The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Teenagers and Fitbits

A recent study found that activity trackers can actually de-motivate teenagers:

The problem with the monitors seemed to be that they had left the teenagers feeling pressure and with little control over their activities, as well as self-conscious about their physical abilities, said Charlotte Kerner, a lecturer in youth sport and physical education at Brunel University London, who led the study. The result was frustration, self-reproach — and less, not more, movement.

“You can’t just give a child a Fitbit for Christmas and expect them to be active,” Kerner said. “They will need educating on how best to negotiate the features.” Nudge them to set realistic step counts and other fitness goals, she says, and to consider whether they want to share their results with friends. For many young people, fitness may be better achieved in private.

I would be interested in why this happens, and how prevalent it is in adults. For some adults, like me, having an activity tracker is really motivating. I've arranged my life in part to make sure I get lots of steps, often more than 4,500 by the time I've gotten to work in the morning (or 9,000 if I walk the whole way).

Teenagers, though, really resent being told what to do. I wonder how this study could be altered to reduce that part of adolescent psychology.

Update: I just discovered that, when I hit 10,611 steps today, I'll have 15 million lifetime steps on Fitbit. Cool.

Athletic activity heat maps

Via CityLab's new newsletter "MapLab:"

Vision Zero” supporters are tapping into big data in other ways. This month, Strava, the app that tracks users’ athletic activity, re-released a “Global Heatmap” tracing more than 1 billion jogs, hikes, and bike rides by millions of members around the world. (The running scene in London, in striking orange and black, is shown above.) Already, some public agencies are making use of the data to support and protect all that sweat. CityLab’s Benjamin Schneider recently wrote about how Utah’s DOT is changing road and intersection designs to be safer for cyclists, based on the map. “It’s replacing anecdote with data,” one local planner told him.

Here's the run map for Chicago's north lakefront:

This is total Daily Parker bait. But I actually have work to do today.

Three years of stepping

Just a quick note. I've had a Fitbit for three years as of today, and so far, I've logged 14.4 million steps. My mean over 1,097 days is 13,170 steps per day, though my median is 12,616, reflecting the fact that I have a number of very-high-step days against almost none when I failed to hit 5,000. I've hit 10,000 on 949 days, 87% of the time.

And now I'm going to ratchet up another 4,000 on my way home.

Thoughts on a day that seemed cooler earlier

Walking to work is an easy way to hit my step goal before lunch. It's 6.75 km and 8,500 steps. At just over an hour, it takes only about 20 minutes longer than the bus or 30 minutes longer than the train.

The problem is the dewpoint. When I left my house, the temperature was a delightful 19°C...and the dewpoint was a sticky 17°C. By the time I'd gone ten blocks I was already uncomfortable.

Note to self: bring a fresh shirt when you walk to work, no matter what the weather looks like.

The perils of travel

It's not really that perilous to travel from the US to the UK, unless you're in a step challenge.

This past week, I was traveling for almost 40 hours—including 14 yesterday thanks to ordinary aviation delays. When you're on a plane, it's pretty hard to get steps. Fortunately the time change from the UK back to the US is in my favor, so I got 6 extra hours in which to walk, and I also got Parker back. Still, I barely squeaked in with 10,689 for the day and an unusually low 81,638 for the week (helped immensely by Wednesday's 18,319).

The nadir, of course, was last Sunday, when I flew to London. The lost 6 hours occurred right in the middle of the day, so not only did I get the fewest steps (7,407) since June 11th (7,044), but also this happened:

Sheesh.

So naturally, I walked to work today. I'm already at 9,770 and heading towards 20k (assuming I walk home, too).

Welcome to summer

Chicago temperatures stayed below 32°C for almost nine months: September 7th all the way until last Sunday, June 4th. Then we had absolutely gorgeous weather during the last work week, which all ended on Saturday when the temperature hit 32°C for the first of (so far) three times. Our forecast calls for continued hot and shitty weather through at least Thursday.

Hey, it happens every year. And our cool weather was pretty good while it lasted.

The bad part is that the temperature killed my Fitbit numbers this weekend. I had the worst day since December 23rd, and that poor performance was because I spent 8 hours on an airplane. Fingers crossed that yesterday's 7,044 steps remains the worst of the year.

Walking through the neighborhoods

I took a short walk today, from Central Street in Evanston to my house. Totals: 16.37 km, 2:25:29, 8'53" per km, 18,357 steps. It's not as far as my epic 28 km walk last June, but I'll probably do another walk that distance sometime later this year. I mean, why not a 32 km walk?

Right. Because my feet hurt.

So far today I'm just shy of 30,000 steps. So I'm not quite in the top 5—but I will be if I walk another thousand steps, which seems pretty likely:

2016 Jun 16 40,748
2016 Oct 23 36,105
2016 Sep 25 32,354
2016 Jun 8 32,315
2015 Apr 26 30,496
2016 Mar 8 29,775
So far today 29,445

And here's the meandering route I took:

The daily torture of hourly step goals

Fitbit has a feature that tells you if you've taken at least 250 steps per hour. You can set the start and end times—mine are 8am and 8pm—but you can't turn off the feature entirely.

This feature is driving me batty.

Most days I'm pretty vigilant. Take last week, for example. I got my 12-hour goal almost every day:

Those two hours last Thursday when I missed the goal bother me. But not as much as the 9am hour yesterday, repeated again today, during which I was engrossed in work, made a mental note at 9:45 that I needed to walk Parker, and looked up again at 10:02:

So. Frustrating.

Also notice that it keeps track of your longest time without taking any steps. Again, it's sometimes hard to get up and move because it breaks the flow of coding. All I need to do is just stand up and walk around the room every n minutes to bring the average down, and yet, it's really hard to remember to do that.

Meanwhile, I've hit my larger goal of hitting 10,000 steps per day on 28 of the last 30, and my 30-day moving average is over 15,000 right now. So I'm doing something right.