Ever since my kids (17 and 14) were born, life has been one long quest to find "free" time for the gym. Sometimes I actually pull it off. Occasionally I even get into a good groove and go regularly. But way more often than not, life—think carpool changes, music lessons, colds and work trips for starters—short-circuits my routines. In other words, despite my best intentions, consistent gym check-ins have hovered mostly out of reach for quite a while now.
Then science pretty much proved that even a few hours per week working out didn't do much to remedy the damage done by spending entire days parked in front of my computer. I decided something had to change. If sitting is the new smoking, how do I quit? Writing is a sedentary job, and replacing my desk with a treadmill model seemed cost-prohibitive (not to mention impractical). Happily, I found a simpler and significantly cheaper solution: a wearable activity tracker.
Business has been booming lately in this product category, with the idea being to make a sport out of moving more throughout the day. A little gadget looped around an arm or wrist, or clipped to clothing, tracks your motion. Meeting goals earns kudos, virtual badges and advice on next steps. Sit still for too long and the tracker will encourage you to step it up. Syncing via social media allows for some friendly competition with friends online. Intrigued, I decided to try a bunch. In fact, when I was researching this story, I wore no fewer than three daily—and I haven't gone without one in months. Typically, I meet or even exceed my activity goals and definitely feel the difference in my clothes. Slowly but surely, my brain has shifted toward seeking opportunities to walk, run or climb stairs. Best of all, I've managed to pry off 20 pounds.
Here's a typical day, tracker-style:
7 a.m.: My wristband buzzes to alert me it's time to get up.
9 a.m.: Parking several blocks away from my office helps me squeeze in steps early on toward my daily goal. Scaling the stairs instead of taking the elevator earns a badge.
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Throughout my workday, whenever I'm physically idle for an hour or more, the wristband will let me know. In a conscious effort to avoid this reproach, I pace rather than sit during long phone calls.
6 p.m.: While dinner simmers, I do some tidying around the house, including a few trips up the stairs, then check my social networks to see how my numbers compare to those of my pals.
8 p.m.: When my smartphone syncs with my tracker, I see I'm so close to my goal that a quick walk would put me over the top. So instead of hitting the couch to catch up on email, I queue up an audiobook to listen to while strolling. I enjoy myself so much that an hour quickly passes. Goal exceeded.
Needless to say, I am very pleased. After all, a problem solved beats a guilty conscience any day.
Stay on Track
The marketplace is jam-packed with user-friendly options. Here are some that I wear regularly—or would want to.