Really Getting to Know My Quantified Self

It seems that every news feed I look at has a story advising how we all spend far too much time sitting down, whilst a combination of our lack of motivation and sedentary lifestyle will quite literally be the death of us all.

However, we don’t need to worry because there is an antidote to this lazy behaviour and technology has the power to get everyone back on their feet again, if we all invest in the latest tech wearable that promises to kick start everyone with a healthy dose of motivation, at a cost of course.

Many combine the use of tech wearable’s with another set of buzzwords known as lifelogging, self-hacking, body hacking or the quantified self where people are increasingly using technology to track measure and analyse data from your daily life.

Quantified-self facilitates the tracking of diet, sleep, heart rate, activity, exercise, and moods and allows individuals to gain better insights on physiological parameters that were never examined earlier, advised Sumit Kumar Pa

Although I am usually quite cynical about this sort of thing and confess that I am happiest when sat down looking at a myriad of tech devices or playing on a games console, but equally aware that if you need a website to be successful you need to closely monitor google analytics to examine data and improve performance, so pondered if this same school of thinking could be applied our own life?

After reading that the smartphone you already own can perform that exact same tasks only more accurately, I decided to embark on an experiment for once week where I track every aspect of my life to see if it reveals anything different about me using only my smartphone to see if there really is a need for slight changes to my lifestyle.

For my experiment, I began by downloading the app called “Moves” that claims to be the activity diary of your life by simply counting how many steps you take each day.

The healthy lifestyle education news doing the rounds suggests that we should be aiming to take 10,000 steps a day, but the reality is many of us drive to work, sit down in an office for 8 hours before returning home to eat dinner sitting down before finally retiring to your favourite armchair to sit down again. If this sounds like your day too, then you probably won’t be making the target as you read this.

Next up is My Fitness Pal that will monitor and report on how much I eat and drink, I had originally thought this process would be tiresome, but I actually found it quite fun scanning the barcode of everything I was about to eat and even confess to gasping in amazement each time the app instantly knew even the most obscure product I was scanning or searching for.

I am also the kind of person that you would never find in the gym, alternatively I sometimes get off my train one stop earlier and run home which is around 3 miles, and this allows me to squeeze in a little exercise without sneaking into my leisure time. To record my slow and steady runs home, I use RunKeeper to record and report my 2-3 runs home per week whilst listening to my favourite tunes or podcasts.

Next up was the app Sleep Cycle that monitors sleep patterns by simply placing your smartphone under your pillow when you go to bed at night.

Many of these apps integrate with other allowing your footsteps or exercise to automatically add to your daily calorie allowance or general wellbeing and finally, I turned to the website TicTrack that is a web dashboard that provides a Google Analytics style dashboard of your life.

I had originally thought that documenting absolutely every aspect of your life is insanity at its finest, but as my personal dashboard began to populate, I could see very clear patterns of where I could tweak a few habits to improve my overall performance.

My average daily steps seemed to be around 6,500 which made me consciously avoid escalators and elevators in favour of the stairs, I even found myself taking a slightly longer route so I hit my target.

My food intake was not too bad, but there was one day that I hit 3,500 calories without even eating too much, but it certainly gave me awareness of just how many calories or fat there are from certain foods.

When armed with this information, my mindset changed, when I can see I have burned 400 calories on a 3 mile run home it made me question what I put in my mouth and I began to equate a cake with a 3 mile run to burn it off.

Sleep was a fascinating subject for me because I have always assumed that I am a night owl of sorts and this is one of the biggest reasons for me feeling so rough in the morning, but after only one week of monitoring my sleep patterns I could see that I’m actually ready to wake up at 06:40 but at 7am I’m back in a deep sleep and this is the real reason that I feel so crappy.

You can even set your alarm with a 30 minute window and it will decide when to wake you up depending on the point you are at your lightest sleep cycle, which could mean getting up 10 minutes earlier than usual will actually make you feel better so I now find myself reflecting on a few things about myself that I have learned.

After my experiment it occurred to me that we probably know more about people that we don’t actually know from Social Media sites than we actually know about our own self, so by having access to my own data gave an incredible amount of self-knowledge and self-awareness of the dramatic differences tiny changes could make to my life.

Maybe just maybe we could all benefit from taking a little time to understand our own self and you don’t need to spend big money on devices you don’t need either, we just need to use our smartphones a little smarter.

I also wonder how long it will be before more and more people actively take their health into their own hands and when faced with illness will instantly have the ability to provide their Doctor with a dashboard displaying their average resting heartbeat, blood pressure, food diary, peak flow, exercises, footsteps per day along with weight loss or gain for the last 6 months? This is no longer science fiction but available right now and relatively easy to do so.

Do you prefer to forget about what you may or may not be doing to your body and just concentrate on living a full life regardless of the consequences?

Alternatively, are you curious at how you can use technology to tweak those habits you have picked up over the years?

I am genuinely interested in your thoughts and experiences.

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