Try Measuring the Heart, One Beat at a Time

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Andy Sauer

I recently received a fitness tracker – the kind you wear on your wrist that measures your heart rate and steps taken, and relays the data to a smartphone app.

I’ve used heart monitors and fitness apps before but this is different. Virtually unobtrusive, this little digital informer gathers data every second it’s on.

Yes, it measures heart rate and steps taken, but the amount of information that it gleans from the data is extraordinary. Not only does it measure calories burned, distance traveled and the intensity of a workout, it can measure how well I sleep (it says I need more sleep.) It links with my scale, keeps track of weight loss and pegs my “fitness age” at my chronological age, leaving me both impressed and offended.

There’s artificial intelligence applied as well. I was in New York City, where walking is the easiest way to travel, and it concluded my brisk pace constituted a “workout.” Here I was thinking I was trying to catch a train. Raking leaves: 843 calories. Cleaning the garage: 199 calories. Last week, when our furnace went out and I was walking up and down the stairs trying to get it going: 168 calories.

Although it’s great at calculating outgoing calories, it obviously can’t measure what comes in. It’s got a function that scans the bar code of whatever you’re eating and logs in the nutrients or lack thereof, but that requires self-discipline in recording whatever you consume, even the things you know you shouldn’t (like that extra helping of linguine and clams.)

Therein lies the challenge and why weight loss has been so elusive for me. While it’s great that technology can measure your actions, it can’t gauge, ironically, your “heart.”

Paradoxically, at least for me in this, the season for resolutions, it’s one thing to have a vision for change and even take the steps towards change, but it’s quite another to actually possess “resolve.” You can set a goal and amass data to support your efforts in chasing it down, but if deep down, underneath all the grand designs and the things you hold most dear, you can’t commit to change, you won’t. I would like to be healthy, but if I’m honest with myself, I really don’t want to be.

The trick to true transformation is not counting all the steps you take but truly deliberating on the first one. If you can make that choice to change with all your heart, you’ve already evolved and you won’t need anyone or anything to tell you how you’re doing. You’ll just do it.

That first step, though, is a doozy.

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