My husband's health insurance runs a wellness program that provided us with pedometers to record our daily steps, and in return we get cold hard cash in our health savings account. Until it somehow disappeared, I found wearing it to be tedious, uncomfortable and the syncing process to be "one more thing" to remember to do every day. That's the fundamental downside of tracking -- although it's certainly easier than the days of hand-written data entry, it still requires us to log in, sync devices, remember what we ate that day, and otherwise micromanage ourselves.
Some people see the effort as well worth the reward. "When I first started, I used the data to track progress and try to figure out some medical issues," says Natasha. "I literally walked into my doctor's office, and then a nutritionist with a binder full of history and data. It wowed both of them and helped them tailor their questions and look for issues."
Emmett also successfully turned his effort into tangible benefits. "I am down almost 20 pounds [9 kilograms] from last year at this time," he says. "The weight loss started when I began using MyFitnessPal to track what I was eating and getting the Fitbit to track my activity has only strengthened my resolve to get healthier."
Emmett and Natasha belong to a relatively small group who've managed to turn talk into action. Research indicates that only 46 percent of self-trackers have used their personal data to make health-related changes, leaving more than half of other users with a whole lot of info and nothing to show for it [source: Pew Research Center]. The fact is, it takes time and effort to make sustainable lifestyle changes, which some people aren't willing to commit to. Still, they're paying attention, so there's potential for any necessary improvements down the line. In the meantime, the awareness trend is spreading to people of all ages, all the way down to school-aged children like Emmett and Natasha's two sons. "The boys use the Misfit activity tracker right now and they love keeping track of their steps and just competing with us," Emmett explains. "They complain when they haven't gotten all of their steps!" adds Natasha.
In an age where both childhood and adult obesity are seriously out of control, this trend of lively competition and preventative medicine awareness could definitely be worth the comparatively minor inconveniences associated with lifeloggging. Sure, maybe you lose five minutes a day in logging activities, but the potential trade-off is extra months, or even years on your life – if you make the changes.
Author's Note: How Lifelogging Works
Lifelogging probably isn't for everyone, but it's at least worth taking for a test drive. Not that I live my life under a microscope, but anytime I stray from a healthy diet and exercise routine for too long I pay the price in terms of energy loss and weight gain, which are two of my least favorite things.
More Great Links
- Collins Dictionary. "Life Logging." (March 20, 2015) http://www.collinsdictionary.com/submission/11247/Life%20logging
- Fox, Susannah and Maeve Duggan. "Tracking for Health." Pew Research Center. Jan. 28, 2013 (March 20, 2015) http://www.pewinternet.org/2013/01/28/tracking-for-health/
- H., Emmett and Natasha. Interviews via e-mail. March 28, 2015.
- Knoblauch, Max. Lifelogging: The Most Miserable, Self-Aware 30 Days I've Ever Spent." Mashable. March 20, 2014 (March 20, 2015) http://mashable.com/2014/03/20/lifelogging-experiment/
- Lewis, Tanya. "Poop Apps: 5 Tools for Tracking Your Stools." Live Science. April 25, 2014 (March 20, 2015) http://www.livescience.com/45150-apps-for-tracking-your-poop.html
- Pappas, Stephanie. "A Good Night's Rest: The Best Sleep Apps." Live Science. Jan. 23, 2015 (March 20, 2015) http://www.livescience.com/49552-best-sleep-apps.html
- Pew Research Center. "Health Fact Sheet." 2015 (March 20, 2015) http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheets/health-fact-sheet/
- Quantified Self. "505 Tools." 2011 (March 20, 2015) http://quantifiedself.com/guide/
- Thirteen Virtues. "Thirteen Virtues." 2015 (March 20, 2015) http://thirteenvirtues.com/