I’ve written at some length about using Fitbit to track my activity, and encourage me to do a bit more. It was somewhat effective, and I liked the device a lot. It was only moderately effective at getting me to actually move about more, though.
After an unfortunate accident killed Sam’s Fitbit, I gave her mine to use, which left me with no tracking. I remembered seeing an iPhone app called Striiv for tracking, which had seemed like a bad idea at the time. Now I had no alternative, I thought it might be worth trying. When I say it seemed like a bad idea, I mean that I didn’t expect it to actually count steps with any accuracy at all, and I expected it to run the battery down far too quickly to be usable.
Well, after a couple of weeks or so at trying it out, I can say I was partially wrong on both counts:
- It works far more reliably than I expected. I think the step counting is a bit less reliable than Fitbit, but it’s very close. I usually find it’s around 10% or so out, sometimes 20% or so. Considering that’s just using the accelerometer in the iPhone, though, I think it’s pretty good. I don’t need accuracy, I just need a good idea of how I’m doing relative to other days.
- It does drain the battery, but not enough to be too much of a problem for me. I still get a full day of use most of the time, but it’s a bit more of a problem if we’re out and about for the day. Veho Pebble (Amazon UK, Amazon US) portable chargers look like a good way around the problem, so I may well get one, but it would still be a bit less convenient than the Fitbit was.
What it does do that the Fitbit didn’t really do very well for me is encouraging more activity. It pushes me gently during the day to do more. It keeps setting goals for me, with a little graph showing how close I am to walking the length of the Golden Gate Bridge, or how much more I need to do to burn off a can of soda. It also offers little challenges. If I walk, say, 50 steps in a minute, I get a reward of some extra energy points. If I do 10 more minutes of activity in the next 20 minutes, I can have 7,500 energy points, but it will cost me 750 points to take the challenge.
But why would I want energy points? Well, that’s all part of the ‘MyLand’ game. You have a little world, and you can add plants and buildings to your world, to try to attract creatures back to the land. The game isn’t great, and it’s fairly similar to many other ‘world-building’ games out there, but it still works on me. There are gold coins, which you use to buy a building. But that just gives you a pile of stone and parts. You then need to use energy points to actually put the building together. You can spend gold to upgrade your building, but again, you need to use energy points to make the upgrade actually happen. Walking around is the only way to get your energy points, and it’s much more efficient to get them by doing challenges too. Well, you can get more by inviting friends and weighing yourself, but you can’t buy your way around doing stuff.
The result is that I walk more than I otherwise would, in order to build a rather crappy little virtual hut, in a game that I probably wouldn’t be playing if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s helping to motivate me to do more. It turns out I’m surprisingly easily tricked into being a bit more active.
It’s a free app, so if it sounds interesting, give it a try. You can add me as a friend too – I’m on there as email@example.com – you’ll get some extra points for inviting me, and there are extra bonuses to be had for activities your friends do. You can even take part in a Walkathon, to donate a day of clean water to a child in South America.