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I stopped tracking my health, and life, and it made no difference
Over the past 6 years I have always worn a smart watch or fitness tracker and used apps to monitor various aspects of my life. This has included the following-
Average heart rate
Blood oxygen (occasionally)
Toilet trends (yes really)
and likely some more specific areas that I have long forgotten about.
It worked brilliantly in the early stages with a 100lb weight loss being achieved in just over 1 year and to date I have only put back on about a third of that, but I noticed a peculiar impact which made me stop all tracking.
The amount of effort, time and concentration that was put in to tracking everything was way above the benefits. I would look at my phone far too much as I checked my trends, my calorie intake and even my sleep. Checking over and over again just to see the stats and to hit a mythical target that I would likely hit anyway.
When working from home I would take a mile walk before work, a 2 mile walk at lunchtime and a mile after work. This was interspersed with 5 minute runs on the home treadmill just to keep me moving. Crucially, this was a consistent amount of exercise each day and it only went up when at the weekend or when I had the time to push myself. The numbers were not encouraging me, they were simple reassuring me that I was moving enough.
So I stopped and found that I was doing ‘exactly’ the same things each day, and that I was moving just as much. I simply knew what a decent amount of movement was and all of the numbers in the world could not change that, and potentially they were having the negative effect of stopping me understanding what exercise really is. When you judge everything by data you forget the natural benefits of exercise, the variety of taking different routes and doing different things, and you focus too much on the digital-ness of the experience.
I am certain that the fitness tracking helped me a huge amount when I started, but that now I can do what I need to do without spending too much time looking at numbers which ultimately just gets in the way of living. It sounds a bit trite I admit, but I am starting to wonder if the fitness tracker / smart watch phenomenon offers as many benefits in the long term as we imagine.
So far, I have lost 5lbs in weight in a week and have moved more than before because I am thinking about what I eat and how much I move in a natural way. Will be interesting to see if I do need those numbers again in the future…