Thought Leadership

Am I fit?

By Colin Walls

Maybe it is an age thing, but I do concern myself somewhat with my physical fitness. I am not overweight, but I feel that I am carrying a pound or two more than is comfortable. I just feel that I am not quite running at full efficiency. When I say “running”, I am not talking about the jogging kind of activity. That is not my style at all. I do not really buy into the idea of taking exercise for the sake of it. I prefer to look at ways to build exercise into my life.

So, whenever possible, I will walk or take my bike to go places. I try to only use the car when distance, weather, time or payload are against me. I also spend a lot of time going up and down stairs. I have a three story house, with my office at the top and the kitchen [source of coffee, food and all good things] at the bottom. The problem is knowing how much exercise I am actually getting …

I do not really understand gyms. Why sit inside, pretending to ride a bicycle, while breathing air-conditioned air and watching a TV screen, when you could be outside riding a real bike, breathing fresh air and enjoying the scenery? Nevertheless, I visited a local “health club” recently – just to see whether it had anything to offer – as it is only about a mile [nice walk/ride] from my house. I observed that there was ample provision for parking cars, but could see nowhere to secure my bike. I inquired, but was told there had not been any demand for bicycle parking, as members tended to arrive by car. It occurred to me that many of them could save a lot of money. All they need to do is ride/run to the gym and then go straight home. They would get very adequate exercise and save money on fuel and gym fees.

I have now got a possible solution to measuring how much exercise I take in a given day. Some weeks ago, it was my partner’s birthday and I bought her a nifty gadget called a Fitbit. [This name really does not work well in British English, but that is what it is called.] She just needs to wear it – attached to her clothes somewhere at all times. They provide a wrist band for use at night. It continuously gathers data about the wearers movement. When she wants, she can upload the data to her personal website [provided by the Fitbit company] – this just entails being in the vicinity of the docking station, with which it communicates wirelessly. On her special homepage, she can see how many steps she has taken, stairs climbed and calories burned. As a bonus, it also maps out sleep patterns. All of the measurements can have associated targets, so there are strong motivations to do better. All in all a very neat and easy to use [and fun] device. [Actually, this device is a fine example of an embedded system, so maybe this posting is not “off topic” after all.]

I guess I need to get one of these for myself. The manufacturers missed a trick. If they had offered a twin pack [two devices and one dock] for an uplifted price, I would probably have bought that straight off and they would have gain incremental income. As it is, I am trying to decide whether I need one more gadget in my life …

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at