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In The Art of Living Longer, I am always teaching about how urgently important it is for humans to use and exercise their bodies and brains.  I’m fond of saying, “Use it or lose it!” when talking about staying fit and cognitively strong.  Recently, I came to realize that I wasn’t walking the talk. I was certain I was hitting the 10,000 step mark every day because I never sit down.  But I wasn’t 100% sure, so I took the leap into a fitness tracker.  I went on e-bay and found a great deal on a brand new Fitbit Alta.

I couldn’t wait for it to arrive!  I eagerly tore the package open and was pleased to find a slim and sleek design that fit my wrist comfortably.  It comes with an easy-to-use USB charger that fits into any standard cell phone charger (you know, the part that plugs into the wall.) The wrist straps are easily interchangeable, which pleases me too.  The face is a shiny black rectangle and the screen is very bright, which is good because it’s very small.  When I double-tap the screen, the time, day and date appear; tap it again and I see how many steps I’ve taken today; tap it again to see distance in miles; tap again and I know how many calories I’ve burned based on my activity level and one more tap reveals how many minutes of cardio activity I’ve done.  This particular model is designed to work with a Fitbit app on a smart phone, so in order to customize the settings and understand the read-out, you must use the app.  Some of the more expensive models have on-board controls, although they may be somewhat complicated to use if you’re over 30.

The first day, it was a big surprise to learn I was only hitting about 5000 steps/day, far short of my 10,000 step goal.  Another surprise-the “bonus” cardio minutes I rack up that I don’t realize I’m doing.  For example, hauling flower pots while gardening gave me 23 minutes of unexpected cardio.

The bigger surprise though is the effect it’s had on my sleep.  I was sure I was getting 7 to 8 hours a night.  My Fitbit disagreed.  There’s a graph that denotes periods of undisturbed sleep, restlessness and awake time that I see with the app on my phone.  Turns out I was getting closer to 5.5/6 hours of sleep, not nearly enough for the level of fitness I desire.  No wonder I’ve been so tired in the morning!  Now, with the information from this little recording device on my wrist giving me such valuable feedback, I am going to bed earlier and getting longer, more restful zzz’s.

Be a Savvy Senior. Get on the fitness tracker bandwagon and increase your awareness of just how much you do or don’t move.  It just might help make you healthier!