Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Your Data Belongs to You! Part I @fitbit #analytics #HDSDA #47

Since I got my new ChangeHR Fitbit last month I have been wearing it most days and tracking things like the number of steps I take, distance walked, calories burned, minutes active, sleep patterns, and much more. I started to wonder where these data are saved on my computer? They are not. The data are saved in the "cloud", but Fitbit have a "Your Data Belongs to You" policy and you can download CSV or Excel files with your data for analysis. Fitbit provides fairly decent dashboards to read the data, but it can be fun to do your own analysis. I looked to compare one set of data with another for the past month.

The first chart below compares the number of steps taken each day with an estimate of the number of calories burned. Not surprisingly, the trends follow each other closely:

I really don't know how accurate the Fitbit is as detecting steps - when I brush my teeth it racks up 300-400 "steps". When I ride the 7 miles to work on my motorbike, the vibrations cause it to record over 2,000 "steps". 10,000 steps a day is the recommended minimum for a healthy life style - I see I have fallen below this regularly in the past month.

The second chart below is a little more interesting - it shows the number of minutes active (brown line) compared to sedentary (blue). Again I question the accuracy because each day should total 1,440 minutes (24 hours * 60 minutes). While many days do add up to 1,440 minutes below, others don't. Nevertheless, the surprising thing for me here is to see how much time I spend inactive! The blue is very dominant. 

While I am not surprised that I am more sedentary than active, this shows the stark contrast between the two measures. Have to do something about this! Perhaps a device like a Fitbit is in itself a motivational force to make us (me) exercise more?

The above is only a small sample of the data gathered for just one month. Imagine years of data, or even a lifetime of data recorded. The benefits for each wearer's health should be great, but the contribution to overall health science in the future will be massive.

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