Last week I came across this nifty gizmo called a FitBit. Two people I went golfing with had them. In case you have never heard of these things, a FitBit (fitbit.com) is a next generation pedometer. The devices appear to be shockingly accurate and small, and the batter charge lasts days.
However, the real magic to a fitbit is the app that runs on your phone. (It works with iOS or Android). According to my golfing partners Will and Dave, one of the partners at the firm they work at lost 80 pounds just by using fitbit and giving up soda. I don't know over what period of time he lost that weight, but he was so impressed he signed up everyone at the company. Now they all use it. Losing 80 pounds is no joke.
So I thought I would check it out. Fitbit uses gamification techniques to encourage people to exercise. A pedometer is nice – but it has a very limit capacity to create context – an essential ingredient in gamification. In other words, you need to create goals and you need real time feedback on your progress to achieving those goals. This will allow you make instant decisions as opportunities arise. The important thing here is that the administrivia, even down to resetting the counter is done for you. In fact, the only thing you need to worry about is the walking. And this is the key. Fitbit opens you up to thinking about the myriad of ways you can take advantages of opportunities to walk. Suddenly you can make many small decisions that add up to one big effect and you get immediate feedback as to how those decisions accumulate.
Next: 10,000 steps.