Recently I started a personal experiment based on a simple question – what would happen if I started to track everything I could about my health including my diet, exercise, sleep and overall state of mind? Could I use this information to guide myself towards a healthier lifestyle? Could I draw insights that I could use to ultimately change my behaviour for the better?
The concept here is not particularly new. People have been counting calories and fitness enthusiasts have been logging their exercise results for decades. Never before, though, have so many devices existed that allow people to monitor themselves. Everything from fitness watches, wireless scales, blood pressure and heart rate monitors and even sophisticated sleep monitors – all of them now available at a reasonable cost to the average person.
So I’ve embarked on a personal challenge to track as much as I can about my health and activities. Here’s my experience so far:
- My GPS-enabled watch is easy and fun to use and gives me great insight into my runs. The feedback I get from it motivates me to improve
- There is nothing like tracking what you eat to better understand your diet. The feedback (assuming one tracks intake accurately and completely) is invaluable. But I personally found that tracking my dietary intake became painful after a few weeks. It takes a lot of time!
- Some data simply doesn’t change very much and measuring frequently isn’t all that useful. My blood pressure, for instance, is relatively stable, so I likely won’t continue tracking this as closely.
- The ability to see all of the data in a more integrated way would be useful, but currently I haven’t come across an application that allows this holistic view.
- Despite the significant advances in sophistication and ease of use of the underlying technology, self-monitoring is a lot of work because it produces a lot of disparate data.
My conclusion on this personal experiment… periodic self-monitoring targeted at some specific end (for example, how much sodium did I ingest last week?) is useful. Constant self-monitoring – not so much!
Do you do any self-monitoring? What has your experience been?