A curious thing happens when you start wearing the Fitbit Charge HR™: you start looking for fitness opportunities in the strangest places. You start to notice how sedentary so much of your life actually is—sitting in front of a computer screen, driving your car, binge watching Netflix after work.
With the Fitbit® Activity Tracker strapped to your wrist, you become motivated—by real, concrete data—to get off the couch and get your numbers up, looking for ways to increase your daily number of steps taken, calories burned, or average heart rate, for instance. How many extra calories could you burn taking the stairs instead of the elevator? Or by taking a stroll through the park after lunch? Or helping your buddy move?
As the holidays approach, the differences between one’s typical behavior on Black Friday versus Cyber Monday might offer an interesting test case to see just how much more active you are while working through your Christmas shopping list out in the real world as opposed to sitting at your desk and shopping online.
According to the National Retail Federation’s annual Holiday Consumer Spending Survey, Americans plan to do nearly half (46 percent) of their holiday shopping—which includes both browsing and buying—online. The survey also found that the average total holiday spending per person rose slightly this year to $805.65, while spending on family members specifically is predicted to come in at $462.95, up about one percent over last year’s figures. The NRF’s holiday report (PDF) found that 65% of holiday shoppers will do their shopping on Black Friday. It also said that last year, 127 million people shopped on Cyber Monday. However you boil it down, we’re doing more and more of our shopping online, which means we’re spending more time sitting around. Just how much of a difference does this make in the holiday season, in terms of keeping fit?
I decided I’d use myself, a recent Fitbit convert, as a test case. A few weeks before the actual big shopping weekend, I decided to mimic the two biggest shopping days of the holiday season by tracking my fitness and shopping habits. On one day, I traveled from my home in Park Slope, Brooklyn, to Manhattan, where I aimed to spend a little more than half of my holiday budget on items purchased in person. On another day, I spent two hours shopping online for gifts, spending just under half my budget on those items.
Throughout the process, my Fitbit Charge HR™ helped me determine my level of activity.
According to the data tracked by my Fitbit® Activity Tracker, I took 681 steps during my commute to Manhattan, kicking off the day with some solid numbers. After I arrived at Bryant Park, my activity level spiked to what my Fitbit Charge HR™ calls “moderate,” where I walked 1,645 (nice!) steps untiI I decided to grab my morning coffee and have a seat for a while.
After the coffee, I continued to make my purchases, browsing through the market slowly. When I finished with the market, I decided to walk to Manhattan Mall several blocks south on Sixth Avenue—all of that walking added up to a solid 1,644 steps. My activity level remained light as I shopped for a few items at the mall, eventually concluding the Black Friday portion of my test case around 3pm. But my healthy activity didn’t stop there—motivated to keep moving by my Fitbit’s encouraging data, I then headed home for a run through Prospect Park that consisted of 5,456 steps in a 45 minute period.
Overall, my Fitbit Charge HR helpfully told me my heart rate was in the “fat burn zone” for the majority of my shopping adventure. I’m in relatively good shape, and walking around never brought my heart rate into the “cardio” zone—that didn’t happen until later, when I went for my run. The number of calories I burned, according to the Fitbit Charge HR, also synced up with my activity level. For example, from 10:15am to 10:30am—when I took 784 steps—I burned 104 calories. But I burned only 84 calories from 10:30am to 10:45am, despite walking nearly 1,000 steps during the same time period—perhaps because I was moving more slowly during that part of my shopping walk.
You’ll be shocked to learn that during the two hours (3:30pm to 5:30pm) I spent online shopping, I took not a single step. I tracked my clicks per purchase and found that I made an average of 27.2 clicks before I made a new purchase—but clicking isn’t exactly what you’d call vigorous activity. I was sitting still more or less the whole time, so my caloric output, according to my Fitbit activity tracker, was “light,” at about 20 calories every 15 minutes.
While out and about doing my in-person shopping, I also noticed that I felt significantly happier than when shopping online. I interacted directly with a total of 17 people—and indirectly with hundreds of others—while shopping in-person in Manhattan. Online, I “talked” with only two people, counting one email I sent to my mother and the one customer service bot I messaged while online shopping.
To anyone who has even a basic understanding of fitness, my specific findings about how much more active I was while walking around shopping—compared to sitting down while shopping online—are probably not very surprising. But the curious thing to me was how much more active I was overall on the day that I went out to go shopping.
I took 15,594 steps on the day I went in-person shopping, compared to only 4,683 on the day that I online shopped. True, my post-shopping run skewed the data, but—crucially—my decision to go for a run was inspired by my already active day. Invigorated, I just wanted to keep going.
On the day I went in-person shopping, I burned 3,342 calories total, versus just 2,453 on my online shopping day. That’s nearly a 1,000 calorie difference, according to my Fitbit Charge HR. Although my average resting heart rate was the same for both days, at 71 beats per minute, I spent just an hour and four minutes in the “fat burn” heart rate range on the day I online-shopped, while I spent two hours and 16 minutes in the “fat burn” zone and 34 minutes in the “cardio” zone (from my run) on the day I shopped in person.
That’s some technical data, but it doesn’t show one important aspect of my Fitbit Charge HR experiment: how much fun I had with it. I love looking at the Fitbit activity tracker's graph of my heart rate and thinking about the complex processes constantly going on inside of my body. And I’m fascinated by the things my Fitbit activity tracker revealed to me when I paid closer attention, like how my average resting heart rate tends to notably decrease when I exercise more regularly. Overall, the Fitbit Charge HR proved to be much more than a simple calorie tracker or odometer. Instead, it’s an intuitive—and even entertaining—device that made me more aware of my fitness levels in every way, and helped improve my mood by helping keep me active.
So, this holiday season, whether you’re shopping online or in person, my takeaway is to make sure you’ve got your Fitbit activity tracker on to help you track your fitness goals. Who knew a little in-person shopping could inspire a healthier lifestyle?
It’s too easy to slow down during the holiday season. In this series in partnership with Fitbit, we’ll bring you stories about how keeping track of your activity helps to uncover insights that keep things merry and bright.