Gini Dietrich

A Bone to Pick with Jawbone UP

By: Gini Dietrich | June 23, 2015 | 

A Bone to Pick with Jawbone UPBy Gini Dietrich


This is not communications- nor entrepreneur-related, but I have a bone to pick.

A bone to pick with Jawbone UP.

You see, a couple of years ago, I read a study that shows sitting all day for work is worse for you than smoking a pack of cigarettes.

Because we’d gone virtual by then, I made a pact with my team to figure out something that would motivate everyone to get up (no pun intended) and away from their desks throughout the day.

You see, just as Ellie Pierce mentioned in her blog post yesterday, it’s a bit easier when you work in an office: You commute (if you’re in a big city, you may even walk to the train), you walk to and from people’s offices, you leave for lunch, you schedule time for the gym, you walk to meetings.

But when you work from home, it has to become a concerted effort. There are some days you walk into the bathroom to brush your teeth and you walk to your desk and then you don’t move for 10 hours, not even to shower or change out of your PJs.

Even for someone like me who rides 30 miles every morning, the study says that isn’t enough because it’s about how many hours you sit, not whether or not you exercise.

This is very, very bad.

The Obsession with Getting Steps

I was having dinner with my friend Carlos Cruz and I told him about this dilemma.

He mentioned he and his team had just started a steps competition using the Jawbone UP.

So I checked it out.

I compared it to what was available back then (there wasn’t much in the wearable technology space then) and, in April 2013, I bought everyone a Jawbone UP.

We created a contest: The person to get the most steps in a quarter would win $250.

It took a little while for people to engage.

I remember when Lindsay Bell was tired of losing every quarter and bought herself a treadmill desk.

She went berserk.

She was on that thing 22 hours a day (that might be a slight exaggeration).

She was walking so much that her shoes were wearing out within a month.

Her Jawbone UP broke three or four times in one summer. Their team just kept sending new ones because I think they were afraid we were going to go postal if we didn’t have our trackers.

It became normal for everyone to have 15,000-20,000 steps a day, particularly during the week.

(Lindsay still averages more than 10,000 steps a day, which makes me proud!)

Build a Work-out Desk

When Laura Petrolino joined the team, she had a treadmill desk and suddenly I knew my competition had just increased.

My 30 mile bike ride and walking Jack Bauer twice a day wasn’t enough.

I had to step up my game.

So I jerry rigged a shelf to my stationary bike and that is where I hold all of my meetings.

From the top up, you wouldn’t know I’m on my bike.

It looks like I’m sitting at my desk (maybe minus a little movement that makes it look like I’m swinging my legs under my desk) and it means I move in some capacity four to six hours a day.

The Bone to Pick with Jawbone UP

But here’s the problem: The Jawbone UP tracks number of steps as they correlate to walking, no other exercise.

So, for instance, if I ride 30 miles at 70 percent heart rate and at 22-23 mph, it takes me a little less than 90 minutes.

During that time, I get only 9,000 steps, which is baloney.

If I walk for 90 minutes at a slight elevation from my resting heart rate and four to five mph, I get 13,000-14,000 steps.

That makes zero sense.

So, if I’m working on reaching a goal of 15,000 steps per day, am I going to ride my bike in my heart rate zone and get really good cardio or am I going to walk?

It’s rewarding the wrong things.

As well, I have to wear the dumb thing on my ankle because it doesn’t track bike riding (which I do for exercise, in meetings, and now because it’s summertime, to and from outside meetings and physical therapy) when it’s on my wrist holding the handlebars.

While I’m completely addicted to it as David Sedaris is with his Fitbit, and I love that it holds me accountable to moving all day long (which in the end, is very, very good for me), the whole wearable technology field has some work to do.

Let’s Not Make it for Naught

It sounds like the Apple health app is getting close.

It is rumored to start tracking VO2 and heart rate, which makes much more sense, but you’ll still have to have your phone (or Apple watch) on you at all times. And, while I do take my phone on bike rides, it sits in the back pocket of my jersey…and doesn’t count steps.

I don’t have a brilliant solution other than it should track elevated heart rate and your “zones” versus steps, but I do hope they get there.

Otherwise all this moving everyone is doing now will be for naught.

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • YOU STILL REMEMBER ME!!!! *sniff* 😉

  • belllindsay WHO IS THIS?

  • I’m going to resist making an app recommendation and ask for that app you recommended to me for cycling instead. Down with the jawbone UP (I lost mine, boo), but graduated to the Apple Watch.

