So I received a Fitbit for Christmas (a Fitbit Charge 2, for those of you Fitbit and fitness nuts out there). This watch does it all on the fitness front; it is an electronic step counter, heart rate monitor, sleep watcher and all around physical monitor and reminderer. I can now receive instant updates on all of these functions, as well as daily and weekly reports and recaps telling me if I slept well (seems to me if I awaken refreshed then I slept well, if grumpy then probably my sleep was a bit restless), recaps on my step counts and recaps on how my heart rate rose and fell compared to time of day and my actions for the day.
I confess up front that I am a ‘gadget guy’, albeit one on a strict budget due to college bills for our sons and a granddaughter that spends a significant amount of time with us. I love to see and test what a new shiny electronic item will do for me, and how the item will amaze me with its technology. A Fitbit excels at that; it can tell me when I fell asleep, when I awoke, and when I was active and can even tell me with reasonable certainty what activity I was engaged in when my heart rate jumps (although earlier this week the Fitbit thought that I was bicycling when in actuality I was snowblowing 6” of snow from my driveway and my neighbor’s driveway, so I guess an understanding in the next Fitbit upgrade that it is January 4 in Northern Indiana and not bicycling weather might be a good idea).
The nexus of this Christmas gift was because I had some relatively minor and somewhat benign heart issues diagnosed earlier this summer, so the hear rate monitor on the Fitbit is of more than a passing interest to me on a daily and hourly basis. Ok, let’s be honest, it is an obsession…at times. I figured I’d put a Fitbit on my Christmas list in order to monitor heart rate and maybe help get back into a regular exercise routine, too.
Maybe that wealth of instant health information at my fingertips is the source of my new fascination and also the source of my new unease with the Fitbit. I love knowing how active I was for the day vs previous days, how long I sat at my desk without moving (my sitting-at-the-desk PR is 2 hours and 9 minutes, which I think is also a qualifying time for the Boston Marathon, coincidence?, I think not), and how my heart responds to different activites, as well as how my heart rate is intimately linked with my sleep patterns from the previous night. At the same time, I wonder, do I really need a device to tell me all of this information? Do I need the stress or wonder whether my heart rate should be 120 when walking briskly or whether there is an issue when my resting heartbeat jumps from 78 on weekends to 83 during the week when I am working? I mean, I can tell on my own if the exertion is overdoing it or if I am stressed, and the Fitbit just confirms what I already know.
How much information is ‘too much’ in today’s world? I wonder if we need all of the Fitbits, phones and all of the other constant 24/7 electronic pacifiers that most all of us are carrying and in some way enslaved to. Where I used to try to just sit silently and relax, I now sometimes consult my shiny new electronic Fitbit to see if my heart rate dropped sufficiently low enough that I feel that I relaxed properly. How much electronic personal information do I really need? I have been trying to simplify my day electronically with less email beeps and fewer ‘breaking news’ notifications from the iPhone app that President Trump has yet again Tweeteed something embarrassing. Now I have introduced an electronic nurse on my wrist who is awake 24/7 and monitoring my every heartbeat, and who is also generating a report on almost every physical function of my day and night. Is my new Fitbit yet another obsessive electronic device or a true breakthrough that will help me daily to become more healthy and more aware of my physical well-being?
I will perhaps need to reconsider the Fitbit as yet another needless and shiny distraction to my day, but that decision will need to wait for another day, because my Fitbit just vibrated and
reminded me that I have 9 more minutes left this hour to reach my 250 steps per hour goal, so I’d better follow instructions and take a short walk back and forth in the hallway of my house.