Fitbit Boating

For Christmas our family bought us Fitbits. We are now more aware of days when we take little exercise. With my role as a scientific editor being sedentary (long periods on the computer) I have certainly been pleased with the occasional vibratory reminder on the wrist.

Now I know there are arguments about the validity of step counting (activity tracking) and its link to fitness, but I have wondered just what my Fitbit would make of boating. There are periods where you may be sitting or even standing (i.e. steering) followed by periods of activity mostly associated with locking. So last weekend, when we left Yardley Gobion for Weedon, I wore my Fitbit Alta for the first time whilst boating.

The day started by getting Albert prepared for the trip - turning on the power and gas, disconnecting the shoreline, fixing ropes etc.. This was followed by steering to the bottom lock of the Stoke Bruerne flight. One problem identified by some users is boat movement being recorded as steps. This certainly didn't occur, I presume because compared with most other boats canal boats are usually stable.

Once at the locks Maggie steered and occasionally helped with closing gates and I opened and closed the paddles, gates etc. from the bottom to the top of the flight. After the flight I took over the steering again and was at the helm all the way to High House Wharf. This was followed by a period of winding, tying up and turning off power etc. The whole day was recorded as a creditable 11,569 steps (above the magic 10,000 recommendation) but what interested me more was the pattern - when and where was I most active and by how much.

The Fitbit is linked to my iPhone so I can examine the data reasonably easily. Below is a graph of my day's steps with the yellow portion indicating periods of "active" steps.

The boat preparation period, around 11:00 in the morning, contributed some steps but locking up the Stoke Bruerne flight from 12:00 onward certainly changed the day's profile. Over an hour of moderate activity and a good number of  steps were recorded. I must admit I didn't hang around when operating the locks, but I am in my seventh decade and I don't move that quickly. Reaching High House at around 4:30 and sorting out the boat also added some steps but not any of the "activity" variety.

I think the data clearly show the benefits of locking for improving your activity profile. I don't suppose this comes as a particular surprise but is interesting to see how locking can be quite an active pastime. Of course it's not a substitute for a session in the pool, or perhaps the gym, but it's perhaps not as sedentary as some observers think.