What I learned from my Up Band by Jawbone

It would be hard to miss the fact that I am parked on my bum a lot. I mean, a lot.

Lack of physical activity is inevitable with long work days as a desk jockey, a long daily commute, and computer based hobbies. Add in the fact that it’s too cold and/or snowy, or suffocatingly humid many months of the year here in Michigan, and that activity level starts running pretty close to nil.

I’ve always loved physically active hobbies: hiking, swimming, turbo kick, riding my bike around town, etc. And, for a while there before graduate school, before moving to a state with only a few short months of what I consider “quality outdoor activity weather,” I actually did these things on a pretty regular basis. It sounds like a bucket of excuses (it is), but in my present life, these things are just a bit more challenging to fit in, or aren’t readily available options most of the year.

Everything that comes with the Jawbone Up Band. The charging cord plugs into the iPhone charger base. (Image by Ready Set Sarah)
Everything that comes with the Jawbone Up Band. The charging cord plugs into the iPhone charger base. (Image by Ready Set Sarah)

Combining my love of gadgets, lifestyle iPhone Apps, and health maintenance tools, the idea of using a wearable activity tracker like the Up Band was a natural step. I’m a little late on the bandwagon, and believe me, despite my desire to be an early adopter I have a budget to mind so it took me a little while to convince myself it was worth the splurge. At about $129 retail it wasn’t going to be an impulse buy.*

*The new Up Band 3.0 (Up24) retails at $149 and has bluetooth synching unlike my older model which requires plugging in to the iPhone jack.

I started looking seriously in the summer of 2013 after seeing a coworker wearing the super snazzy mint colored band. She told me about how much her whole family enjoyed using their bands to encourage and hold each other accountable (they are all able to connect and see each others activities on the App), and about what she liked and didn’t like about her band, and after reading a few reviews online about the alternatives, I decided I would go with the Jawbone Up Band as well.

The Up Band (Image by Ready Set Sarah)
The Up Band (Image by Ready Set Sarah)

What I learned.

  • I have an impossibly sedentary lifestyle. No wonder even when I’m eating right I can’t lose weight! Unless I intentionally tack on a few bursts of activity (like walking for 30 minutes at lunch, or going to the gym after work), it’s nearly impossible for me to reach the 10,000/daily recommended steps for healthy living! On work days when I have  many meetings, miss the lunch walk, and have board meetings after work, I can get as low as 3,000-4,000 steps! THAT’S LESS THAN HALF THE RECOMMENDED STEPS. Damn. Wake up call. If I’m going to be active and healthy, it’s going to have to be intentional, planned and in addition to my daily activities, cause they just aren’t cutting it. Seeing a low little 4k at the end of the day is just the wake up call I need to get back up and out the door to the gym to try to at least reach 8k!
  • My effort level in exercise is low. I typically select exercise that involves pretty low impact, and I’ve now learned, low effort. I guess part of it is stamina, the other part is laziness. I definitely need some sort of external push to make me move my booty… if left to my own devices, I just don’t push that hard. I don’t know how accurate the effort rating is on the Up Band, and an “easy” effort level for the Up Band may not feel that way to me. It’s good to know though, so that I know I need to push myself harder.
  • I need to go to bed earlier. Though I’ve heard that the sleep monitoring in the Up Band has questionable usefulness when it comes to analyzing quality of sleep (there are four stages in sleep and the band only reports deep and light sleep), it is interesting to see what my sleep looks like. From what I can tell, I have longer and more periods of deep sleep in the hours before midnight than I do in the hours between midnight and rising. So, I decided this means I should be heading to bed a little earlier if I want to get some high quality sleep in before the alarm.
  • In-put vs. Out-put. The iPhone app for the Up Band syncs with MyFitnessPal, the app that I was already using to track my diet and exercise manually. Linking these two together gave me a clearer picture of what my caloric in-put and out-put really looks like on a daily basis.

What bugs me.

  • The band is a bit bulky, and gets caught in my sleeves.
  • Seems like all of the good colors sold out.
  • The light grey band I ordered is the color of old school computer equipment (tan-ish grey dullness), not a pretty white-ish grey that it appears on-screen.
  • Part of the fun of wearable technology is comparing your data to your friends through the apps. If you don’t know enough people with the device to compare, encourage and compete with, and the initial intrigue of the data itself starts to ware off, the device starts to lose its appeal.
  • The Up Band doesn’t have an adjustable strap. Sure, it isn’t a set closure with a set width, but during that time of the month when I’m bloated and retaining water the band can start to dig in, leaving an imprint in my puffy arm. Maybe I should have gone with a bigger size to allow for the expansion, but it would be nice if it could just adjust.
  • Sharp edge on the button side. I’ve scratched myself on the corner of the square button end of the band a few times, and scratched my husband at least once. I would love it if future models rounded the corners out just a little bit.
The sharp button edge on the Up Band. (Image by Ready Set Sarah)
The sharp button edge on the Up Band. (Image by Ready Set Sarah)

Ultimately, did I need a device to tell me I need to get a move on? Probably not. But, having  external data helps me determine exactly what I need to be doing to change my outcomes. Why am I not losing weight? Why am I so darn sleepy? Now I know, and I can figure out the different small ways I can change my behavior to get the outcomes I want. Plus, I get to geek out on the data about myself. Definitely worth the money in my eyes.

What about the FitBit?

My job is now offering a deal with FitBit, and I’m thinking I might give the Force or Flex a try for comparison. I’ll let you know if I do it. The up side with the FitBit products are that they are a tiny bit less bulky (I tried one on), and they have an adjustable strap. I haven’t heard much about the app that goes with it, but I have heard of skin irritations from the Force, and that concerns me a bit since I have sensitive skin. I do like the idea of the LED display on the Force. I always look down at my Up Band expecting to see the time displayed, so that is a definite perk of the Force! Plus it comes in some pretty snazzy colors.

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