Dr. Fitbit or: how I learned to stop worrying and love exercise.

Fitbit Charge 3

I am in no way affiliated with Fitbit, but getting a Fitbit Charge 3 has been a very good decision. Let me elaborate.

I am at that age (mid-forties) where we contemplate life, how short it really is, and how fast time is moving. I visited my doctor not long ago for a simple checkup, and he said in very clear terms that I am a member of a high-risk group. Male, middle-aged, and overweight. Only slightly, but still, it got me thinking.

At the same time, I read somewhere about preoperative physiotherapy. Basically, it means getting fit before having surgery in order to heal faster. It makes total sense to me. Unfortunately, someone in our close family circle is potentially facing invasive surgery not too far into the future, and so this message hit home quite hard.

All this made me reconsider my dislike of exercise. In short, there is benefit in having a healthy body. “A healthy mind in a healthy body,” so there’s that too.

The best way to become healthier is to exercise more. The best way to lose weight is to burn more calories than you ingest. Changing a diet probably helps too, but I didn’t want to overturn all my habits at once. In stead, starting small and taking it from there is better: let’s change the habit of hardly exercising into the habit of exercising on a regular basis and lose some weight as I go along. This is where the Fitbit comes in.

In all fairness, it didn’t have to be a Fitbit, but I decided for the Charge 3 because I like how it looks, and because it also monitors heart rate. There are other fitness trackers to choose from. Up to you.

The Charge 3, but probably any Fitbit, comes with the Fitbit app. In the app, you can track a plethora of information: your heart rate, number of steps, calories burnt, your fluid intake, what you eat, and more. With the Charge 3, you can even track your sleep.

For me, the biggest change came from just a few information points:

  • number of steps I take each day. You can set a target, and you get a notification on your Fitbit device when you reach your target. It’s like a badge (I know, silly) but it helps me to try and achieve the goal. I’ve set the goal to something attainable, which helps me reach it almost daily. Set the goal too high, and you won’t bother when you don’t reach it a few too many times.
  • energy burnt. This tells you how much energy you’ve used during the day. There is of course a baseline, because your body burns energy even when you do absolutely nothing. Your brain, for instance, consumes some 500 calories a day. The app (if you wear your device) keeps track of how many calories you’ve burnt each day. Pretty nifty.
  • energy ingested. This tells you how much energy you’ve ingested in the form of food. It takes a bit of effort to track this, but you quickly get an idea of how many calories a certain food item has. The app helps you with that.

Now, here is the kicker: you can set a goal in the app. For me, the goal is to lose 3kgs in 6 weeks, which seemed doable to me, but other than that is pretty random. The app told me I need to ingest 500 calories less than I burn each day to reach that goal, and even better, it helps you keep track of it (as long as you enter your energy intake each day).

So far, I’m on track. I’ve only had my Fitbit for a few weeks, but in that period I managed to reach my daily goal on every day but one. And that’s fine. Sometimes I eat a bit less, sometimes a exercise a bit more. The net effect is that my caloric intake is almost always less than what I burn, even taking into account the 500 calorie difference. Success!

Now, I’m not someone to go completely overboard with these kinds of things. I exercise as I see fit (pun intended), but try not to overdo it. I believe the benefit comes from changing my exercising habit, which doesn’t have to be radical. But I notice that the information I get from my Fitbit device helps me make informed decisions.

I’ve signed up to the local gym, and made the conscious decision to have a workout three times a week. Nothing big, some time on the cross trainer and some time on the weights. My goal is not to become a body builder (for which I’m too old anyway) nor an ultra runner, just to keep my muscles in shape. And it’s working charms.

It’s amazing how a little device around your wrist can change how you feel about something you never liked. Sure, there was the punch in the gut about getting older and facing my mortality, but at least my Fitbit helps me deal with overcoming the dread of exercise I used to feel, and actually love it.