  • chelpixie Oh! Strava: All the cool kids use it.

  • ginidietrich that’s the one I was going to mention to you. The one I’m thinking of is more training style….maybe?

  • chelpixie Hmmm… I don’t know. Like a couch to 5K kind of thing?

  • ginidietrich I don’t know but I don’t think so. I’m going to have to go back through old texts to find it 😛

  • chelpixie I recommended it? If it was me, it’d have been Strava and then RunKeeper. I may have also said DailyMile.

  • The “sitting disease”  is certainly a troubling trend, the activity tracking devices on the market, still can’t accurately capture our diverse efforts to counter-act this new level of laziness. Similar to biking, my kayaking (kayakers prefer to say paddling) time is not recorded either.  Working from home, I consciously ensure that I either take a gym break during the day (if I am not in my kayak that evening), or take a nice 15k+  step nature walk [as recorded on my Samsung Galaxy Note 4 walking app] with my wife after work.

  • It’s bad.. I definitely get more steps in when I’m away on a trip or it’s the weekend. I don’t have a fitbit, etc. yet but I do track on my phone (I know, I know.. it’s not accurate but it’s better than nothing.) but since the 6+ is not ideal pocket size, I miss some tracking there too 🙁

  • whitney_fay

    Mike, Evie and I just got on the fitness tracker kick because we are perpetually late to every single bandwagon. I got the Fitbit Charge, Mike got the Fitbit Flex and I got Evie the Jawbone Up Move because she’s 9 and it was only like $50. But… she rides her bike to my mom’s house in the mornings and I thought it did count her steps. I need to look closer but she was up for a whole ten minutes before she left the house today and she had over 1200 steps when she got to my parents’ house. I can’t imagine that she got that many steps in the little time she was awake before getting on her bike.

  • Cindi Leeman

    I’m addicted to tracking my steps, too. I tested a Mio FUSE that has a HR monitor. I loved it, but it is huge and ugly.
    I’m currently wearing a FitBit, but it seems to be much more sensitive. When I wore both and counted my steps while walking around my office, they were equally accurate. But the FitBit does count many more steps throughout the day, and since it says I’ve walked 30 steps before I even get out of bed, I’m assuming it is too sensitive.

  • LynnMcConaughey

    It is a bit cumbersome but you can log a workout to the UP, putting in that information about distance, time and pace. You can also time an activity as you go. I love being able to see the peaks of my activity throughout the day, and am especially fascinated to track my sleep!

  • shawnz

    Me too! I don’t understand why it can’t convert entered activities in to steps for the leaderboard so I can at least tie with you! 😉

  • You people are crazy.
    Ha! But seriously, if you know you’re getting a great workout with the biking, not having it count as “steps” shouldn’t matter! But I know it does.
    This is why I’m not adopting any of these things until they become absolutely seamless and self-directed, which I hope is not too far away.

  • RobBiesenbach It shouldn’t matter, but it totally does. ESPECIALLY when you’re in a work competition (even though it’s against the rules that I win).

  • shawnz Bahahahaah! That’s an awesome idea!

  • LynnMcConaughey I do that, as well, but it never gives me the number of steps I think I deserve for a 30 mile bike ride. And yes on the sleep! I forgot about that. Though it’s a bit depressing because I thought I was a great sleeper only to discover I sleep less than an hour a night soundly.

  • Cindi Leeman LOL! Or you’re sleep walking?

  • whitney_fay I’d be curious to see the stats on it. Let me see!

  • KristenDaukas Actually, the Apple health app is pretty accurate…if you have it on you at all times.

  • Digital_DRK I would think your paddling would convert because your arms are moving. Hmmmm….

  • ginidietrich  It probably would, if I was wearing one of the fitness bands, however, I just rely on my phone to track movement, hence no activity recorded even though the phone is in my kayak. 🙁

  • Digital_DRK Ohhhhh. Yeah, the phone won’t track it. Bummer.

  • ginidietrich RobBiesenbach I use CardioTrainer which is a phone app. It allows walk, run, bike, treadmill walk, treadmill run, stationary biking, badminton aerobics, boxing, dancing, golf, elliptical, xcountry skiing…wait there is 25 more options even P90X , Scuba and Kayaking.

    Sounds like Jawbone is still in the last decade for technology.

  • Howie Goldfarb ginidietrich RobBiesenbach  I heard potato peeling and channel surfing are future additions.

