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An excellent activity reminder method

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
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Weekly nuggets of pain science news and insight, usually 100-300 words, with the occasional longer post. The blog is the “director’s commentary” on the core content of a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.

About six months ago I realized that I gradually stopped paying enough attention to the exercise and activity goals that I had set for myself on my fitness tracker of choice, an Apple Watch. So I resolved to reboot my dedication to them, which has been a complete success. And in particular it has been an excellent way to help me stay in the “Goldilocks zone” — not too much exercise, but never too little either, which is important for me as a chronic pain sufferer.

I am completely committed to “closing my rings” every day. The blue ring is the “stand” goal, which you achieve by getting at least a minute of activity per hour. Sounds easier than it is!

I’ve been impressed by the Apple Watch’s method of reminding me to get out of my chair. I highly recommend it, if you’re determined to be less stuck in a chair, for whatever that’s worth (probably something, but it’s surprisingly unclear). I think Apple has devised an really great way to remind people to get up and move around: this gadget gently “taps” you on the wrist when you’ve been sitting still for too long, and the timing algorithm (when it taps you) is simple and effective. This method stands out in two ways:

  1. Extremely simple and completely automated. You never have to think about this feature. There is nothing to configure or play with, and it behaves in exactly the same simple way all the time. By default it’s “conservative,” setting a goal of just one minute out of the chair per hour. That’s not enough, but it’s also highly achievable, so it’s unlikely to become frustrating.
  2. The beautifully engineered physical “tap” that the watch uses to get your attention is exactly right. It doesn’t feel technological — it feels like a polite nudge that is impossible to miss but also easy to ignore. It manages to effectively remind me without ever irritating me — which is actually quite an accomplishment.

It’s an expensive solution, of course — those watches aren’t cheap — but they have many other features. It’s certainly worth considering, if you’re already an iPhone user. I have experimented with all the various technological reminders for a long time, but nothing ever stuck like this has. I updated my article about taking “microbreaks” with this tip a couple weeks ago.