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TOPIC: Fitbit review -- with pros and cons

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February 13, 2012 10:26 AM
I got a Fitbit Ultra a few weeks ago, and my friends have been asking for a review. So here ya go, for anyone who's interested:

In a nutshell: I love it!! It's not perfect (what is?), but it does what I want it to do for the most part and it's tons of fun!

What it is: It's a small pedometer-like device that tracks steps, distance, stairs (in flights of stairs), sleep (based on movement), calories burned (based on movement -- mostly steps). After you buy the device, there is no monthly fee for the software, etc., although you can pay $50 a year for a "premium" service that gives you more analysis and compares your activity with others.
What it's not: A heart-rate monitor.

See for more info/photos about the Fitbit itself. I bought mine from the website, although it's also available on Amazon and eBay (I found the reviews on Amazon very helpful, btw). I decided to get mine from the website, though, just in case something went wrong with it and I needed/wanted a replacement.

* Size -- It's small and inconspicuous (about the size of most flash drives). I can wear it on my waistband without looking like I'm wearing a pedometer. It can also be worn at the center of a bra or in a pocket.
* Tight clip -- It's a very tight clip (also a con; see below), so I don't really worry about it falling off my waistband, even when using the restroom. I'm conscious of it, but so far it hasn't been an issue.
* Fun -- I'm a sucker for this stuff, but I love the little flower that grows the more active you are. And I love that when I climb a lot of stairs, the info on the site tells me I've climbed the Leaning Tower of Pisa. And I love that it cheers me on from time to time (in writing -- no, it doesn't actually talk, thank God ... how annoying would that be?! tongue ). It also inspires me to move more. I'm actually excited to use stairs more now and sometimes just go up and down the stairs at home to get more activity in my day (the cats think I'm crazy now laugh ).
* Graphs -- The graphs on the Fitbit site (my "dashboard" that shows me my activity for the day) are fascinating to me. Who knew that I burned 8 calories just getting up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom? And when I do interval training, I can see the exact minutes where I was really going at it hard.
* It tracks all activity (stairs, etc.) -- I love that it tracks stairs, too. I like getting credit for the calorie burn days when I don't necessarily get a lot of steps in, but use the stairs a lot (like laundry day in our two-story house).
* Sleep monitoring -- It's interesting to see how I am sleeping and to track how many hours of sleep I actually get.

* Tight clip -- It's a very tight clip (also a pro; see above), and won't clamp onto thicker fabrics/areas without using the plastic holder they give you for those instances. It doesn't have a springy/lever thingy (yes, that is the proper term wink ) to open it wider like most pedometers do. I'm guessing that would add to the size of it, though (I'm no engineer, obviously). So I am a little worried I will break it if I try to open it too wide sometime; I just try to be extra careful with it.
* Sleep monitoring based on movement -- The sleep monitoring really just tracks movement. So if you set the timer to tell it you're going to sleep, and then lie there in bed, motionless but not asleep for an hour, it will think you are sleeping. So unless you fall asleep super-fast or wave your arm around before you fall asleep, it's not going to be 100% accurate.
* Calorie burn for less "active" exercise -- As I said above, it's not heart-rate monitor. I still use my HRM for my workouts. When I jog, the Fitbit and my HRM are within 20 calories of one another in terms of calorie burn. But if I do a Jillian workout or kickboxing (where I'm not constantly stepping or "moving" my lower body as much), the Fitbit calorie burn is much lower than my HRM.
* "Fitbit adjustment" lag time with MFP -- Once synced with MFP, if I have an active day just walking and using stairs, etc., it will show up as a "Fitbit adjustment" in my exercise diary, showing that I was more active in my everyday life than MFP had predicted for that day (I have a desk job, so I'm set at sedentary on MFP). However, there is a bit of lag time between when you sync the Fitbit and it shows up on your MFP diary. As a result, I had a 300-calorie deficit yesterday (more than I usually like to have), but I didn't realize it until I woke up this morning.

