Why wearable fitness trackers…

IMGP0001A good friend of mine asked me a question the other day and I have spent the last couple of days trying to come up with an answer. First off, this friend is famous for calling and never having easy question. He is kind of the “Hard button” of friends.

I am a huge fan of wearables and in particular the various wearable fitness trackers. They collect data on your day, send it to the cloud and then send it back to you. Not just what you did today, but you what you did in the past week, month and well as far back as the first time you wore a fitness tracker.

My friend asked “do steps count if you don’t track them.” I realized he was being somewhat facetious in asking that.

But the problem is I wonder. Do steps count if you don’t track them? Would we, sitting around the dinner table and sharing our daily step total accept an estimate?

My fitness trackers say I did 15,996 steps three days ago, first off it is painful; to wake up in the morning and check your results and find yourself only 4 steps away from a milestone. Not that I have to walk more than 15,000 steps just that it is sort of a personal goal to walk more than 16,000 steps as possible. In 2016 I managed to walk 10,000 or more steps 361 times. It isn’t big data, but it is the data you get from wearable fitness devices.

IMGP0005The big data analytics comes when you start comparing your steps to those around you. What do people in your geography (zip code) do in terms of steps. What do people your age do as far as steps, what do in my case men your age do as far as steps. Where do you rank across your country, across the world so on and so forth? That is the big data that wearable devices start.

That reality of data is interesting to me. First off because it has to go somewhere and frankly the cloud is a much better short term and long term storage reality for that data than on premise disk is. In fact, I would argue that for many wearable company’s cloud is the only option to consider.

The next tier of data analytics is measuring not just how many steps but the rate or speed at which you take those steps. Sometimes when you go too far, you run a much greater risk of injury. So, knowing that you need to be careful after 15000 steps or 20000 steps is important. Your wearable can notify you when you rate of steps declines to the point that demonstrates tired. It isn’t the same number every day, we all have days we start out tired.

Data from wearable technology can help you every day. To be more active is a great goal to set. It is one that many of us make as our New Year’s resolution. But knowing that last year you took 5,000 steps per day and pushing that up to 6000 steps per day is a lot easier than guessing. Or searing as you sip champing while watching the ball drop that this year I am going to get back, to running.

IMGP0016It’s about making real goals. But it is also about making realistic goals. You can’t run if you never start. But you can increase your daily total of steps by 1000. That is roughly ½ a mile, depending on how tall you are and how long your stride is. The longer the stride the further 1000 steps would be, the shorter the stride the less distance it would be. Of course, if you take really short strides you would have to recalibrate your wearable to account for that. Normally, when you set the device up you enter your height and the system does a standard calculation based on your height. That gives the device your standard stride length. Based on that it can calculate the number of steps you would take, on average, in one mile. Normally the standard is roughly 2000 steps per mile. That is assuming you are 5’10” tall for a male or 5’7” tall for a woman. From there it is a process of manual adjustments to move you higher or lower on your overall step counts.

All, to increase your activity!

(images today courtesy of Dr. Hans O Andersen)