How This Longtime Fitbit User Learned That Wellness is a Journey, Not a Race

Over the years, I’ve changed my view of how to achieve health and well-being. When I was a younger man, I ran marathons and even a 50-mile ultra-marathon. I remember one half marathon in particular. It was pouring rain and cold and I missed the time I wanted to make by 15 seconds. I was so angry. I was beating myself up so much that it took all the joy out of it. That was a turning point. I realized to be healthy I didn’t have to compete with anyone, including myself. 

Then in 2014, I fainted unexpectedly and went through a lot of tests. They never did figure out why I fainted but they did find an aneurysm near my heart. An aneurysm is a bulge in the wall of a blood vessel. It didn’t require surgery but my doctor said it would need monitoring. That’s when I stopped running. My doctor advised that walking was the perfect exercise for me. 

That was about the time I got my first Fitbit, and since then I’ve logged over 20,000 miles walking. I try to do between 20,000 and 40,000 steps each day, which translates to between 11 and 22 miles. I usually have some 70s or 80s hard rock playing in headphones, some Zeppelin or Journey or AC/DC if I want to pick up the pace. When it gets really hot here in Louisville, there is a quarry that has a shallow edge about 4 feet deep. I can walk in the water, and that keeps me cool. I can monitor my heart rate on my walks to make sure it doesn’t go too high.

When I bought a Fitbit Sense in 2020, I signed up for the Premium service to access a more comprehensive look at all my health data. When I go to the doctors, I print out my Fitbit Wellness report that tracks my information over the previous year. My cardiologist loves seeing the data I bring with me. There’s been no change in the aneurysm, which is good. “Whatever you are doing, just keep doing it,” my doctor told me on my last visit.  

My new Sense watch has given me a broader view of my health. I like to look at my Sleep Score every morning when I get up. If my score is low that might mean I‘m recovering from a long walk the previous day. The information helps me plan how much I can expect from my body. I also check in on the EKG to confirm I have a normal sinus rhythm and I like to see that my heart rate variability, oxygen saturation, and my resting heart rate are in my normal range. My college degrees were in physics and mathematics, and my career was in setting up logistic systems for hospitals and major delivery companies. I like having access to data, and it’s remarkable how much information the Fitbit system can accumulate and display. That appeals to me.

All the data helps me understand my body better. You can discover interesting things. For instance, through the nighttime temperature skin monitor, I’ve learned that I get a better Sleep Score if I keep my bedroom cooler.  

Wellness isn’t a race, and it’s not necessarily about pushing your body to its limits. It’s more about all the parts working in sync. My wife, two of my daughters, and a number of my friends all have Fitbits too, and they love them. I’m 70 years old now and I like to think that I’m setting a good example by staying highly active and monitoring my health in ways that would not be possible without my Fitbit. I hope they think, “Well, if he can do it, so can I.” 

As told to Ethan Watters

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