Some recent experiences with walking, weight loss and wearable gadgets

March 12, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
March 12, 2016

Why do I know so much about the number of steps in a mile and the number of minutes and seconds it takes me to walk a mile?

I know, dear reader, that when you read my post from Friday you must have been asking yourself these very pertinent questions. Fear not; the answer is simple, and comprises but a single word:


Well, that’s the short answer. The long answer is:

My parental unit got a Fitbit Flex last year. P.U. liked this device but did not enjoy having to consult a smartphone to find out how many steps needed to be taken before the next goal was reached. Consequently, my parent upgraded to the Fitbit Charge.

The Charge is a sort of combination smartwatch and activity tracker. When prompted, it displays the precise number of steps the wearer has taken that day, among other information. My parent, pleased with this device, handed down the Flex to me. I began using it in October.

I like my Flex, and I’ve found it to be quite helpful. Knowing how much I’ve walked in a given day often gives me the incentive I need to go a little farther in pursuit of a goal.

The Flex works closely with an app on my smartphone. The Fitbit program’s exercise tracking function enables me to gauge how far different spots in Durham are from one another and how quickly (or slowly) I cover a mile. Perhaps just as important, the Fitbit app has a calorie tracking function that’s helped me monitor and (to a lesser extent) regulate my diet.

(This utility is not exclusive to Fitbit. A few years ago, I tracked my food with an app, then completely free, offered by MyNetDiary; I found it to be useful, even though I wasn’t exercising in an organized fashion then.)

The upshot is that I’ve been walking significantly farther and eating slightly less than I used to. I used to park a short distance from various destinations and walk around the block to get where I was going. Now I park farther from places and take routes that are sometimes extremely circuitous.

A few times a month, I’ll step out of the house late at night and walk for 20 minutes or so, either because I want to hit my daily goal of 10,000 steps or because I want to make up for having eaten a heavy dinner. That’s something I would rarely if ever have done before I got a Fitbit.

I’ve tracked my weight sporadically through the years. When I began doing it through the Fitbit app in October, I weighed 197 pounds. My weight has declined slowly but fairly steadily since then. I was at 191.1 pounds in the final week of 2015 and 189.7 the first week of this year; ever since, my weekly average weight has been no higher than 188.4 pounds.

I’ll have more — but hopefully not too much more! — on this and related topics shortly.

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