For some people, jumping on the scale every morning (or checking the fit of a certain pair of jeans) is enough to confirm when they have been overindulging and either need to step up their activity level or watch their diet a little more closely. Others prefer a more structured approach and may keep a food or activity journal, which is one of the most often recommended tips for losing or maintaining weight. The Fitbit will definitely appeal to this second group by eliminating a lot of the guess work and analyzing the data for you.
The Fitbit is essentially an accelerometer that can track your steps, distance, calories burned and, in an unexpected twist, your sleep quality. The tracker is about the size of a Bluetooth device and clips on to your waist during the day and to a wristband while you sleep at night. A base station that plugs into your computer doubles as a charger, and the battery life of the device is estimated at 10 days. A blue display on the tracker itself reveals steps, mileage and calories burned for easy reference throughout the day. Users can either upload the information daily by simply passing by the base station, or detailed data can be stored on the tracker itself for up to seven days and generalized data can be stored for 30 days. The Fitbit website verifies the accuracy of the device’s ability to track steps, although it can be fooled by activity such as a restless leg movement. Additionally, the device is designed to track walking and running, and is not appropriate for cycling or many other aerobic activities. Calories burned included an estimated resting metabolic rate based on the users weight and age.
The sleep tracking feature, which is triggered by pressing down on the control button for two seconds when going to bed and again when arising, certainly sets this device apart from most other electronic pedometers on the market. It is interesting, particularly for those who are restless sleepers, to see how long it takes to fall asleep and how many times per night you may be waking up. Total sleep time is also tracked and an overall efficiency rating is provided.
The Fitbit website is easy to navigate and includes numerous features that can either be enlightening or a waste of time, depending on your dedication to tracking your activity and intake levels. There is definitely the danger of becoming a bit obsessive about tracking and comparing data from day to day, and the food log is particularly time consuming. While it is easy to record basic foods, inputting combination or homemade meals is a chore. Additionally, although meals are analyzed by fat, protein and carbohydrate content, it does not offer percentages. For example, if you are trying to keep your fat intake to less than 30% of your total calories, you’ll have to do that calculation on your own. The website offers additional features, including the ability to monitor weight-loss goals and compete with other Fitbit users.
One of the greatest benefits of the Fitbit compared to other pedometers is the free website access. Although the Fitbit is not cheap (retail price is $99), other trackers charge monthly service fees to maintain information on their websites, which could be a deterrent to many users who could benefit from monitoring their activity levels. However, those who simply want to increase their daily activity levels could probably make do with a significantly less expensive pedometer.
What we liked:
- Accurate and easy-to-use device for recording and tracking workouts
- Free interactive website for uploading and analyzing data
- Added feature of tracking sleep could be helpful to troubled sleepers
- Long battery life that reduces need for frequent charges
- Small size makes it easy to conceal
What we didn’t like:
- Inputting food data is time consuming and doesn’t provide important information
- High price if only used for tracking steps
January 27, 2010