Jamie's Notes

Currently browsing wearables ⤵

Six Months with the Fitbit Flex

I have been wearing a Fitbit Flex since June 2013; a little over six months at today’s date. This neat little gadget sits on my wrist twenty four hours a day, seven days a week and silently monitors my activity levels. It’s basically a clever pedometer, but it also tracks sleep.

Now that I have gathered plenty of data, I thought it would be useful to see what it can tell me about my lifestyle.

How I Got the Data

Fitbit offers a comprehensive dashboard to view your data at no additional cost. It’s pretty good for day to day use – but you are restricted to viewing your data in the way that their interface prescribes.

Fitbit also offers an API for application developers, from which they can pull data. I’m not nearly clever enough to do anything with it, but the very clever Mark Leavitt has created a script for Google Sheets called ‘Fitbit Download’ which sucks down all of your data through the API and places it in a spreadsheet. You can download it through the Script Gallery. There are a couple of extra hoops to jump through before you can get at your data, so take a look at the full instructions.

So, what does all this data tell me?

General Activity Levels

The data is quite depressing reading. My activity levels are very low. I am officially, by most definitions, sedentary. I’m an Outreach Worker by trade. The job title suggests that I am pounding the pavements on a regular basis. That is not the case. The majority of my work hours are spent in client’s homes, in the car, or writing up reports. 

Fitbit sets you a goal of ten thousand steps a day (roughly five miles) but I quickly realised that I was never going to meet that, so I lowered it to seven and half thousand. Even that lower figure turned out to be optimistic. My average daily step count over the whole dataset is just 5879.

Broken down by month (not including partial months):

  • July: 6759
  • August: 6124
  • September: 6462
  • October: 5391
  • November: 5044
  • December: 5257

My activity levels are showing a downward trend. Perhaps due to the change in seasons? I should probably do something about that.

Sleep

I like sleep – but I often feel that I don’t get enough. Everyone needs different amounts of sleep to be able to manage effectively the next day. I reckon that I need seven hours to feel fully rested.

Fitbit collects a few different data points for sleep. It calculates the time difference between getting in bed and waking up in the morning, and subtracts any time that I’m restless. The data shown above is pure, deep sleep.

My average over the period is 424 minutes, or 7.06 hours. That’s pretty good! However, the data shows that my sleep pattern is unpredictable. I’ll get five hours some nights and nine another. I don’t think that my body can work out what is going on.

For no reason that I can fathom, Thursday is the day that I get the least sleep – and Sunday the most. Here are my daily averages:

  • Monday: 7.11
  • Tuesday: 6.86
  • Wednesday: 6.91
  • Thursday: 6.53
  • Friday: 7.05
  • Saturday: 7.42
  • Sunday: 7.63

What the heck is going wrong on Thursdays?!

Is it useful?

This is only a small subset of the information that can be pulled out of the Flex. I use it as a motivator more than anything – a constant jab in the ribs to remind me that I need to do more. Often that does not translate into direct action, and that’s the bit that I need to work on if I am going to make some of this data more positive. Fitbit provides the carrot by giving me useful data – now I’ve got to use the stick to get me out there.