2013 By the Numbers: Activity and Sleeping

I have been using a FitBit device since early 2012. At first, I had a FitBit Ultra which I used every day until I finally lost it on a walk in early March of 2013. In May of 2013, I got a FitBit Flex. Since it is much harder to lose the Flex, or forget it (you wear it on your writs and it is waterproof) I have excellent data from May going forward. Also, since it is much easier to track sleep with the Flex, I have excellent data for that as well. Keep in mind, however, that for nearly two months, between March and May, I have some missing data.

Activity (Walking, Level of Activity, etc.)

It is recommended that a person gets 30 minutes of “very active” activity each day. This might be a vigorous workout, it might be a brisk walk, jog, whatever. If you get 30 minutes, you are doing yourself some good. How “very active” is defined is a little vague, but FitBit bases their definition of “very active minutes” on METs (metabolic equivalents):

All Fitbit trackers calculate very active minutes using metabolic equivalents (METs). MET is a unit used to represent the amount of oxygen used by a body during physical activity; therefore, MET can be used as an indicator for intensity of physical activities.

The trackers break your activity into four categories:

  1. Sedentary
  2. Lightly active
  3. Fairly active
  4. Very active

Of course, a FitBit also records steps and distances. For the first few months of the year, my daily goal was to hit 10,000 steps, or roughly 5 miles of walking each day total. Here is what my year of walking (in steps) looked like:

Steps 2013

The blue line represents my actual steps each day. The red line represents a 7-day rolling average. You’ll note the gap in the March – April timeframe. This is where I lost my FitBit Ultra and before I bought my Flex.

I walked a total of 3,596,000 steps in 2013. That amounts to about 1,633 miles, or a little more than halfway across the continental United States. Excluding the period which I’d lost my FitBit I averaged 11,415 steps per day,  or close to 6 miles per day.

But not all of these steps are equal. Some are more active than others and if we look at the my “very active” minutes each day, we get a chart that looks like this:

Very Active 2013

This shows that after May, I was well above the recommended 30 minutes of vigorous activity each day, often hitting 90 or even 120 minutes. This is largely thanks to the three walks I take each day, encouraged by the fact that (a) it is a break from work and (b) I can listen to audio books while I work (see the next post in this series). And now, for my sleeping data:


I have good sleeping data from my FitBit Flex from May going forward so that is what I’ll look at for the purposes of this post.  While the Flex tracks stuff like when I fall asleep and when I wake up each day, as well as how long it took me to fall asleep, for the purposes of this post, I’m just interested in looking at how much sleep I got each night. These numbers represent actual sleep, minus restlessness or time awake in the middle of the night.

Sleep in 2013

The blue line is the number of hours of actual sleep I got each night. Where the blue line drops to zero, that’s a night where I didn’t record my sleep for one reason or another (usually because I was charging my FitBit battery).  The red line is a 7-day moving average of my sleep and helps to smooth out the data. From this, it looks like I generally get between 6-7 hours of actual sleep each night. And that’s how it works out. According to the actual data, I averaged 6.7 hours of sleep each night in 2013.

At some point, I’ll produce a diurnal plot of my activity in 2013 so that you can see where it occurs throughout the day but I just don’t have the time for that today. It would be interesting to see that data for an entire year, however, and I will get around to it eventually.

Next up in this series, my reading numbers for 2013.

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One thought on “2013 By the Numbers: Activity and Sleeping

  1. I’m fascinated by all of this data, Jamie. I’m not much of a data head myself, but I started reading your blog over a year ago and started keeping a simple log of how many words I write each day and how many miles I walk or run (nothing fancy like your Fit Bit or Google Scripts, just plugging it manually into and Excel workbook and making a simple graph).

    I officially started last year and so therefore now have a year’s worth of data. It’s amazing and I’ve really seen where my gaps are in terms of both writing and exercising. I’m pretty consistent on exercising, but in writing I had started off strong and then fizzled as the year went on. I din’t realize this until I looked at the data. I set my goals too high and then get discouraged when I don’t meet them. I’m now following your writing goal of a little bit each day. I’ve been working on it for awhile….when I don’t feel like it, I’ll say to myself, “if Jamie Todd Rubin can find 20 minutes, so can I!”

    This post makes me want to start tracking my sleep….the gap between what I think I’m doing and what I’m actually doing is probably very illuminating (as it was with exercise/writing).

    Bottom line…thank you for a year’s worth of fascinating and inspiring posts. It’s been great watching your writing streak grow! Happy 2014 Jamie!

    -Mel Novak

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