Quantifying Myself Reflection

Graph of steps

Graph of steps

I have been recording my steps ever since I got my new smart phone which came equipped with an app which records steps, activity, heart rate and blood glucose levels. When I was working in a very active job, I was doing 20000 plus steps a day, but following an accident earlier this year, my activity level has decreased drastically. However, as there is nothing to prevent me walking now, I have decided I need to get my fitness levels back up. I therefore decided in conjunction with this week’s play activity to challenge myself to increasing my activity and the distance walked. I also decided to measure my heart rate out of interest, but not my blood glucose level, as logic tells me my phone is not that smart, since in hospitals this still requires blood to record. By recording my steps and activity, I have a good indication of how my activity decreased following my accident and enforced absence from work, and consequently how it has increased as I have recovered. This has provided me with encouragement in building it up along with my fitness levels. Personally, I feel this is a positive aspect of the quantified self movement, as I need to be able to see proof of this progress. However, how would I feel if I was involved in an insurance claim and my insurers got hold of the information or if my employer had access to it? I don’t think it  would change my opinion, as I have nothing to hide. My tracker shows a plunge in activity immediately following the accident, followed by a gradual increase. It also only shows how far I am walking, which isn’t the complete picture, as it is a badly fractured arm which is preventing me working, which can’t be tracked by the app on my phone.  Tracking fitness levels is an excellent way for individuals to get the motivation needed to improve their health. These devices shouldn’t be used by insurance companies or employers as current technology does not give a holistic picture of an individual’s complete fitness and ability to complete tasks other than walking and running. Tracking my steps has also encouraged me to walk more. If I look at my steps recording in the afternoon and I feel I have not walked enough, I will often go for a walk in order to improve my activity for that day. The downside of this is that I feel I need to take my phone with me whenever I walk anywhere so that I can get credit for the steps I have walked. This increases my reliance on the phone, as it is always with me and there are times I would like to go on a walk and be completely free from technology. However on the whole, tracking my steps has not increased my activity, as I have always been active and walked rather than use transport. It is encouraging to have proof of how far I have walked on a daily basis. I don’t feel that tracking apps would make somebody who is inherently inactive become active, but merely serve as encouragement to those who are active.


6 thoughts on “Quantifying Myself Reflection

  1. Yosefina Dhae says:

    Hi Debbie,
    I just wonder, have you communicated with health practitioner in using the app after you got an accident? as it might impact on your recovery process, for example, you have to set how many steps for each day. As I know, people who are in medical treatment may use the apps differently.


    • Deborah Fuller says:

      Hi Yosefina,
      I speak to my physio regularly about my progress with regards to walking. She is happy for me to build up my walking everyday in order to increase my fitness. My surgeon is only really interested in my arm, so as long as I don’t damage it, he’s not really concerned. I try to do at least 10000 steps a day, but gauge it on how I’m feeling. I also have so knowledge in post-trauma recovery as I was a surgical nurse for many years prior to the accident. I believe that there are very few cases where walking is not encouraged in the recovery period and having the app on my phone has certainly encouraged me in my rehabilitation.


  2. Katya Henry says:

    Hi Deb,
    At the talk I went to on the proactive organisation, Marek gave a very similar example of a theoretical scenario regarding a child with diabetes. A fitness tracker combined with a chip which measures blood sugar, in addition to an algorithm, can notify a doctor of the possibility of a diabetic coma. Like Kathleen’s mum with her smart pacemaker, quantifying one’s activity and health can provide invaluable information to health professionals. Glad to hear you’re on the mend!


  3. Lisa Hetherington says:

    Hi Debbie,
    I know from walking to the station with you after lectures each evening that you are well and truly on the mend. I have to pick up my pace to keep up with you!
    I find it really perplexing how a smart phone can measure your glucose levels and as you say, logic tells you your phone is not that smart. There’s an explanatory video on youtube about it (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9HlhZ12Zcg) but I still remain skeptical.
    Can you show me the app next time we take the train?


    • Deborah Fuller says:

      Thanks Lisa, That is really interesting clip, which makes more sense to me. Mine claims to do it by using the finger sensor, which I don’t believe. I did an un controlled experiment, by putting sugar on my finger and measuring my levels, which unsurprisingly (to me) were still normal. If you measure blood glucose levels the old fashioned way on someone who has just handled a biscuit, it will be higher due to the sugar on the fingers where the blood has been obtained from. These health trackers on smart phones are pretty amazing though, when they can be trusted, although I can’t see an endocrinologist recommending the blood glucose monitor on my phone and I would hope no diabetic relied on it.


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