My week with FitBit

In my never-ending quest to get fit, I’ve tried just about everything. The fact of the matter is that I’m just not terribly motivated. Working out with Kinect is nice since it turns it into more of a game, but there’s nothing there to really push me. Jogging is just about my worst nightmare (and my knees’ as well). Organized sports in the city are a pain to get to, or at least more of a pain than I am willing to cope with. After ruling out all of these logical activities, I turned to the next best thing: buying expensive trinkets on the internet!

Fitbit is, at its heart, a pedometer. But it is one hell of a pedometer! It also does a lot of other nifty stuff, such as track your sleep, and it provides a website to look at all your data in a pretty format. You can even track what you’ve been eating and whether you’ve been working out in other ways. So, is it worth it? Now that I’ve been using it for a week, let’s take a look.

Breaking it down

As a pedometer:

According to the website, the Fitbit “contains an accelerometer like the one in the Wii, tracking your activity more accurately than old-fashioned pedometers”. It ain’t no lie. I tried shaking it Pocket Pikachu-style to rack up some bonus steps, but no dice – it only counts movement if you’re actually moving. It also has an altimeter, so it can track how many flights of stairs you’ve climbed throughout the day.

Apart from the basics, Fitbit can use a variety of factors to give you a general estimate of how many calories you’ve burned as you went about your day. It also uses your stride length to measure how many miles you’ve walked, though I haven’t taken the time to calibrate this yet.

All of this information is available on a beautiful OLED display, which lights up at the touch of a button. And all-in-all, it seems to work pretty well! I kept it clipped to my belt and watched it count my steps as I walk, and it seems to keep an accurate count.

As a sleep tracker:

One of the main reasons I got the Fitbit was because I was worried I hadn’t been sleeping well and wanted to see if that was true. After a week, I’m still not sure. To track your sleep with Fitbit, you put it in a little armband that velcros around your wrist. Fitbit detects when you’ve moved throughout the night, and uses this to deduce whether or not you are asleep. I sleep like a dead person. No, really. Just like this (but with less wrapping).

Anyway, because of that I would guess that if I’m moving it means I woke up. I’ve actually felt like I’ve been sleeping ok, but apart from one or two nights where I barely stirred, Fitbit says that I’ve woken up about 10 times a night, which seems like a big number. I’ll give this one an “eh”, just because I have nothing to compare the results with.

The website:

The website is awesome. The sleep picture above is from it. It breaks everything down into awesome stats which you can adjust to see how you’ve done over different time periods. Check out the gallery below. The Fitbit syncs wirelessly with its base and uploads all of your stats to the website, so you don’t even have to plug it in to get your data.

The site also features sections to input information about what you’ve been eating and any extracurricular fitness activities you’ve been doing (similar to Sparkpeople). This is totally free, even for people who don’t own Fitbits. I haven’t been terribly diligent about entering in my food, but I used it enough to notice that they have a sizable database of pre-programmed stuff in there (to which you can add anything not in there manually).

The site also allows you to connect up with others to see how you compare. Unfortunately I don’t know anyone else with a Fitbit, so I couldn’t do anything with this. Still awesome though!

The “accoutrement:

Fitbit does a lot of other little things right. There are mobile apps to track your food and activities on the go. You get awesome badges for completing different goals like walking 10,000 steps in a day (the generally recommended number). I was able to program mine to say “BASSETS!” when I pick it up, which always gives me a laugh. There are plenty of little touches like this that make Fitbit stand out, and it shows the amount of polish they put into designing it.

The verdict

Since I’ve started wearing my Fitbit I have gone out of my way a number of times to get some extra steps or to climb an extra set of stairs. Pedometers have always frustrated me with their lack of accuracy, but since I honestly believe that the Fitbit is keeping score pretty well I am more inclined to set goals for myself and actually hit them.

That alone would make it a success in my book, but the rest of the package certainly doesn’t hurt. For one thing, the Fitbit itself is a beautiful piece of hardware. It’s easy to check how you’re doing on the device itself, and walking by the base (which I keep set up at my desk at work) uploads everything to the website. And the website is awesome.

While Fitbit isn’t going to change your life, it could definitely be one of the pieces of the healthy lifestyle puzzle. I’ve definitely been more conscious of my activity on a daily basis, and have taken steps (ha) to increase it. Of course, all of this fitness gadgetry isn’t cheap, Amazon.com is currently selling it for $99.95.

For me though, it’s well worth it.