Measuring Your Daily Steps, Stress & More


Up till now in my Writer’s Log, I’ve focused on the process of writing a book. But my intention is also to use these updates to discuss the topics I’ll be covering in my book. One of those topics is the Quantified Self movement. Quantified Self refers to the practice of measuring data about your daily life.

Some of you probably use an activity monitoring device such as the FitBit clip-on pedometer, the Nike+ running shoe, or the Jawbone UP bracelet. Those are a few of the more popular activity tracking tools. I have a FitBit myself, which I’m currently using to track how many steps I do every day. I’m trying to lose a little weight, so my current goal is 8,000 steps per day of walking. Now that it’s summertime where I live (New Zealand), it’s gotten considerably easier to go for a walk!

So what I’m doing here is quantifying a personal healthcare goal. In my case, it’s fairly simple: my goal is to walk 8,000 steps per day and hopefully as a result lose a few kilograms in weight by the end of the year. I can track this goal on a daily basis with my FitBit, a small device which I clip onto my pants as soon as I get up and then wear all day. At the end of each day, I upload the data from the device onto the FitBit website.

What I’m doing is pretty basic. But there’s a Quantified Self community out there who are pushing the boundaries of what can be measured – and what it means. For example, at the recent PDX (Portland, Oregon) QS Meetup, Steven Jonas discussed how he measured his stress patterns and made adjustments to lessen his daily stress:

“Steven Jonas discovered through an EEG assessment that he had a strong “freeze” response to stressful situations. This inspired him to use his emWave to monitor his stress levels, hack it to alert him whenever he got too stressed, and change his patterns at work.”
ref: http://quantifiedself.com/2012/11/steven-jonas-stress-out-loud/

The emWave is a nerdy-looking machine that costs around US$170:http://www.heartmathstore.com/item/6310/emwave2. Steven, who describes himself on his Twitter as a “Self-experimenter,” hacked this device to make it alert him when he was getting too stressed.

Anything that involves the word “hacked” is clearly not ready for ordinary healthcare consumers such as myself and probably many of you. However, one of the cardinal rules of being a technology writer or futurist is to watch what the hackers are doing now, because in 5-10 years time the rest of us may be doing it. With any luck, a bigco like Apple or Microsoft will have made it a whole lot easier though!

Let me know if you’re quantifying anything to do with your health on a daily basis. I’m interested in the stories of everyone from casual Fitbit/UP/Nike+/WhateverDevice users to hackerish, DIY, QS enthusiasts.


18 responses to “Measuring Your Daily Steps, Stress & More”

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