Fitbit review: What’s cool? What could use improvement?

You might remember how crazy I was about getting a Fitbit for Christmas. For the first time, there was an in-depth look at my crazy sleep patterns drawn up for me by this very cool device, accessible from both my smartphone and my laptop. Neat!

It’s a month and a half later, so I thought I’d draw up a couple lists: The Cool and The Needs-Improvements of Fitbit.

 

The Cool:

Sleep tracking — I still love it.

I’ve had about 2-3 more hours sleep on average lately, and my patterns (although still horrible by normal-people standards) are not as wonky. I attribute this to exercise, which I wish I could attribute to Fitbit, but it’s more to do with Wii Fit (more on that to come in this entry).

Sleep patterns with Fitbit -- past three months, Time Asleep

Sleep patterns with Fitbit -- past three months, Times Awakened

Though I’m sleeping for longer durations, you should probably ignore the increase in times I’m awakened. I assure you it has to do with bathroom breaks and the general awkwardness of weighing 35 pounds more than I did last year. (Pregnancy, not otherwise lifestyle related.)

 

Next up, the Fitbit is great at motivating with a steps goal! I will say that the past month or so has been very inactive, as far as step counting goes anyhow.

If you live anywhere near the Great Lakes, you know that this winter has been unusually frigid. There have rarely been days in a full week where we’ve gone above the freezing mark. The cold + having a full bladder most of the time diminishes the appeal of daily walks with the dogs. (They still get around 30-40 minutes per day of very active play in the back yard. I just don’t get much exercise out of it.)

I’ve supplemented my lack of steps with my 3-4 times a week Wii Fit routine, which is mostly yoga and strength training, followed by about 10 minutes of aerobics. This has done wonders for my flexibility, sleep patterns and digestion. However, I wish I could keep up with the 10,000 steps goal. I know someone who lost 20 lbs last months just from keeping up with her steps goal. That may seem insane, but it shows that a little motivation can go a very long way to improve your health.

Soon the weather will improve, and I’ll have a little boy to walk around in a stroller (and apparently a daily walk can do great things for the cabin fever of having a newborn). For now, if I’m close to reaching a milestone at day’s end (20% of goal, 40%, 60% and so forth), I usually do walk enough steps to make it to the next one before heading to bed. It may not make much of a difference, but it makes me feel better!

 

Logging activities — woo hoo! Shovelling counts as Very Active Minutes. That’s been the one benefit of this winter (even though every time I shovel, I am often chided by someone not to — here’s a tip, if you want me to do something more, tell me not to do it. I have not tested the opposite method — but I digress). It’s nice when your work counts for something. However, the logging activities function is not without its flaws, which I will touch upon in Needs Improvement.

 

Another nice thing about this device is that you can track your water intake.

As someone whose teenage years were mired by crappy skin, I am a huge fan of the benefits of hydration. Once I started drinking a lot of water every day, there was a huge improvement in not only my skin but also my general health. Add to the fact that when you drink a lot of water, you’re less likely to consume a lot of stuff that’s bad for you (like pop or energy drinks). It’s been easier for me to have 6-8 glasses of water than a lot of pregnant women because I’ve always drank a lot.

Being able to easily log how much water I’ve had in the Fitbit app or desktop log keeps me hydrated and on track. It’s also the only goal I’ve been able to keep up with since I’ve gotten the thing.

Which leads me to the next part of this review…

 

 

Needs Improvement:

OK, so I can log activities. Great! How come some seemingly very active activities are counted as Very Active Minutes and others are not? I mean, it makes sense. Not all things you do will be very active, but there should be more variety available when it comes to logging activities. For reference, Fitbit’s default daily goal is 30 Very Active Minutes.

I don’t know about you, but when I vacuum, Swiffer the floor and clean the house, I get all hot and sweaty. Not (just) because I am out of shape, but because I put a lot of effort into it — and it really does feel like I’m going nonstop for about a half hour to 45 minutes every time I do this. However, when logging these activities, the best you can select from a pre-determined list includes the words ‘moderate effort’. OK, select that and enter the amount of minutes spent doing each activity. You’ll note this does not contribute at all to your Very Active Minutes.

OK. It’s a step counter. It doesn’t care that you exerted effort. But wait, it likes when I shovel…? Seems inconsistent.

 

And as an extension of the logging activities issue, let’s look at Calories Burned… how accurate is this thing anyway? You can log your own calories burned for certain activities in Fitbit, just not all of them for some reason.

E.g.: Wii Fit tells me approximately how many calories I burned during a full workout. I can just add that number into my Fitbit activity log, right? Well, try as I might, with both the desktop log and the smartphone app, I can’t find a way to add calories to my own custom activities.

calories burned? nope!

I could add (some, not all) pre-entered and specific Wii Fit activities, but having a routine that I follow consisting of about 20 different activities, adding them individually is cumbersome — and it wouldn’t include all the activities I actually do.

Let me stress that I don’t really care about how many calories I burned, but I’d like to keep my logs consistent. If it’s not logging my strength training as steps or Very Active Minutes, I might as well count my efforts for something, right? Well, I can’t. These entries could be more customizable, and should all include a field for calories burned.

 

Food logging is kind of the same story. Not accurate, not as much variety as I’d like to select from and not really worth it. I guess this is more of a problem I have with calorie counting in general. At least when it comes to food logging, you can add a custom calorie count. Not that you’ll always have a good idea of how many calories are in every single thing, but this at least gives you the option.

You can also start a Food Plan, something I haven’t even looked into doing since pregnancy eating is wonky at best and I tend to get the fruit, vegetables, fibre and other minerals I need without logging them.

 

In all, it’s a great device with the potential to motivate and really get a person into shape, and I love how simple it is to log most things on the smartphone app. It could just be improved in a few small ways to make it a superior fitness companion.

Nearly two months in, that’s my Fitbit review. If you’ve used it, what are your favourite and your least liked aspects? Let me know in the comments!

 

About Nik

Writer, occasional photographer, common street juggler. I enjoy cooking, crafting, a clean house, animals, and senses of humour. Oh yeah and being the mom of my boy John.

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  1. Pingback: 39 weeks: The final mugshot? Please? And Fitbit progress! | commatose.ca

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