FitBit Ultra

One important aspect of losing or maintaining your weight is to be more active. Society today is filled with all manner of devices to make our lives easier. With that ease comes consequences, we don’t have to work as hard and in many cases we have less movement.

Before beginning this diet I knew that I had become much less active than I was earlier in my life. But with five kids going in different directions, a job requiring long hours in front of the computer, and not enough time in the day to complete any to-do list I could not possibly be expected to find time in my day to go to the gym.

It was definitely a dilemma and one that likely affects most if not all of us. If I was going to successfully reduce my weight I knew that an exercise program would be required but how and where would I find the time?

Looking back over my life I had always been active. Growing up I spent nearly every waking hour outside running, riding bicycles, and playing baseball. Now I spend most of my day indoors sitting at a desk and watching baseball. Three knee surgeries and four shoulder surgeries later and much of my playing seemed out of the question.

It doesn’t have to be that way though. There are ways to introduce some level of activity into our daily lives. Instead of sitting in a chair during a conference call or minimizing steps by combining trips to put kids’ toys away I could stand and walk around and take one single item at a time upstairs. Granted it may not be as efficient but every little bit of activity would help.

The question in my mind though was, will these few things make a difference and if so how much of a difference? As an engineer I am constantly reminded that in order to show progress you need to be able to measure it. The question with the steps was how do you measure it and once you have it measured what does it mean?

Clearly I needed something that would help me to collect the data from my daily attempts to increase movement and then be able to calculate what those measurements mean and how they will help me to become healthier.

At first glance it seemed that a simple pedometer would do what I asked. It could measure the steps I took and allow me to use those steps to calculate the amount of calories I had burned and hence measure the progress I was making.

The problem with a pedometer is that it’s good at collecting the data but not so well at evaluating it. I would be forced to collect the data and create some system or spreadsheet where I would have to manually do the analysis. The challenge was that if I was sitting in front of the computer analyzing data that meant that I was actually increasing my sedentary time instead of increasing my activity. What I needed was something that could automate the data collection and analysis.

After some research and talking to several people on multiple social media sites I found a device that will do just what I needed. The FitBit Ultra is kind of like a pedometer on steroids. Not only does it count the steps you take each day but will also record the number of calories burned, the number of stairs you’ve climbed, the distance you have walked, and the level of activity you have exerted. This was exactly what I needed.

The FitBit Ultra is the next generation of personal data collection device. The size of a small money clip or pack of gum it clips to your clothing and immediately begins collecting data. It comes with a base unit that is used to charge the device’s rechargeable battery. The base also acts as a Wi-Fi connection that allows the FitBit to send information wirelessly whenever it is within a few feet of the base.

The data collected is sent to a secure web site where it tracks your daily accomplishments. The web site allows you to set daily activity goals then will track how well you are doing against the goals.

I’ve just started using the FitBit and already I have begun to see changes in my behavior. With this tiny reminder clipped to my pocket I find myself taking the long way around the house or walking up and downstairs more than I used to do. With the help of the FitBit I am finding those small slots during the day to make myself more active.

If the FitBit only collected and analyzed my movement it would be worth it but it has a hidden feature that at first I thought was a gimmick but has become an important measuring tool to make me more aware of my health.

The FitBit Ultra came with a wristband that holds the device at night. Pressing and holding the button for a couple of seconds puts the device in sleep mode. Sleep mode does not refer to shutting down the FitBit but rather allows the device to being measuring your sleep.

Using a built-in cyclometer it measures when you are resting versus moving around. During the night it tracks this to provide you a glimpse of how much tossing and turning you do at night. I was shocked to learn that I spend nearly an hour a night rolling around interrupting my sleep.

Having this knowledge helps me to try and find ways to get a more restful night sleep whether that be eliminating distractions or finding a more comfortable pillow. I’m very curious to see whether changes I make to my sleeping will have an impact on my overall health. Perhaps I will finally wake up in the morning not feeling like I just ran a 5K. And if I did run a 5K the FitBit will give me credit for the calories I burned.

The FitBit Ultra is rather expensive with a retail price of $99 but given the amount of data and the ease of use it is well worth the cost. Watching the price on on-line sites such as Amazon it has fluctuated by more than $12 so if you can be patient in when you buy the device it is possible to save yourself a few dollars.

It’s amazing how much data such a small device can collect and how useful it can be for helping you develop an overall fitness plan that does not carve out huge chunks of time to go to a gym. I would definitely recommend the FitBit Ultra.

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