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I’m a health tracker!

Fitbit iPhone interface showing daily activity levels

This post was written by Caroline Conena. 

In January, I wrote my first blog on tracking your health. In May, I opened a package with a Fitbit One™ tracking device. Coincidence? Did Fitbit — a company devoted to helping people lead healthier, more active lives — read my previous post and send me swag? No, but my hip, thoughtful aunt from Los Angeles did.

She sent my Fitbit as a graduation present, and it sat in its box for weeks. Confession: I’m a lazy health tracker. I start my running logs, I outline my workout schedules… and then I forget. The Fitbit could be just the inspiration I need.

The first time I used my Fitbit (imagine a small pedometer-like clip) was inside a wristband I wore to bed. The next morning I downloaded the Fitbit app to my phone, watched my fitbit sync wirelessly and voila — my sleep patterns from the night before appeared in a color-coded chart of “restless” and “awake” periods.

I was almost hooked. I snapped my Fitbit to my shorts for the rest of the day. That night, I uploaded my data.

One graph showed the steps I took, another the floors I climbed, and another the calories I burned. There was a tab for logging specific activities (like bicycling 12 to 13.9 mph), a feature to monitor my weight, and even a way to find friends. For three weeks, I’ve tracked my health and fitness. And it’s true: being more aware of your activity does motivate you to do more. Taking the stairs was more satisfying knowing my Fitbit was keeping track.

Then, I went to a company cookout. And just to show you true nerdiness of CommunicateHealth I present to you: Conversations from a company cookout.

Mindy: So I’m taking this human-computer interaction class. My final project is to write a paper on any type of human-computer interaction.

Most people listening: Oh, awesome!

Sarah: Oh, you should do something like the Fitbit.

Me: Hey! I just got one of those.

Sarah: If you think about it, it’s great for people who are already into fitness. But what about people who don’t exercise or can’t afford it? And then there’s the whole thing about data visualization. Can people understand all the graphs, charts, and numbers? And that blog we wrote about tracking health — tons of people track their activities, but mostly in their head, so maybe it’s better to stay simple, like just give people a basic pedometer.

And this is why we’re public health, design, visualization, and usability experts and ponderers — and yes, perhaps, nerds.

To be honest, I hadn’t thought of who uses Fitbit, how the data is displayed on my screen, and how we could take something as innovative as Fitbit and make it usable for the masses.

Then, I went for a run because I’m addicted — if not to my fitness, then to my Fitbit telling me about it. As Doug Aamoth from Time Magazine says: “Fitbit makes getting in shape as addictive as checking Facebook and Twitter.” I’m starting to believe it. Now, let’s make it as accessible as it is addictive.

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