Fitness Data: Kicking & Screaming

Been meaning to publish a bigger piece but got caught in the vortex of not being 100% about the result; forcing myself to blog about the topic at hand, if nothing else.

Stephanie Lee of Buzzfeed wrote a delightfully succinct summary of the state of fitness data: that there is a wealth of collection tools, but their expectations and implications are murky at best. I've been using my Fitbit for more than a year—Strava, Nike+, and Garmin Connect much longer—but never really given data extraction much more thought than their baked-in dashboards. Now, I'm interested.

And has that ever been a can of worms.

As soon as I started looking around the Fitbit API docs, I knew things were going downhill: casual mentions of Premium membership, daily totals, etc. Given that I've been somewhat-slavishly examinig my step counts sunce last year, I knew there was better data available—but how to get it? Luckily, some kind soul (ok, corynissen) put together a scraper for the Fitbit dash. Even if the data isn't reliable or meaningful, it's always a comfort to see other folks doing the same mad things as I am.

That said, it's becoming absurd how complicated access to one's own fitness data is becoming. This doesn't necessarily strike me as being the same as proper medical and health records, but that seems like an awfully good model to aspire to—or even to exceed. Individual data storage and delivery is so insanely straightforward that options ought to exist at marginal cost. But, I digress.

Having resolved the conundrum of extraction, I'm merely tasked with interpretation and visualization. I know the perspective afforded by short-term trends has always been helpful, and I had hoped a bit of Feltron-esque analysis would prompt some more changes on my part. But honestly, I'm not even sure I'll find something worth sharing—this was my not-very-cunning way of forcing a choice between charting/visualisation libraries.

Wait, I did what now?

Matt Policastro

I'm Matt Policastro, a data scientist at Clearhead. I build analyses and software to improve experiences and outcomes. I like bicycles, coffee, and building neat stuff. Welcome to my site.

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