A Health and Fitness Article of Transformation

Step by Step Guide to Healthy Lifestyle Series


This article is written from the author’s lifestyle change that resulted in a transformation of his health from being a ‘Tablet Taker’ to  a ‘Wardrobe Changer’. 

Taken in 

2011                                                            2022


This Article has 5 Episodes

Monitoring Changes

Why do you need to monitor changes?

Tracking body measurements and fitness progress is crucial for getting in shape and staying in shape!

Those who succeed in transforming themselves are those who monitor progress diligently. In the words of Peter Drucker, a management theorist, “That which gets measured gets improved.”  The trick is to understand the value of data, measure the right things and then make sense of it all to make informed decisions.

How do you measure fitness progress?

Does this sound familiar?

  1. You decide you want to get in shape.
  2. You go for runs every day for a week and try to eat less food.
  3. You step on the scale every day for a week and the numbers go down. Yaaaay!
  4. You go to a cookout on a Sunday, step on the scale on Monday, and it’s higher than before!
  5. You freak out, go crazy, and fall off the wagon.
  6. Lather, rinse, repeat

If that is you, what you need is a proper plan. 

I follow a simple plan for 5 days, rest on the 6 day and do a burn out on the 7th day.  I use the Premium Plan from Fitbit to track my progress. 

The basic parameters to be tracked are:

  1. Steps
  2. Heart Rate
  3. Calories 
  4. Zone Minutes (Active Zone Minutes) 
  5. Readiness Score 
  6. Sleep

Each of these parameters tell a story and that has to be understood. For each of these parameters you will have to set goals. Goals help to track progress and hold you accountable. 


Below is my journey of monitoring using a fitbit watch.

  1. STEPS: I started with a 10,000-step goal. This converts to 8 km roughly and takes about 30 minutes daily. 
  2. HEART RATE: When the heart beats, capillaries expand and contract based on blood volume changes. To determine heart rate, the optical heart-rate sensor in a Fitbit device flashes its green LEDs many times per second and uses light-sensitive photodiodes to detect these volume changes in the capillaries above the wrist. This is used to calculate heart beats per minute (bpm).

Heartbeat falls into fat burn, cardio and peak ranges as shown in the diagram.

CALORIES: Fitbit uses the basal metabolic rate (BMR) which is the rate at which  calories are burnt at rest together with activity data to estimate calories burnt. Do note that smart watches are not lab measurements and only provide estimates. Some Smart watches measure in terms of kilojoules instead of calories. 

Conversion can be done using this simple formula: 

1 kJ = 0.239 calories. So, to convert from joules to calories, multiply by 0.239. 

For example, multiply 5,000 J by 0.239 to get 1,195 cal.

ZONE MINUTES: Fitbit uses zone minutes to monitor intense activity. This helps to set the pace or rhythm.  

When the heart rate is between 105 to 125 bpm, fat is burnt. 

Heartbeat rate at 126 -151 bpm uses 60% to 85% of the heartbeat range. This is triggered by activities such as a fast run and some intense exercises to get a good sweat and burn. 

152 plus bpm is the Peak Zone. This activity should not be prolonged for more than 2 minutes as it can produce a strain on the heart. 

Formula to calculate the Maximum heart rate: 220-age

Example: Age: 54 Maximum Heart Rate : 220 – 54 = 166

Heart rate reserve = Maximum Heart Rate – Resting Heart Rate = Heart Rate Zone. 

READINESS SCORE: A Fitbit watch uses 14 days data to normalize the average reading and uses 3 parameters required to calculate the readiness score are:

  1. Activity
  2. Recent sleep
  3. Heart rate variability average

Activity: A score of 48 tells me that I have been active lately and can plan for some moderate exercises

This sub parameter is measured by looking at the average zone minutes. Example: If the average is 25 minutes and the last measure is 6 it’s not really much of activity, so I’m ready to get my body to do more exercises. 

Recent sleep:  I like the way Fitbit analyses sleep, it monitors my sleep for a month and then creates a sleep profile. Understanding sleep helps understand how calories are burnt, body is repaired and cells are renewed. 


The main stages of Sleep are 

  1. Light Sleep
  2. REM Sleep
  3. Deep Sleep

Light sleep: Light Sleep is the entry point into Sleep. This Stage begins typically within minutes of falling asleep. Breathing and heart rate typically decreases slightly during this stage. 

Usefulness: Light Sleep promotes mental and physical recovery. 

REM sleep: During this period the eyes move quickly in different directions giving rise to its name Rapid Eye Movement (REM). In this stage heart rate increases and breathing becomes more irregular. 

Usefulness: REM sleep has shown to play an important role in mood regulation, learning and memory as the brain processes and consolidates information from the previous day. 

DEEP SLEEP: This sleep typically occurs in the first few hours of sleep. When I wake up feeling refreshed in the morning I am likely to have experienced longer hours of deep sleep. Breathing becomes slower and muscles relax while heart rate usually become more regular. 

USEFULNESS: Deep Sleep promotes physical recovery and aspects of memory and learning. This stage is shown to support the immune system.

Let me give you my own graph for illustration purpose:

HEART RATE VARIABILITY AVERAGE (HRV): It is the variation in the time between heartbeats. Even if some one has a heart rate of 72 beats a minute, it does not mean the heart beats once a second.  ANS (Autonomic Nervous System) determines the timing of each heartbeat. 

The factors that affect HRV include age, gender, sleep, hormones, circadian rhythm and lifestyle choices e.g. caffeine, alcohol intake, exercise, stress to name some of them. HRV profile is calculated over 30 days, the standard deviation used is +/- 2 from the baseline. 

USEFULNESS: A significant drop in HRV may indicate the person is experiencing stress or strain or showing potential signs of illness. 

Last week, I experienced a blocked and runny nose.  The graph below is an illustration of my HRV, during this time. 

I have discovered that monitoring my progress has played a significant role in my fitness journey. I recommend you invest in a handy device to help you track and monitor your progress.


Share This Post