The recent rise in fitness tracker popularity has made it simple and straightforward to monitor your own progress and compare it to the progress of others using the same platform and activity. With a variety of products on the market and an even wider variety of ways to stay active, though, comparing your stats to those of someone engaged in a different activity or using a different tracking method proves to be a greater challenge. Chicago native Patrick Hitchins hopes to change that with his new website, FitRankings.
“Some [of my friends] were runners, some were cyclists and some did CrossFit,” Hitchins says. “You always had this recurring question of who’s the fittest. We all got into different fitness apps, whether it be Strava, MapMyFitness, some had FitBits, some had Jawbones, but we had no place where we could compare our efforts. That led to the creation of FitRankings.”
FitRankings converts your activity into a unit of measurement called the metabolic equivalent of a task, or a MET. METs track the amount of energy expended in a specific activity. The Center for Disease Control uses MET-minutes, which are the number of METs used to complete an activity multiplied by the amount of time you engaged in that particular activity, as its standard for exercise recommendation, and advises individuals to earn 500-1000 MET-minutes of exercise per week. The amount of effort you put into a particular activity—for example, running 10 miles per hour compared to running 7.5 miles per hour—affects the number of METs assigned to each activity.
“It’s really a gold standard for measuring not only the duration of your exercise but intensity,” Hitchins says. “By doing MET-minutes, we’re able to take precisely someone who runs a four minute mile and compare them against someone who runs a 10 minute mile or someone who goes out and bikes for 15 miles.”
FitRankings assigns a FitIndex value to a user based on how many MET-minutes he or she achieved during a certain time period. In addition to ranking individuals, FitRankings also compares companies within a city, including Chicago, based on the percentage of employees who participate and collective MET-minutes across all employees participating.
“The earliest takers are active, but in more developed markets, we’ve been delightfully surprised to see [employees] no one knew were fit walking 10 miles a day and being ahead of the leaderboard,” Hitchins says. “You might assume someone else is [the fittest], but based on actual MET output, it’s [someone you didn’t expect.]”
Company rankings break down into four categories, large, medium, small and micro, to provide a more accurate comparison based on percentage of participating employees. The site also includes citywide individual rankings, though users can keep their rankings anonymous if they so choose.
“You can anonymize your name partially or completely,” Hitchins says. “That being said, we’ve been really happy that only two percent of users choose to anonymize themselves. People want to be recognized for being fit, and they want their employer to take notice and reward them and encourage them to be fit.”