Journey of 10,000 Steps

I decided to take the plunge and buy a wearable a few months back. With Apple and Microsoft getting ready to take the plunge according to news sources and Google already at the party, I thought I’d be an early adopter and give it a go.

After some looking, I decided to try out the Basis watch that uses so many sensors that I lost count to track my body temperature, sweat, resting heart rate, and step count. In my purchasing process I didn’t look at Samsung’s multitude of devices that give handy notifications or let me read my email. I’m sure there is a market for this but I didn’t see the value add here. I get enough access to my email. Work has a tendency to creep into the home a bit too often. So much, that my wife wants to smash all the devices in the house. I think she is right by the way. It’s probably an addiction right up there with smoking. I wonder how many times a day I look at my phone to do something other than make a phone call. I think I use the phone less for its primary function.

There is also something to be said about living in the moment and there is a sense at times that I’ve lost that feeling. How did we fill our time before these devices came in our lives? Like most, I try to show off the perfect life on Facebook. It’s the place where my little one is always smiling. He never cries on Facebook. Note, there is nothing wrong with showing your kids off.

After a little over a month with the wearable, this is what I found. I think these two takeaways can be achieved with any wearable device.

I don’t move enough.

The Japanese invented step counters in the 60s. No wonder they are the healthiest country in the world. The watch tracks goals and progress to 10,000 steps. Apparently, this is the magic formula that leads to eternal health. I like to think I run more than the average guy. Normally, I used to go for a run three to four times a week, with the longest being in the 10 to 15 mile range. Then, I realized I do an interesting thing. On the off days, I rarely move. I actually thought I had a job where I move more than the average bear. In general, I still think I do. But on the days I didn’t do a run, I barely reached 6,000 steps. If you are curious, 10,000 steps is between a five or six mile run. Peaks and valleys are not necessarily good for you.

There is this term called Opportunity Costs that Economists use that does indeed make a difference.

Doctors have a tendency to say if you have time, go for a walk. Otherwise, go for a run. Walking is easier on the joints. There is also opportunity cost. Looking at the last two months of data, I wrote down the days where I walked between 10,000 and 15,000 steps. Then, I compared this data with days where I ran with the same overall 10,000 and 15,000 step count. Can you guess the difference? On average, it was between 250 and 300 calories give or take, and I run at an above average clip. That’s the equivalent of four Oreo cookies. Is running five miles worth four Oreo cookies? Yes, running is the best work out on the planet. It just may not be heads and shoulders above the competition when looking at the opportunity cost.

The tread mill is a big fat liar. 

So, when the treadmill says you burn 800 calories it’s not taking into the overall opportunity cost of doing something else (see above). I also found that since the Basis watch looks at body temp and sweat to build a calculation, which is probably more accurate than the standard treadmill equation, you actually burn far fewer calories that it’s telling you. For me, it’s actually a big discrepancy. This really pissed me off. I read multiple articles before finally giving in and accepting the reality. The watch wins because its equation is built for me.

In looking at the data, the biggest takeaway is to move and walk more often. Unlike some monitors, I can get a step counter without syncing to a phone or computer. On my journey to 10,000 steps, I found myself taking a walk during lunch or on a break during the day. When I pulled into the house, I would grab the family and go for a half hour walk. So, is the Basis watch worth the money? For the insight alone, I’d say yes it is. Sure, the watch syncs with most phones and computers easily, but there is something to be said about going for a walk without a phone or notification email. The data you get is also easy to review at your leisure. With the touch of a button, you can find your resting heart rate, step count and calories burned.

Is this the perfect device? I’d say it is close for what it does for me, at least for now. It tracks steps, the battery life is decent (about three days on a charge), syncs with my device of choice, and it helps balance out my off workout days. It even tells the time.

On the cons, it seems to have trouble understanding I’m out on a bike ride. Sometimes, it doesn’t pick up that I’m riding at all. Other times, it seems to think I’m riding a bike when I’m really mowing the lawn. It also looks like a 1980s calculator watch. At times, I do miss my Timex. That being said, I grew up in the era where the calculator watch was indeed cool so it doesn’t bother me so much.

For anyone that believes that wearable technology is a waste of money or another passing tech fad, I think they are missing the big picture. Giving anyone more data about their health is a good thing. Yes, privacy activist can shout from the hills about what companies do with the data. There is a place for the shouting. However, I’ll take a healthier me in exchange for what I’m giving up in return. It will be fascinating to see where these devices go in the next few years from science to form factor. I do believe that the company that can get a wearable to measure blood sugar will eventually rule the market. Your move Microsoft, Apple or Google. Who knows? Maybe, the little guy will be first to market. For now, I’ll just continue to watch my steps. De Leon spent a life time searching for the fountain of youth. It would have been far easier to take an evening walk.