Back in that fall of 2015, one of my aunts started using a Fitbit watch to track her steps. One of my other aunts was intrigued and got a Fitbit for her birthday in November, and by that Christmas, at least six of our family members had Fitbit devices. At that time, the model that we all had didn’t have a screen, it just showed up to five dots and you had to sync with your phone, iPad or computer to know the exact number of steps. If your step goal was 10,000 steps, then each dot would represent 2,000 steps. When you achieved your 10,000 steps for the day, the tracker in the watch would buzz frantically, and if you were with anyone you had to announce that you just reached your 10,000 steps!
As family members, we often would participate in challenges to see who could get the most steps. On the Fitbit friends page, there was a live ranking of who had taken the most steps over the last seven days. There was a Christmas where we did a holiday challenge, and the family was basically divided between the Fitbit users and the non-Fitbit users. The Fitbit users were pacing back and forth, running up and down the stairs, pacing the driveway or jumping at the opportunity to grab something from the kitchen or the car. Meanwhile, the non-Fitbit users were playing card games, watching TV and/or laughing at us.
The Fitbit app was a cool way to connect my generation with my parents’ generation and I was often asked why I was or wasn’t getting a lot of steps that week. It became very evident when my aunts went on hikes or when someone’s Fitbit wasn’t working.
This was a fun game for a while and over the years I had upgraded models a few times. My Fitbit app had seen me at different times of my life and gave me a quantitative way of looking at my health during each lifestyle. What I mean, is that when I first started using my Fitbit I was in high school, so I was getting steps by walking to the school bus, walking between classes or at lunch and was often doing extra-curricular activities after school that involved physical activity.
During the first few summers that I had my Fitbit, I was serving tables and getting 15,000-25,000 steps every day. It gave me numerical proof of why I was so tired after work and also made it very clear which days involved harder work and more steps.
My Fitbit held me accountable on days when I didn’t want to leave the house and I utilized several tools on the Fitbit app. With the GPS in the app, I could record runs and the app would tell me my paces and compare my heart rate data to my speed. I was tracking my period in the app and seeing my sleep statistics. I also loved seeing how many flights of stairs I climbed on any given day.
I certainly didn’t want to stop using the app.
I have never been unsatisfied with a Fitbit product. Anytime a band has broken, I have contacted Fitbit support and had a replacement within a week.
In January 2020, I had skin irritation on my left wrist under the heartrate tracker. I don’t know for sure if it was from the Fitbit or not, but I stopped wearing it. The skin irritation persisted for weeks and I enjoyed not being held accountable by my wearable tech. It was a similar feeling to moving out of the house, since your parents can no longer see your daily actions.
On any given day, I’m not focused on getting a certain number of steps – instead, I try to get outside at least once a day for a bike ride, walk or run. Especially on days when I’m doing a lot of homework in one spot, it is nice to not be discouraged by checking how low my steps are on the Fitbit app.
Another concern I had with my Fitbit watches was the cleanliness of them. I certainly didn’t wipe my Fitbit with an alcohol wipe as often as I washed my hands, yet it was exposed to just as much dirt, sweat, sunscreen, etc. as my wrists were.
So needless to say, I’m enjoying the freedom of not tracking my every step around the house. I’m enjoying not losing my Fitbit charger every week. It’s liberating and in a time when we may feel trapped in the house, I refuse to feel trapped by a fitness tracking device.