In most situations, our perception is reality, and those perceptions can easily be skewed by personal motivations or outside influences. Think about this…
When you try to recall how many calories you consumed in a day, do you really know your caloric intake?
You can estimate approximately how many overall calories you’ve consumed and vitamins and minerals you’ve added, but do you know the specifics of your sodium, fat, carbohydrate, and sugar intake?
When you think about how much you moved your body throughout the day, do you really know your exercise/movement habits and how you compare to the recommended amounts?
And when someone asks you how many hours you sleep per night, do you really know the answer? You know what time you went to bed and what time you got out of bed, but do you really know how many hours were spent in dreamy land versus how many minutes you were tossing, turning, lying awake, or being shook out of your deep sleep patterns?
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You probably don’t know the specifics of each answer, not because you don’t care, but because tracking our personal data can be a task in its own, which is why new devices are being created to help us better understand and manage our personal habits.
Why do our personal habits matter? Due to the increase of individuals interested in the quantitative self movement that focuses on our individual data and quantifying our habits to lead to improvement, we are learning that by being more aware of our personal data, we can tweak our behaviors to proactively improve our health, and we can be very aware of our personal selves and detect when something isn’t quite right. By having a better pulse on how our bodies work, we can maintain them more effectively and know when we need to seek help.
New options for tracking personal data
Two devices that are [slowly] gaining ground and adoption (mainly by early-adopters who are already listening to their bodies) are Jawbone’s UP bracelet and the Nike+ Fuelband. Both devices are meant to track personal activities and help individuals achieve personal goals and understand their daily habits. While these devices are receiving attention, but not the projected sales, these could just be at the cusp fueling the quantified self trend for those who need to closely monitor their bodies for personal or medical reasons.
After testing both devices, here is what I found…
Overall function: Get started by putting it on your wrist, syncing it with the mobile app on your smartphone, and start wearing it all the time. Then, plug it into your phone twice a day via the headphone jack and press the sleep button when you’re ready for bed. The bluetooth functionality tracks your steps and sleep, but to read your data via the app, you must plug it in to sync. There is an optional function, which allows you to track your type of exercise and caloric intake by entering those items into your mobile app. This function takes a little bit of time, but remembers food and activity that was entered in the past so you can quickly enter foods and exercise that you eat/do on a regular basis.
PROS : The sleep monitoring aspect that provides a breakdown of the amount of sleep (deep and light) and times I woke up through the night was a great benefit. This was an interesting experiment in measuring my late-night habits and made me more aware of times that I was able to get a deeper sleep and how I felt the following day. This is an aspect of my life that I was never aware of and it opened my eyes to understanding my habits.
The food diary function has an extensive list of items and a scanning option to scan barcodes so the app will automatically detect your food. While this process is manual, it was easy-to-use and if I kept up with it daily, I was able to better understand my overall breakdown of nutrients and find vitamin/nutrient deficiencies and work to fill them. In the end, this could lead to healthier eating habits.
CONS: The band is not very attractive (although there are color options, nothing really matched my attire). The band is water-resistant so you really don’t have to take it off, but I did have people asking me what it was since it doesn’t look “normal.”
Also, you have to plug the bracelet into your phone to sync the data and view it through the app. It doesn’t take very long and it does result in a beautiful display of data, but it can be a pain.
Lastly, you must switch the bracelet to sleep mode when you are ready for bed, which I sometimes forgot to do.
Overall function: The Fuelband is focused more on goal-setting and tracking progress as it relates to physical activity. The Nike+ Fuelband also comes with the ability to sync to the Nike+ app, which is where your data is stored. While wearing the band and after syncing with the app, the band serves as a watch and simultaneously counts your movement throughout the day. This results in a number displayed on the band and you can share the progress of your number throughout the day with others who are linked to you, or you can share via your social networks.
PROS: The sleek design of the band and the flashing screen that changes color once you have met your daily “step” requirements, ensures that you move enough and serves as a constant reminder to “get physical.”
The Nike+ function provides a gamification aspect, which has a competitive twist. You can compete against others, or yourself, and set number goals to achieve by increasing your physical movements. Overall, this provides a motivating factor to get you moving and adds accountability and excitement through community interactions.
CONS: The Nike+ Fuelband does one thing – measures physical activity. Unfortunately, the band doesn’t focus on other aspects of your health (diet or sleep), but it has perfected the technology of measuring physical activity.
Overall, Jawbone’s UP bracelet provides a more holistic approach to tracking your full progress and performance, and has additional functionality with emphasis on providing data visualization to show the results in a visual representation, which can be effective.
The Nike+ Fuelband is more focused on the active self and is great for setting and achieving physical fitness goals and improving performance.
These devices can be useful if you know what you want to get out of using them. If your goal is to just track your steps and be sure you are moving enough, either device will do the trick and your decision could be made on how it looks. If you are seeking a more detailed overview of all your habits, then go with the UP band so you can track sleep and diet. Either way, by using these devices, you will ultimately know yourself better and make small changes to a healthier lifestyle!