Fit Bit of a Hit

Years ago, I had a heart rate monitor that I loved. I had to stop myself from wearing the cumbersome chest strap under formal dresses and while I slept — I was obsessed. Sadly, my heart rate monitor was not long for this world, and when it died shortly after an expensive battery replacement that involved mailing the whole damn thing to another city, I gave up on it — despite the fashionability (not) of the large digital wrist watch I had to wear to chart my calorie burn.

Six years later, I am experimenting with a new, far less invasive method of movement measurement. This holiday season I received a Fitbit. I have been wearing this teeny-tiny (smaller than a small Tic Tac box) gadget clipped to my bra or hip ever since then. It has been recording my every step taken and calorie burned and automatically posting them to the internet via my iPad. Anybody looking for a stalkee?

I am not done learning about this neat-o little device, but I thought a month was a good amount of time to gather and post my initial impressions.

Here are the things I love about my Fitbit:

  • It is tiny and inconspicuous (though I love showing off its hot pink color and I have almost inadvertently sent it through the laundry twice).
  • You can get the lowest end model for about $60, so it is less expensive than a heart rate monitor.
  • It does come with its own free app that enables you to keep an accurate food diary so you can get a relatively accurate picture of calories in vs. calories out. The database seems to be fairly comprehensive, even though I only charted for a day. It is also relatively easy to add new recipes/menu items.
  • The Fitbit automatically syncs to iPhones and iPads, so I don’t need to worry about manually entering exercise data.
  • Fitbit can sync with a number of popular diet/exercise apps, so I can use the data collected by my fitbit in other apps that offer more services than the basic Fitbit interface.
  • Higher end models also track sleep which might come in handy as sleep deprivation is the trending culprit for failed weightless these days.

Here are the things I wish I liked better:

  • I really like the interface for food entry much better on SlimKicker. I wish my Fitbit would sync with this app.
  • The calorie measurements are nowhere near as accurate as a heart rate monitor. While its ability to track movement is better than an old school pedometer that only tracks forward/backward movement, it falls short especially with weightlifting. Videos that I had estimated were burning roughly two hundred calories consistently register at less than one hundred. Additionally, a twenty minute video that requires lots of movement/jumping/running registers at over a hundred calories burned. I remember this being a frustration with using a pedometer years ago; weight work done with my heart rate in an aerobic zone, which is really great exercise, does not register as many calories burned because, even though my heart is pounding out of my chest, my core is not moving enough to register significantly calorie burning movement.
  • While there are a number of other more comprehensive apps with which Fitbit is compatible, some of them require purchasing something more than the barebones app to enable compatibility. I’m already feeling overwhelmed by the number of diet and exercise apps resting dormant on my phone; I am done spending money on acquiring anymore, and I was a little annoyed that it was only after the download of the free version that I was informed that I would need to upgrade to obtain compatibility with my Fitbit.

I am currently in the middle of month two of wearing my Fitbit, with no plans to give it up soon. I do enjoy the extra inspiration I get to jump around instead of standing still, and walk up stairs instead of taking the elevator. That said, I am pretty inspired to do these things already. Ultimately, I think the Fitbit is best suited for beginning exercisers. It is great for encouraging a little bit more movement here and there. It is not so great at measuring specific workouts, especially weight-bearing exercise.  I miss my heart rate monitor.

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