  • KateNolan

    You know how I know a Type A wrote this? “Otherwise all this moving everyone is doing now will be for naught.” Uhhhh… it’s not exactly for naught, cause you still got the movement in, which is the most important thing, it just doesn’t let you compete. 😉

  • KateNolan

    ginidietrich belllindsay STRANGER DANGER!

  • ginidietrich LynnMcConaughey per the Encyclopedia Britannica a mile of biking is equal to 28 steps walking. I mean 128 steps walking sorry for the typo. It says walking is much more strenuous than biking unless it is a mountain bike then the extra resistance on the fat tires pulls it slightly ahead of walking for 273 steps per mile.

  • Digital_DRK Howie Goldfarb ginidietrich RobBiesenbach I saw Gini’s Biometrics for sale on EBay this morning.

  • I’m just going to +1 this entire post.

  • Neicolec

    ginidietrich RobBiesenbach I notice the same thing with my Fitbit, but it really is a comment on how competitive you are that you’d write an entire blog post about it! I just love you, Gini! 

    Maybe you can come up with a way to track your biking and do a mathematical conversion to just add to your total. But, don’t forget the golfing, yoga, rowing, zumba, etc. that others might be doing…

  • Much easier just having a job that doesn’t give you a chair or a desk nor lets you sit for 5-10 hours at a time. Then you wouldn’t need any fancy gear.

  • shawnz

    I would like it to be noted that I have officially beat Gini on the sleep leaderboard. Thank you. All. 😉

  • susancellura

    I haven’t worn my FitBit in a long time. And, of course, it’s not going to be helpful when I’m swimming laps in the pool. Steps do become addictive but I’m happy with one less thing to worry about. 🙂

  • shawnz Well, at least you can beat me at something.

  • KateNolan Not true! If you’re walking at a super slow pace and getting 15,000 steps, that’s not nearly as good for you as exercising and working your heart out and building muscle mass.

  • LauraPetrolino YAY!

  • Howie Goldfarb Well, that’s not going to happen considering what I do for a living.

  • susancellura We should have a Spin Sucks competition! And that means no popcorn and icees, too!

  • susancellura

    ginidietrich What?! No popcorn?! No once-a-year icee?! How much wine can I have? 
    What kind of competition? How do we measure non-steps? 🙂

  • KateNolan

    ginidietrich But that doesn’t mean those 15,000 steps were “for naught” just not as high intensity as other activities. Walking 15,000 steps is still better then sitting all day.

  • susancellura You can have one glass of wine each day.

  • KateNolan Fine. FINE.

  • Neicolec Now you’re talking! If they put me on their board, I would totally get them ahead of their competition.

  • shawnz That was mean! I’m just teasing. And where do you see the leaderboard? I just looked, but didn’t see it.

  • susancellura

    ginidietrich Okey-dokey!

  • KateNolan

    ginidietrich The words you’re looking for are “you’re right”. 😉

  • KateNolan No. Not true.

  • KateNolan

    ginidietrich I’ll let you finish that Garter Girl and then we’ll finish this conversation.

  • KateNolan I need another one!

  • KateNolan

    ginidietrich Let’s go!

  • shawnz

    Ha! You have your sleep hidden, dear. I can’t see it. I was just teasing… But I am SO surpassing my goals on sleep. I’m so proud of myself!

  • shawnz I love sleep. In fact, I would love a nap right about now.

  • ginidietrich Howie Goldfarb midlife career changes are easy to make. I know from experience.

    The interesting thing is I work at a restaurant where we make $25-30 an hour take home after taxes (no benefits of course and not full time sadly). And I don’t work at a high end place. What does it say about the US when many waiters make more than people with college degrees and 10 years experience in the work force on average?

  • ginidietrich Digital_DRK you do know Darryl photo shops all his Kayak shots. He actually has never been in one.

  • Howie Goldfarb I say good for them! I think that’s awesome!

  • Pingback: To Taylor Swift, Love Spin Sucks Spin Sucks()

  • Howie Goldfarb ginidietrich

  • I’m a bike rider too, but not like you. Only 7 miles per day. I will now have to up my game, but I digress. I bought a Basis watch because the others did not track the bike riding. It also tracked my sleep which I need help with at times. Now I’ve got an IWatch which also tracks bike riding, but not my sleep. I think this technology will get better and better and we will get healthier because of it. You manage what you measure.