My sons bought me a Fitbit activity wristband for Christmas. They know I like tech toys, but they bought it because they are unhappy with my [lack of] health lately.

I have gained a lot of weight. I don’t do any real exercise. I hate gyms. I used to be a major walker, but even that has become less as I work more and seem to have less free time.

All of these new activity trackers are connected to the cloud and/or your smartphone or computer and are constantly monitoring you. My wristband counts my steps, converts them to miles, keeps track of flights of stairs climbed and the calories in and out.

A friend saw my Fitbit and said, “I have two friends that have those and they are quite obsessed with them.”  I don’t want that degree of intensity. I think my wife is already a bit annoyed at my sitting down to meals and inputting my food items.  “Oh boy, 256 calories left tonight.”

The idea of being mindful of what you are eating and how much you are walking, running or hiking is probably the most important aspect of this endeavor.

Gautama Buddha apparently did not need an activity tracker to keep track or mindful.  He said, “The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, nor to worry about the future, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly.”

He is no Buddha, but a lot of people follow Dr. Andrew Weil’s advice about health.  He has five pillars of health and you can’t really argue with them because they are just sensible. Sensible and hard to follow.

pillars health“Neutralize stress.” Easier said than done. “Spiritual well-being.” Show me the five easy steps. You do what you can, and eating right, having some physical activity and social connectivity seem within reach.

It’s only been two weeks for my new health practice, so there is no point in saying it is working or not, but I am hopeful that this new daily practice can continue for the year the way last year’s daily poetry practice made it through the year. Of course, counting words on a line is a lot easier and more pleasant than counting how many almonds I’m snacking on.

My Fitbit Charge also keeps track of my sleep. Being that I have sleep apnea, I was interested to see what it could tell me.  The tracker bases its data on activity/movement. It is very accurate at sensing when I fall asleep based on my change in activity to no movement from my non-dominant arm.

IMG_4584When I did overnight sleep study at a hospital years ago, they recorded me awakening 81 times during a night’s sleep.  People with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times.

Not only does this mean that the brain  and the rest of my body might not be getting enough oxygen., but explains why I can sleep for 8 hours and feel tired.

The Fitbit doesn’t measure those oxygen levels or my heart rate but on a typical night (as shown here in a screenshot from my Fitbit iPhone app) of 8 hours asleep, I am “restless” for more than 3 of those hours in separate instances during the night. That also means that I jumping out of the REM cycles that lead to dreams – and restful sleep.

It will take more than a tracker band on your wrist to improve your health, but it might help.