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Wearables Like Fitbit Make A Difference

One of the happy accidents in covering this business is that you get to travel around the country, and during February I traveled to Orlando — a city I have visited maybe as much as Las Vegas over the years — to cover the recent BrandSource convention.

I planned to visit longtime friends of ours, Joe and Debbie from Brooklyn, in Ormond Beach, Fla., for a few days after the meeting. By dumb luck, with no planning involved, two other friends from the old neighborhood who now live in northern Virginia, John and Laurie, were vacationing in Orlando with their daughter Kara, a doctor and resident at a hospital in Philadelphia, and her husband Adam. They drove over to Ormond Beach and we had a couple of days of laughs, reminiscing, sitting down … and eating.

Because of the last two items I began to hear this loving conversation between John, the father, and Kara, the daughter and doctor:

John (the father): “Well, I had 12,347 yesterday!”

Kara (the doctor and daughter): “But you only have 2,458 today! Get moving!”

I soon found out they were talking about the Fitbit Flex, one of the wearable products that encourage many to walk and exercise.

They then drew me into their conversation, and I was asked how much I have been walking since becoming editor at large and enjoying “semi-retirement.” I said I walked at least 2 miles a day at an outdoor track near my home, a few days a week. And, of course, another half-mile or so a day walking my dog on good weather days.

Between all the snow and harsh weather in New York during the winter, they obviously didn’t buy my story. But my friend John did buy something else for me: a Fitbit Flex as an “early birthday present” (my day is in August), which arrived in mid-March via Best Buy.

The Fitbit target per day, based on 10,000 steps a day, is 30 minutes of activity. I learned that walking 2 miles a day at the local track, walking our dog Abby at least a half mile a day (stopping and going and stopping and going based on her nose), and other assorted exercise (shoveling snow, doing chores around the house, shopping) doesn’t get me at least to the 10,000 step goal.

Some reviewers, albeit a lot younger than yours truly, have poo-pooed the 10,000 goal. But it is a goal. And the Flex measures “recent exercise,” calories burned, miles and steps walked, weight lost, food and water consumed, and sleep. I won’t share with you what I have been measuring (there is a privacy mode with the device), but it does keep you on your toes.

And then there are the “challenges” with your friends’ group. I have been challenged, first by Kara, and I responded one day by saying, “I’ve been busy at home and won’t have time to walk today so I won’t beat you,” and she messaged back saying, “It’s not about competition,” so, of course, she taught me something. Fitbit is about motivation.

I’ll admit that maybe it is laziness or maybe it is a lack of wanting to share everything via a wearable device, but I haven’t been diligent about sharing info about sleep, meals, etc.

In fact, I only have two complaints about the Fitbit Flex. One has been putting it on. I struggled with it the first week or two like my wife does putting on one of her bracelets. At one point I thought the latch design was designed by the same guys who design women’s bracelets, which is not a compliment, believe me.

The other complaint is that while I’ve tried to wear the Flex 24/7 to measure sleep, calories, etc., etc., I have taken it off to sleep. I love being connected, but not terribly so.

Still, the device itself is a motivator, to get out and move, in good weather and bad, and on days when you feel great or lousy, which is a blessing. I recommend Fitbit, or the exercise wearable of choice, enthusiastically. It gets you moving and reminds you via measurements what you are — and aren’t — doing to keep in shape.

Steve Smith is editor at large of TWICE and its former longtime editor in chief.