I love running. I love the space it gives and the release of endorphins at the end. I love being able to push myself towards a time goal. I happily use running apps (mostly Strava) as part of this process because even in its most basic form it rewards me with little bits of encouragement each time I go out:
“Go you! That was the fastest you’ve run 500 metres!” or “Yay – a personal best on that stretch of the run”
The statistics cheer at me each time I go running. I let the app track me because it gives me this information and encouragement in return. I’ve never used a purpose-built activity tracker outside of this because I can’t help feeling it is a little creepy to be constantly monitored. However, a few weeks ago I was given a Garmin Vivofit3 Activity Tracker to try. I was not prepared for the positive impact this little piece of tech has had on how I go about my day.
Initially, I put it on my wrist to observe how I went with it. I don’t normally wear a watch – I kind of stopped wearing one 11 years when my first kid came along – but after a week I feel naked without it. I’m also kind of bemused at the way watches went out of style, cos man they are handy!
But then funniest thing happened. Strapping this little white band to my arm was like pitting me against the machine. Almost immediately this little band tacitly challenged me to move by reflecting in black-and-white (literally) exactly what my patterns of activity had been. Just having it on my arm made me want to get see that number of steps go up.
I found that over the course of the week, this activity tracker coerced me each day to meet the goal that it set. It pushed me out of the car and onto the footpath for those routine trips like school drop off and pickup. It encouraged me onto my bike for longer trips within my community. It made me want to run further as a way to bump up my steps. I even danced a few times just to push the number up! This tracker motivated me to use active transport in a way that nothing else has.
WHAT IS ACTIVE TRANSPORT?
Active transport is a bit of a buzzword when it comes to planning and health. Basically it means walking, cycling, running or any other kind of transport where the individual’s activity propels them from one place to another. Good planning bodies that have the public’s interest at heart like to talk about design that gets people out cars and onto “public and active transport” as a way to keep the population healthy and lower the carbon emissions from light vehicles.
My little Vivofit3 has propelled me out the door four days this week to walk the kids to school. It more or less forced me to run home for each of those trips to save time and burn more calories! It dared me to walk to the library twice and cycle to do some groceries. Not everyone has the opportunity to incorporate such exercise into their day – and better planning that understands the relationship between design and human and environmental health is crucial to develop environments where these opportunities are accessible to all. But this kind of close proximity to our daily activities is part of why we decided to live closer to the city and this activity tracker has reminded me to get out there and enjoy it!
I wrote more about the features of this gadget in my review here.