This Is How Much Exercise You Get At Trade Shows Like CES

Being a gadget writer at CES may seem like a glamorous gig. Yes, we get to play with a lot of new toys. Yes, that is often a lot of fun. But canvassing the show floor and running to press conferences is brutal on the body. This year we attempted to measure just how hard a workout it really is.

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CES, for example, is gigantic. The floor of the main halls — and there are two of them — each span many city blocks. Then there are the smaller sideshows. Plus press conferences spread out all over Las Vegas. This year, a bunch of us wore various activity trackers to see exactly how much ground we covered.

Casey Chan, wearing a Nike Fuelband, logged the highest daily Fuelband total, coming in Monday at 14,839 steps (for 4806 points of Nike Fuel).

As for me (the guy looking like hell in the photo above), the Fitbit One says I logged 15,170 steps that day. That translates to an estimated 11.5km and an estimated 3040 calories burned. According to the BodyMedia LINK armband I was also wearing, I averaged 1.7 METS that day.

Peter Ha came in at 15,440 steps on Tuesday, according to his Fitbit. But it's more than just walking. Between steps, you're standing around a lot of the time, talking to a guy at a booth. Basically, your feet are dead by the end of the day.


Food at CES is catch as catch can. Generally, you're seeing something on the floor, running to find a place to write it up, then hustling off to the next booth or press conference. The restaurants in the casinos take too damn long. It's a struggle just to replenish all the calories you're burning. That might be fine for dieting, but you do not want a calorie deficit at CES. From our perspective, it's a sporting event, and we need fuel for our engines.

We all try to carry our favourite energy bars or gels with us at all times. Our US editor-in-chief, Joe Brown, is partial to Clif Shot Bloks (Mountain Berry or Margarita flavours), because they're a fast way to scarf some calories, carbs, electrolytes, and they have caffeine. While we hope these are merely meal supplements, sometimes they're all we have time for. On Monday, my dinner consisted of beef jerky and gummy bears. Nothing that happens here is sustainable.


Las Vegas is in the middle of the freaking desert. As you might imagine, it is dry as shit. The canned, air conditioned air everywhere only makes it worse. Plus you're running around with heaps of gear and sweating. As you might imagine, it is extremely hard to maintain proper hydration. In the days leading up to the show, were were constantly reminded to start pre-hydrating, 48 to 72 hours in advance. Those of us that didn't were met with headaches shortly after arrival.

You need water for proper brain function, and if you aren't firing on all cylinders while you're here you slip up and miss something. Bombarding our systems with diuretics like caffeine (and the occasional alcoholic beverage) makes things much worse. Plus, the water here tastes like the pipes it came in through, so it's often a matter of willing yourself to gag down enough of it.

Sleep (or lack thereof)

You wake up early in the morning. You say up late writing up embargoed posts for the next day. And yes, part of why we're here is to socialise, network, and all that stuff. I used the Fitbit One and BodyMedia LINK to track the duration and quality of my sleep. Holy crap, it's pathetic.

Interestingly enough, the two trackers came back with very different results:


  • Sunday night: 5 hours, 11 minutes of sleep, 80% sleep efficiency
  • Monday night: 3 hours, 36 minutes of sleep, 77% sleep efficiency
  • Tuesday night: 2 hours, 42 minutes of sleep, 79% sleep efficiency

I had the Fitbit set to sensitive mode, and it was far less tolerant of my tossing and turning.


  • Sunday night: 2 hours, 2 minutes of sleep, 39% sleep efficiency
  • Monday night: 3 hours, 6 minutes of sleep, 61% sleep efficiency
  • Tuesday night: 1 hours, 16 minutes of sleep, 84% sleep efficiency

The truth is somewhere in between. But either way, it's brutal. You feel yourself get crazier day by day. There are things you can do to help yourself run on no sleep, but sooner or later, it catches up to you.

All of this adds up, and by the end of the week, it's hard to talk in complete sentences. Your eyes are sunburned from all the gadgets screens, emails are going in one ear and out the other because you're getting 400 a day. When you finally get home, you find a dark corner and you try to pass out for 36 hours. Unless you have to work the next day.

It's always a long road to recovery from a CES hangover.



    just sayin': there is no way in hell 11.5km of walking burns 3000 calories. according to my HR monitor i burn about 1400 calories running 23km. so walking half that distance is unlikely to burn twice the calories. that estimate is far too generous.

      Yeah I dare say he's looking at around 750 calories for 11.5km
      I just checked my guess against a calorie burning calculator, and it looks like I was pretty close, and I even way overestimated his weight for good measure (the heavier you are, the more you burn walking)

      Last edited 25/01/13 2:05 pm

        Maybe it's Kilojoules - 3040 would convert to 726 Kilo-calories ( the "Calorie" for nutrition)

          That would make sense.

          On the other hand, what doesn't make sense is that one day, some guy said "kilocalorie takes too long to say, I'm just going to call it 'calorie' for short" and then everyone else followed him.

          If the author weighed more like 150 grams and walked 50 metres, he might've burned 3000 'lories

          Last edited 25/01/13 3:44 pm

      The calories are not based on steps / km alone. Because these trackers, fitbit etc are based on your personal details it takes your estimated daily basal calorie burn and adds the steps walked so you burn a total of 3000 calories for the day. Probably 800 on walking and 2100 basal calories. FYI the sensitive setting on fitbit is too sensitive and even a twitch or your partner moving sets it off - normal setting is ideal for the fitbit. Source - I own a fitbit one and body media.

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