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My Life with Trackers

My Facebook and Twitter feeds are full of people talking about the new gadgets they got for Christmas. Tracking has gone mainstream as many of those gadgets are fitness and activity tracker devices. I thought I’d share a bit about what I’ve learned as an avid tracker for some of these newbies.

I have been using apps and devices to track my activities for over 7 years. When Nike in-shoe sensors came on the market in 2006, I was an early adopter and since then have upgraded to various GPS watches and apps like RunKeeper on my phone. I love tracking my runs and hikes. It adds an extra sense of accomplishment seeing exactly how far you’ve gone, elevation climbed and how fast you’ve traveled. Seeing my progress overtime was especially motivating and helpful when training for upcoming races.  It led me to want to track more. I definitely felt myself getting caught up in the quantified self movement.

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Fitbit Flex

So when we decided to get Fitbit trackers at Wellpepper, I was all over it. I was very excited to start tracking activities outside of runs.  I chose the wristband format while Mike and Anne chose the Fitibt Zips that clip onto your pocket or waistband. I liked the idea wearing the Fitbit at all times tracking all activities (including sleep) and thought I would have a better chance of not losing it. We found this to be true right away as Mike lost his first two Fitbits.  (Protip: Clip your Fitbit with your Fitbit inside your pocket.) Anne wasn’t too keen on the look of the sporty black wristband so chose the smaller out of sight zip and also appreciated that the Zip didn’t need to be charged. (However, both Anne and Mike had over a week of no activity recorded when their batteries actually died.)

Fitbit Zip

Fitbit Zip

Initial findings were very fun and intriguing: an Ultimate Frisbee game is about 8,000 steps and a good round of golf about 18,000 steps with up to 20,000 steps if that happened to be a bad round of golf. The most lucrative activity turned out to be dancing, it’s surprising how many steps you can take while dancing at a wedding! (23k)  Step counts varied between the different Fitbit types. As my steps were tracked by the movement of my arm, I definitely got credit for additional steps including a few 1000 from petting an upset dog during a thunderstorm. This caused some debates over the accuracy and fairness of the Wellpepper Fitbit leaderboard, which is definitely a fun and motivating feature of the Fitbit app. 

Fitbit 3Definitely the most surprising findings were how many steps could add up with regular day to day activities.   I found that I generally took around 1000 steps just walking around the house and getting ready in the morning.  A walk to the store to grab a few groceries could garner up to 2000 steps. Turn that trip into a walk to the farmer’s market and you could easily generate 4k steps! It was surprising how a few small decisions could turn a relatively normal day into highly productive and active day.  I found this infographic: The Exercise Experiment: A Tale of Two Days does a great job of showing the difference small choices can make.

Even more surprising, or even shocking, was how many steps I didn’t take on an inactive day.  I work from home and it’s not uncommon for me to grab a cup of coffee in the morning, jump on my laptop and get to work. Some days, the time can slip by and before you know it, the day is gone.  I never used to worry about it because when I am not working, I am highly active. However, after I came across The Truth about Sitting, I decided I needed to be more aware of my overall activity. I think this has been the greatest impact of the Fitbit. I thought that I might dive deeper into analyzing my runs or hikes, but it has actually created this awareness to keep me moving all the time. It reminded me of something John Mattison (CIMO of Kaiser Permanente) said at FutureMed:

It’s not about wearing a million sensors, we don’t need digital nannies, it’s about becoming more mindful.

Posted in: Healthcare Technology, M-health

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Getting the Most Out of Your Golf Game

Ah golf. I love this game. It can be such a frustrating sport, but nothing can beat the feeling of a well struck ball or the sound of the ball hitting the green. I don’t get out nearly as often I would like, but when I do I fully enjoy what the sport provides: a solid four hours of time with good friends out in the beautiful outdoors. When I can find the time to squeeze in a round I want nothing to get in the way. So when I heard that Sitka Wellness was putting on a Golf Workshop to learn how to get the most out of your game and prevent injuries, I grabbed a friend and we went to go and check it out.

Sitka Wellness is a full-service physiotherapy and wellness clinic located in the heart of downtown Vancouver. Along with physiotherapy services, Sitka offers group Yoga and Pilates classes as well as Personal Training. The instructors work closely with the therapists to tailor programs to each individual’s needs. What we love most about Sitka, besides their integrated approach to health, is that they put on monthly community workshops that anyone can attend. They range from managing chronic pain to training for your first 10k. Anne attended a workshop on minimalist running last month.

images (1)Jason Lee, Registered Physiotherapist and TPI Certified Golf Fitness Professional started off the workshop by discussing some of the basic functional movements required to perform a golf swing such as squats, pelvic tilts and trunk rotations. Jason used the example of balancing on one leg. If you weren’t able to perform this simple movement, then you wouldn’t be able to follow through correctly by finishing with all your weight on your front leg. Flexibility, strength, coordination, balance and endurance are all important factors in maximizing your performance. A physical therapist can help you break down your movements and determine where you might need to focus your energy and improve.

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The Reverse Spine Angle. The number one cause of lower back pain in golf.

Jason then walked us through these simple recommendations for avoiding injury.

1. Improving physical conditioning before the season starts

2. Warm up before you play, minimum 15 minutes

3. Using a push cart instead of carrying your clubs

4. Engage your core before your swing

5. Rotate through the hips instead of lateral sliding during your backswing

6. Avoid excessive extension as you finish your swing

 

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Using the foam roller in this position can help open up tight chest muscles caused by sitting at a desk all day.

Tip #4  really stood out for me. I know engaging my core is one of my weaknesses and this is where Irene Lugsdin (a Pilates instructor at Sitka) came to the rescue. Pilates is an approach to exercise that focuses on the deep stabilizing muscles of the body or the core. Irene took us through some simple exercises that would help strengthen and lengthen the spine and that would facilitate the flexibility and mobility needed to enhance our golf swings. Irene described Pilates as breath with movement and so we focused on how your breath could help you engage your core but also infuse your swing with a fluid tempo. She also explained that golf is an asymmetrical sport while Pilates is all about symmetry and balance hence the reason these two activities are an excellent combination.

I really enjoyed the workshop. Jason and Irene were both very knowledgeable and engaging speakers. It was great to be able to breakdown the golf swing and really think about the mechanics and the movements/muscles required.  My friend Carla, who came along and who is an avid golfer, was surprised to see the Physiotherapist and Pilates instructor working together. She had never imagined such collaboration between the two practices, but after attending the workshop she thought that it made absolute sense.

Sitka offers comprehensive golf swing assessments where a physiotherapist will look for any dysfunctional movement patterns that could be limiting your performance. The 1 hour golf screen includes a walk through your injury history, a series of functional movement tests as well as a swing characteristic analysis using 2D video.  Once the assessment is complete, the PT can then work with you on an exercise program focused on improving any physical deficiencies that need to addressed. They will even work with and communicate with any golf instructors or personal trainers you might be working with outside the clinic.

We have noticed that many physical therapy clinics offer screening services for golf  and other sports such as Running, Tennis, Softball/Baseball and Cycling.  Working with a Physical Therapist is an excellent way to learn how to take care of and get the most out of your body no matter what you want to do.  I know that I am excited to take my new tips and tricks to golf course. I might even have a chance at beating Carla!

Posted in: Exercise Physiology, Rehabilitation Business

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