I wasn’t convinced that a small rubber bracelet with blinking lights would make any difference to my life and state of fitness. After all, I ate well, slept well, and had my own exercise regimen. What could my new rubber bracelet do that I wasn’t already doing?
Surprisingly, a lot. It is all a matter of awareness. Who knew that my faithful 8 hours of sleep every night averaged only about 5-7, when my restless and awake times were figured in? I didn’t realize that I really wasn’t drinking enough water—it seemed as though I was. And my weight has been about the same for years—hasn’t it? Then there is my activity—I always seem to be on the move. That must translate into some impressive step counts. And finally, my diet. I eat sensibly…don’t I?
It turns out that this intelligent little bracelet can reveal a whole lot more about your life in general, than you were likely to know before. When you go the extra mile and spring for the wifi scale, your unfudgeable weight transmits accurately to your Fitbit dashboard. And this dashboard is conveniently viewable and constantly updating to your computer and mobile devices. It syncs constantly and wirelessly with my iPhone, iPads and computer. On the computer, you go to your dashboard on a website, but there is always an icon on your taskbar where you can request a sync or be taken to the web-based dashboard.
The apps for the iPhone and iPad are really convenient, as they use Bluetooth. This means that if you are on a hike where there is no wifi—in fact no cell service—your progress will sync and update on your app.
Basically, it is a rubber bracelet (size small fits most women and large most men). Each unit comes with one color of bracelet in both sizes, with one “bean” and one closure clip. In my case, I got a black set and my husband got a gray, which means that we each have two different colored bracelets in our size from which to choose.The “brain” of the bracelet is a small black bean with contacts on one end. It fits into an opening in the back the bracelet to allow its light signals to show through the bracelet’s window. You should wear it on your non-dominant wrist for best accuracy.
In the dashboard, you can set up your time zone, goals (number of steps), weight goal, etc. If you find you were a bit overly ambitious with your first goals, or the default goals, you can reset them any time. Fitbit sends you a weekly progress report, and you can get an app that notifies you when the “bean” needs recharging.
It has an extensive list of activities preprogramed that you can select from—including “animal grooming”! Also, one of the easiest and most comprehensive food lists I have seen.
In spite of the fact that I came to love my Fitbit more than I thought I would, I do have some peeves:
- To sync wirelessly with your computer, you must take up one of your USB ports with a small receiver
- I constantly look at the innocent bracelet expecting it to tell me the time, as it is somewhat awkward wearing a watch on the same wrist. That would be a nice addition—how hard could that be? It knows the time (it has to for giving you a detailed minute-by-minute sleep graph), so adding a small LED time readout on the window, perhaps accessed by a series of taps, would be an improvement.
- Also, the bean can’t be charged in the bracelet. You must remove it and place it into the charging dongle, which then plugs into the USB port on your computer. When all 5 lights blink solidly, you know the bean is charged. Then you reinsert it back into the bracelet—it took me a few tries before I figured out the proper way to insert it, as it is not obvious or intuitive.
And, the fact that the charge only lasts about 5 days is an inconvenient amount of time. If it was around 7 days, you could remember to charge it the same time every week. As it is, even with the reminder app, it can require charging at an inconvenient time; one that is different every week. Travel charging means that you have to bring your own USB/AC plug if you don’t travel with your computer.
- When you first put on the bracelet, the clasp will seem impossible. Its two prongs don’t seem to fit into the slots in the band. Doing it with one hand is definitely difficult the first time. I had to fasten and unfasten it several times when it was not on my wrist to make it easier to put on. It eventually loosens up a little, but it is still more difficult than I had imagined, particularly when I change to the less-used band.
Since it is worn on the non-dominant wrist, certain types of exercise don’t register as accurately as others. It runs on a gyroscope/accellerometer-based system, similar in many ways to the Wii. Anyone who has played Wii games knows that it is only the movement of the hand holding the controller that actually registers; often the other hand’s movement makes no difference at all. Likewise with Fitbit. When walking it registers well, assuming that you aren’t holding something like a package in the braceleted hand. The relative lack of movement causes it to register less willingly. I find it especially true with my two home exercise machines. One is an elliptical with moving handles. Fitbit likes that, and rewards me with many steps. However, my other is a climber/stepper, and the hand hold is stationary. If my hands hold onto the frame, it doesn’t register as well, even though my legs are getting a good workout.
- My final complaint is with the manufacturer itself. Initially (and still) offered in only two unfashionable colors (gray and black), it is not always fun to wear every day with everything. The gray isn’t even really a gray—more of a blue-gray. I was lucky enough to get one of the units when they first came out in June. I immediately went onto their website which offered individual accessories for the Fitbit. I was delighted to see different colored bands available in groups of three or individually by size. I wanted a red one (which is really tangerine), and immediately placed an order for one. When you check out, they tell you it will be 8-10 weeks before they will be available. They are not available in stores, so you are stuck with the website. Their latest estimate is that it will be “a few more weeks”, meaning about 4 months from my original order!
So, I continue to wear either my uninteresting black or blue-gray band. Oddly, I generally forget I even have it on, so it really doesn’t bother me that much.
What it does do is bring out your competitiveness. It makes you want to compete with yourself--or you can sync with friends and compete with them. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator will give you SO many more steps. Skipping the dessert or midday snack will keep you within your allocated calorie range and cause you to make more progress on your weight goal. Realizing that when you are in bed and presumably asleep for 8 hours doesn’t meant that you get 8 hours of sleep, makes you want to get to bed earlier. And drinking more water, even when you’re not thirsty will help you reach that goal, and you will find your diet and exercise easier.
So, my little rubber bracelet and I have become inseparable; and it rewards me with some twinkling lights when I do well. I highly recommend it.