I have treated myself to an activity tracker to help motivate me to be more active. I got a garmin one as my husband’s had a garmin running watch for some time, which he’s very happy with.

I’ve had it for nearly two months now and it’s good. Though it is a bit bulky and some clothes with tight sleeves I find difficult to put on over it. Here are some of my thoughts and things that it’s told me.

One important thing is that steps aren’t everything. The step count is the main metric it tracks (though not the only one), but there are lots of activities that don’t significantly add to the step count. Cycling for example. It does have a heart rate monitor, from which it calculates how many calories you’re burning. And walking (especially at the speed the children go) is not as hard work as cycling. So often days with my highest number of steps are often one of lowest for calories burnt. Which means I often have to choose between steps or calories burnt, i.e. do we walk or cycle to school. I tend to cycle because it’s easier and quicker, so I then have to work harder during the day to meet my step goal. And as each day that you meet the goal it gets higher it gets more difficult.  Often at the end of the day I “take a turn (or six!) around the room” to hit my daily step target.

It has shown me that I don’t do high intensity activities, though I rarely sit down for long periods! I mainly get it cycling over the railway bridge…6 times every week! Though as I’m cycling as a mode of transport, rather than exercise, I do lots of short journeys which don’t sustain my heart rate high enough for over the ten minutes needed to count as intense activity. One frustrating thing is that it doesn’t tell you which minutes it’s counted as intense activity, so unless you keep looking at the watch it’s difficult to work out. It did clock over 60 minutes of intense activity when I flew alone with the children. Schipol airport on the last day of term is obviously very stressful!

I clocked  every cycle ride I did for one week, which showed that I cycle about 30-35km every week. But it’s faffy to log it as you need to fiddle with the watch each time you start and stop, and then go into the app and set the activity to cycling (you can’t do that on the watch). Which for at least 25 separate cycle rides in a week is a big task. So I’m only now bothering to log any extraordinary journeys I do.

It’s meant to be able to automatically recognise types of activity, but it’s not that great. Probably because I don’t cycle for long enough or hard enough for it to register the change in what I’m doing. Especially when rocket boy is also on his bike and I’m going along next to him! Though it does keep creating elusive elliptical activities it thinks I do.

The stair counter is not so accurate – I think it only counts about half to three quarters of the stairs I go up. Maybe I live too close to sea level for the pressure change to register? One of the benefits of living in a three stores house is that I go up and down the stairs all day. I have a couple of times had more than 20 flights of stairs logged, which is twice the target.

I didn’t plan to use the Bluetooth link to my phone, but actually it’s quite useful. I’ve picked up a couple of calls when I hadn’t realized my phone was ringing and it allows me to screen my texts. It’s also made me edit what app notifications I get on my phone.

It is inspiring me to be more active – I run round play areas/can can in the kitchen/walk when I might not have done so otherwise. I even went for a run last weekend. And the rare occasions I go running lead to the highest heart rates. I plan to keep up the running once a week, and to work at the step and intensive activity goals. Though with the cold, dark, wet days of winter coming the next few months will be hard!

I have started trying out the social aspects – I have 1 connection and I’ve joined a challenge group. The group doesn’t interact much though, which is a shame but not really a surprise as we don’t know each other. It does provide an incentive to do lots of steps, as does seeing how my friend is doing. Im tempted to look into ways of sharing with users of other makes of trackers, as I know other friends use different trackers. So if anyone knows how to do that, or wants to add me as a contact let me know.

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