In order to track sleep, you’re supposed to wear their Fitbit on your wrist using a velcro wrist strap thing. It’s kind of uncomfortable and is prone to fall off in the middle of the night.
My sister, who presents a slightly different use case, adds…
- Android syncing only works with two phones: Samsung Galaxy S III and Samsung Galaxy Note II. This is just crazy given there are over 70+ models available in the US alone. Yes, iOS is more popular, but the Android share can’t be ignored! [You can read Fitbit’s reason for developing their apps this way on their blog.]
- The Fitbit really should come with some kind of a security clip to attach to a belt loop…anything to secure it better. [Amen.]
- I can’t track specific workouts unless I enter them manually. It means I often don’t enter them at all.
- Some activities produce false step counts. Horse back riding, for example: it says I did x amount of steps, but obviously I didn’t. Yes I burned calories, but it’s just not calculated right. I have to remove the Fitbit if I want to keep my step count accurate.
- It doesn’t track my average speed.
The Fitbit has a few flaws but what gadget doesn’t? I’m addicted to thing, which is really a testament to its worthiness as a great life hacking tool. Or maybe it’s just evidence of my geekiness? Either way, I do believe I’m actually fitter for owning a Fitbit. Or at least, I’m more motivated to keep my activity levels up, and motivation is often the hardest part. And looking at my monthly step average since owning the Fitbit, it seems to be working (this is why I love data):
And for the record, Fitbit didn’t ask me to say any of this. But they did give me something groovy to give away. Read on.
The folks at Fitbit kindly gave me one of their Fitbit Zip Wireless Activity Tracker to give away. This is much like my Fitbit One but it doesn’t have the sleep tracking capabilities. You can read all about the Fitbit Zip on the Fitbit website. And as you can see, it gets great reviews on Amazon!
To enter, simply complete the Rafflecopter widget below (disclaimer: I’ve never used Rafflecopter so I hope it all works smoothly, but if you have any troubles just let me know). There is one main way to enter and various ways to get bonus entries (which I will verify so please be honest).
This giveaway is open to everyone (fortunately the Zip is lightweight so I don’t mind shipping it overseas – Fitbits for all!). Entries close on May 21, 2013. The winner will be chosen randomly using Rafflecopter and notified by email.