The Fitbit challenge – the family that exercises together…

Fitbit challenge
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The Fitbit challenge for GadgetGuy was to find a typical family, equip Dad (or mum or significant other) with a Fitbit Versa Lite and a child (biological or otherwise) with a Fitbit Ace 2. The aim – to see if it encouraged more exercise together…

The Fitbit challenge has been a challenge to find an independent family, brief them on what Fitbit hoped would happen in the test period (school and holidays) and to make something meaningful from the results.

So, Wayne (Dad the quinquagenarian) and 12-year son (Nathan the denarian) began the Fitbit challenge.

But first the research that prompted this

Fitbit found that parents aren’t exercising with their kids regularly enough. While all parents believe exercising together is beneficial for kids to develop healthy habits at a young age, lack of time, shift work and household chores are common barriers.

Key insights include:

94% of parents believe that exercising together is beneficial for all members of the family and helps their kids to develop healthy habits at a young age BUT

  • 80% of parents exercise at least once a week (67% exercise at least 2-3 times a week)
  • Only 25% of parents exercise with their children once a week

78% of parents would like to exercise with their kids, BUT excuses include

  • >60% of parents attribute a lack of their time as a barrier
  • 39% say that they don’t exercise with their kids as they need to do household chores
  • 60% of Aussie parents plan to exercise with their kids’ school holidays BUT
  • 40% claim TV/movies/Games Console/Screen time as their child’s most likely activity instead
  • <50% are fully aware of how much exercise their kids are getting
  • 75% of parents would like to track their children’s activity ‘all the time.’

The Wholesome Doctor, Dr Preeya Alexander, reviewed the research and has shared her top benefits for exercising as a family.

  1. Being active as a family helps cement the idea in children that exercise and regular physical activity are the norms. It helps set up healthy habits for your child, and we know that good eating and exercise habits in childhood can affect their health trajectory in later life and adulthood.
  2. Some exercise in sunlight can assist in improving night-time sleep quality; it assists with managing circadian rhythms. Getting the family active in the day outdoors may just help everyone sleep better in the evening!
  3. Exercise has wonderful preventative health benefits – regular activity can reduce the risk of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. For children, keeping active reduces the risk of obesity and obesity-related disease.
  4. The heart is a muscle, and like every other muscle, it needs a workout! Staying active as a family is wonderful for heart health and reduces the risk of heart disease for the entire family.
  5. Research suggests that regular exercise can be extremely beneficial for mental health – just an hour a week can be preventative for depression and exercise is an evidence-based form of treatment for both anxiety and depression. Staying active as a family helps everyone’s mental wellbeing.

Back to the Fitbit challenge and Wayne and Nathan

Sorry, the Fitbit Challenge was a flop. And it was not the participant’s will to complete it (well in one case it may have been) but the practicalities of exercising together.

As Wayne states (paraphrased)

“We started really well walking about 1.5km to the school bus (and I made the return walk). In fact, the Fitbit Versa Lite is the first smartwatch/fitness band I have ever owned, and I don’t normally wear a watch either.”

He boasted as he showed me (GadgetGuy) his typical 10-15,000 daily step count and one day it got to 26,000 steps.

“It makes you more aware of your steps, heart rate and the three-stage sleep measurement and score. Oh, and it has smartwatch features like notifications”.

And even more broadly beaming, “It even told me that for a person my age I am in pretty good shape.”

Fitbit challenge

On further ‘interrogation’ I found he was participating in community challenges and works harder to beat others and earn rewards (gamification). He has never done this kind of competitive activity before and loves beating the Yanks.

And as far as his son’s exercise. “When he wears it, I can see his exercise [parent view] via my app – great.”

From his perspective, a smartwatch (as Fitbit classifies the $249.95 Versa Lite) is a useful addition to his wrist and life. He is a convert.

 As Nathan states (and very paraphrased)

The $129.95 Fitbit Ace 2 is for kids 6+, and I am 12. I think I am too old for it and I would like the things [features] Dad has in his watch. I have an iPhone [as kids are wont to do] and I should be able to do what dad does.

He is not impressed with Kids View – presenting limited data like their stats, badges and clock face options.

It is a very simple tracker/watch (in watermelon/teal, Blue, Night Sky/yellow silicone straps), is swim-proof, has a 5-day battery, tracks steps, sleep and tells him when to move. He is just too damned grown-up for this watch!

As for exercising together, that is not on the cards. While Wayne did suggest going for a walk when possible – he is too glued to Xbox during the holidays and playing soccer after school.

Fitbit challenge

GadgetGuy’s take – the Fitbit challenge is a good idea but derailed by a 12-year old

I suspect if the Fitbit Ace 2 watch were used by a 6-9-year-old, it would be more useful. Kids are more malleable then, and its easier to influence them. And once a Fitbit user – its easier to stick with what you know.

Let’s face it the Versa Lite may have had a very different outcome for the discerning “Mr Nathan”.

But in the end, more ‘tween and teen-agers’ simply don’t want to spend free time with parents.

We have developed a comprehensive checklist for fitness bands and smartwatches here.