Connecting with MFP:
This works well so far. You log everything through MFP still (food, water, workouts), and they transfer over to your Fitbit "dashboard." The only thing you have to update on the Fitbit site is your weight loss (or, ahem, gain ...)
When I do a workout (wearing both the Fitbit and my HRM -- yes, I love my gadgets), I note the time I am starting and start the timer on the Fitbit and my HRM. I stop both after the workout (duh). Then I usually compare the calorie burn on both just for fun. Then I log my HRM calorie burn (most accurate, I think) into MFP, using the starting time and duration (MFP gives you a place to put the starting time once you first connect your MFP and Fitbit accounts). That bascially tells Fitbit to disregard the calorie burn from that time period and replace it with the calorie burn you put into MFP.
I'm guessing that if you don't have an HRM, you can just let the Fitbit record of your workout stand as is. I'm not sure about that, but maybe other Fitbit users can chime on that here.

Sorry this is so long, but I wanted to be thorough! Hope this is helpful and informative to at least some people! flowerforyou

~ Ann

P.S. I have a Polar FT4 HRM, for those who might want to know. I love it -- still the best $$ I spent on my health/fitness. I got it on eBay, new, for about $80.
February 13, 2012 10:31 AM
Thank you soooooo much! This pretty much sells me on both a fitbit and a Polar HRM! Wishlisting on Amazon...
February 13, 2012 10:34 AM
You're very welcome! smile

I forgot to mention that I also like that it syncs wirelessly, if you are within 15 feet of the computer with the software and the base is plugged in there. The battery lasts for a long time, too (they say 3 days). I usually just charge mine (on the base) while I shower; so far that's been enough to keep the battery from ever getting low.

BTW, I saw my exact HRM on Amazon the other day for about $70. Make sure you get one with a chest strap -- those are more accurate and you don't even notice it!
February 13, 2012 10:43 AM
Already figured out the chest strap is better for a HRM. My BF has one. My worry is that it would annoy me, being so busty an all. But I'm willing to give it a try!

Thanks again!
February 13, 2012 10:45 AM
Nope, "busty" shouldn't matter, because you put the strap *under* your bust -- pretty much where your bra band is right now. That also helps it stay there securely, for obvious reasons. wink
February 13, 2012 10:51 AM
I truly enjoyed reading your review Ann! You answered alot of questions I had about it and I am strongly considering getting one!!
February 13, 2012 11:12 AM
Woot woot! I sooooo want one now but I'm a looooooooong way from hitting 365 days ;), I missed a log in the other day =( Maybe when I hit pre-pregnancy weight? Even that's going to take a good looooooooong time cuz I can't lose too fast or I lose my milk (I learned that with my son!) Hmmm. Regardless, love the review, you just reaffirmed my wanting it!!! Lol.
February 13, 2012 5:17 PM
FitBit is a great motivational tool and soooo easy to use combined with MFP :0)
February 13, 2012 5:54 PM
I've had a Fitbit for a little over a year. Just a few things I wanted to add. (I love mine also).

1) I no longer use the wrist band to wear mine to bed, I couldn't keep it from falling out. I clip mine to my nightgown.
2) After prolonged use, the Fitbit does wear down and crack in the middle (this is a common problem for a lot of people). I used to clip mine to my sports bra (thick material) and I think that is why it ended up cracking. I got a replacement from customer service last September.
3) I've never used the belt clip. Now, I wear my Fitbit looped around a ponytail holder. I use it to secure it either to a belt loop on my pants (then tuck it in the pocket), or around the strap of my sports bra when I am at the gym. I never worry about it falling off and getting lost this way.
4) Although the free site is awesome, the $49 annual fee for the advanced reporting is really neat!
Edited by cynthials On February 13, 2012 5:58 PM
February 13, 2012 7:57 PM
All good info, cynthials! Thanks!
I've thought about trying the premium site sometime ... mmm ...
March 5, 2013 1:47 PM
Thank you for this info! I was hoping to find something like this and glad I came across it. I just ordered mine and I'm excited to get to try it!

September 27, 2013 7:41 AM
Hi have you ever used your Polar FT4 HRM in the swimming pool , and if so is it ok.

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