With inspiration from David Sedaris, Anna Chang discovers the value of a ‘wearable device’ to promote health and wellbeing. 


Anyone who knows me knows that I am, perhaps, the slowest walker in the world. Slower even, than the Google-maps man. That’s right, slower than that guy. Why then, would someone like me get a <ahem> ‘wearable device’?

Actually, what even is a ‘wearable device’?

I have a Jawbone UP24. It tracks how far I’ve walked each day, how many steps, how long and how well I’ve slept, and – if I used all the features – what I’ve eaten, how many glasses of water I’ve drunk, and how many coffees too.

I won’t bore you with too much of a sales pitch, if you wanted an UP24 review, there’s plenty – trust me, I’ve read them – and there’s other devices out there too: FitBit, Garmin, Samsung and I’m sure many others make them too.

So after seeing some acquaintances rave about their UP24s, and recognising that I needed to somehow integrate more activity into a work lifestyle that made it seem impossible, I was tempted. Really tempted. And then, when I read that even David Sedaris had a FitBit, well I’m embarrassed to say, I was pretty much sold.


The rationale being that:

  • the new gadget would have the novelty factor to get me going, and once the novelty wore off, I would have (fingers crossed) formed a good habit and keep going;
  • I have quite a busy job as a campaigner, with irregular hours and ‘this-now-please’ scenarios, which isn’t always conducive to being healthy or setting a regular exercise routine;
  • the UP24 would incentivise more incidental movement, rather than throwing money at an(other) aspirational gym membership;
  • and to be honest, I thought if *even* David Sedaris has one, well it can’t just be for super duper crazy fit active people™ – you know, the kind of people who view running as a perfectly legitimate leisure activity.

And it’s been great.

I’ve learnt that I do actually walk a lot more than I thought I did — I hit my 10,000 step target more often than not. And when I don’t, it doesn’t give me any grief either. While I do regularly engage in unapologetically lazy weekend DVD binge days from time to time, when I see that I’ve been a couch potato a few days or weekends in a row, I’ve started being much more proactive in trying to think of out-of-the-house activities to go do: be it as simple as going to the local bookstore or exploring a new suburb in Canberra that I haven’t been to yet.

In terms of sleep, actually having the number of hours of sleep I’ve been getting recorded each night, has made a massive difference. I’m no longer sleeping teenager hours, and have been sleeping earlier, waking up earlier and following more regular hours – even on weekends!

Since I live up three flights of stairs with no lift, I’ve noticed (probably to the relief of my housemate) that I’m much much better at taking out the rubbish and recycling – a handy task when I’m stuck on 99% of my step goal! (And it’s all making sense why David Sedaris has taken to being his town’s litter collector.)

Most importantly, I genuinely feel more energetic, and much happier. My work, I think, has improved a lot too.


Things I learned

  • I walk way more than I thought (and you probably do too!)
  • I’m quite self-competitive
  • If I get challenged to do something, I’ll probably do it
  • When I’m flat-out focussed doing something reactive campaign-y, it’s still actually not that hard to move every ninety minutes — even if it’s just to get a glass of water
  • Being active and sleeping better has made my work better
  • Activity begets activity – now I even run!

List of features I use

  • counts the number of steps you take, converts into kilometres
  • counts the hours sleep you had, and gives an indication of quality of sleep
  • you set your target goal number of steps, and hours of sleep
  • you can set it to buzz if you haven’t moved for a certain length of time, within set periods of the day (for me, 90 minutes between 10am – 6pm, Monday to Friday)

Other features that I used and then didn’t

  • records what you’ve eaten, works out how many calories you should be eating based on how much you’re walking
  • records the length of time of other activities you’ve done (eg. running, cycling)
  • alarm – buzzes you to wake up in the morning

Look, I understand that it’s not going to be for everyone. Some people like running and hiking up mountains for leisure and power to them, but for those of you that maybe like gadgets, and self-competitiveness, and data collection is something that motivates you, it’s worth considering.

At the end of the day, the most important thing is to find what works for you, and for me it was this. Well, me and David Sedaris.


photo copyAbout the author

Anna Chang has worked as an environmental campaigner, in political communications & campaigns, and as a graphic designer in a commercial studio.

She enjoys walking – albeit very slowly – and reading David Sedaris books.


How do you use tech to support your health and wellbeing?