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Swift: Fitbit does make you just a little bit more fit

Tammy Swift, columnist. The Forum

So a few weeks ago, I finally broke down and got one. A Fitbit. The must-have accessory for anyone who desires a fancy watch with nagging and shaming capabilities.

I don’t really know why. I think I would do better with a Napbit, a Snackbit or, best of all, a Baconbit. But I do know that I like to walk. Heck, I’ve been doing it for most of my life, and I can perambulate with the best of them. It relaxes me.

During some of the most stressful transitions of my life, I walked. Sometimes for miles and miles, until the stress dropped off, the weight dropped off and the happy chemicals bloomed in my brain. It’s the one activity for which I wouldn’t get picked last in gym class.

Not only that, I had a lot of luck with the great-granddaddy of the Fitbit, the pedometer. One year, my insurance company was issuing a 10,000-steps-a-day challenge. Back then I worked on a college campus, so that was easy. Several trips from the library to the Union and my step count soared. That constant reminder to reach the next mini-goal, to squeeze in a few extra steps, was enough to make me opt for the stairway instead of the elevator, or to park a little farther from the door.

Surely, the Fitbit — the love child of the pedometer and the smartwatch — would be even better. It would act like a brilliant wrist-side coach to remind me to get in my 250 steps each hour. It would measure my heart rate and my minutes of sustained moderate activity in addition to steps. And, when paired with the app, it would provide a long-range record of all of those things, in addition to food trackers and a sleep log.

And you know what? It does all of those things remarkably well. But, as much as the technology has sharpened, my Tammology has declined. Not only am I 16 years older, but so are my knees and my bad habits.

I work at home frequently and, too often, I get in my 250 steps an hour by heading to the refrigerator. I’ve also realized something: 10,000 steps a day is a lot of walking. That’s five miles a day, people. Now, that doesn’t sound like much if you are reasonably fit and have an active lifestyle. But if you’re 53 and have been known to call an Uber to get to the mailbox, it’s hard.

Heck, nowadays I would think twice about walking five miles anywhere — even the Dairy Queen.

Actually, my favorite feature has been the sleep log. It’s eye-opening (no pun intended) to realize how much time you spend awake each night. It also was reassuring to see that my sleep patterns aren’t wildly distorted. My time in REM sleep, deep sleep, light sleep and awake stack up reasonably well against the averages of other women my age.

In other words, there’s a whole nation of women out there who are also waking up five times a night to take their elderly dogs outside for bathroom breaks or because their night sweats have turned their mattresses into waterbeds. No wonder a symptom of menopause is irritability.

Really, overall, the Fitbit has been a good thing. I am moving more and I’m more aware of important health indicators like heart rate and sleep patterns.

I guess every little “Bit” does help.

Readers can reach columnist Tammy Swift at tswiftsletten@gmail.com.