FitBit Craze: Is It Right For You?

Have you joined the Fitbit craze? For not being much of a fashion statement (in my opinion), there sure are a lot of people sporting the iconic wristbands while they work, play, and even sleep.

Let’s discuss this popular gadget, and then you can decide if and how a Fitbit might help you build healthy daily habits and reach your health goals.

A Fit What?

If by chance you’re not familiar with a Fitbit, it’s basically a really fancy pedometer. Fitbit devices use motion sensor technology to track your movement.

Some models include a watch which gives it additional functionality. I’m still not sold on its element of fashion, but it’s not a bad look considering all the cool features.

When you sync your Fitbit with your smartphone, the data collected shows on a very cool and useful dashboard.

To get started, you enter data such as your height, weight, and goals. Then the Fitbit is able to calculate metrics such as:

  • Distance walked
  • Calories burned
  • Stairs climbed
  • Quality of sleep
  • Intensity of a workout
  • Heart rate

There are probably more metrics that can be tracked with the latest and greatest loaded model. I have a Fitbit Flex 2 which is a basic tracker. The very thin wristband appealed to me, and I didn’t feel the need to have the heart rate or watch features.

Syncing to a smartphone is not a necessity, although it is a pretty valuable feature to get the dashboard. The dashboard gives you additional analysis about your activity.

My mom (80 years old and spry) doesn’t have a smart phone. However, she uses the display on the Fitbit itself to make sure she meets her daily walking goals. By knowing exactly how far she has walked in the day, it keeps her motivated to keep walking until she meets her daily goal.

Fitbit is continually coming out with new models. They all are variations of the basic tracker, but some have more features than others. The best features depend on your health issues and challenges.

The latest models to date is the Fitbit Ionic Smart Watch. It is loaded with features and has everything you could possibly need:

  • Music
  • Personal training through Fitbit Coach
  • GPS,
  • Fitbit Pay  that enables you to make purchases right from your smart watch.

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Agelessness

One of my favorite things about Fitbits is that they’re appropriate for anyone who wants to wear one.

From elders to  elementary school age children and every age in between, a Fitbit is perfectly appropriate. How each age uses their Fitbit is probably a little different, but it still offers value to its users regardless of age.

What makes the Fitbit so enticing?

Fitbit cleverly added a few competitive elements that help make it more fun to get your steps in. Gamification features tap into our natural desire for competition and achievement.

Competition Features:

1 – Fitbit allows you to connect with friends who also have a Fitbit.

You can also see how your total weekly steps compare to your friends. Certainly you don’t want to be at the bottom of the list! A little peer pressure isn’t a bad thing in this situation.

Connecting with your friends, family, and colleagues not only make for friendly competition, it also adds fun to keeping up with your steps.

2 – Who’s up for a challenge?

There are various challenges available and it’s very easy to invite friends to a challenge. Whoever gets the most steps in the challenge time range wins, and the prize is full bragging rights. You also earn trophies by coming in first place or achieving your personal best in a challenge, but bragging rights is the chief prize.

I may have walked around the house at 11:45 pm a few times because I was soooo close to bumping someone down in a challenge.

The Weekend Warrior Challenge is the one that I have participated in several times. Without doubt, it made me get out on more walks throughout the weekend.

3 – And the badge goes to….

Fitbit also awards you different badges as you meet milestones. Again, no fabulous prizes but it’s a way for you to acknowledge your progress. Hopefully badges trigger some self pride for your steps toward a healthier you.

Overall, the competitive element of the Fitbit makes people want to use it more and get more steps.

Hook, Line & Sinker

Yep, I’m hooked. Although I’m not quite as obsessed as in the past, I’m still pretty addicted to my Fitbit.

I’m not proud of this, but I even wore my Fitbit to my daughter’s wedding. It was easily hidden under my wrist corsage, so why miss the steps?!??!

If I forget to wear my Fitbit to work, there is no way I’m going to go for a walk during my lunch break. It’s a waste of steps if my steps don’t count. Crazy, I know!😳

Other than admitting to my fanatical obsession, what I’m trying to say is that my experience is that a Fitbit provides me motivation to get more movement built into my day.

Challenges absolutely motivate me to stay active, as does just having to face that end-of-day total. If I check my steps at the end of the day and it’s a number that is not as high as I was aiming for, I feel like I want to do better the next day. The Fitbit helps me quantify that number so I know if I’m improving or not.

The Fitbit motivates me to take advantage of every opportunity for steps, especially on heavy sitting days and I’m desperate for steps. On more than a few occasions I have marched in place while watching tv or letting the dogs outside.

I’m no doctor, but I know that I feel a heck of a lot better when I get the proper amount of exercise. I have made a decision to work at getting healthier, and my Fitbit is going to play a part in that strategy.

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How a Fitbit can encourage healthy habits.

How a Fitbit Can Encourage Healthy Habits

Dashboard

Using the dashboard, you can quantify your activity. With that data, you can then set goals. It’s especially motivating for people who are motivated by numbers.

It’s fun because you can see trends and decide if there are things you might want to modify in your daily life. The dashboard tells a pretty accurate story about your activity, whether it be activity or sleep.

If the graph shows that you’ve had no movement for the entire afternoon at work, you might want to figure out a way to move or your body is going to pay a price.

The dashboard shows a graphical view of:

  • Steps and distance trends over time
  • Weight changes
  • Food intake versus caloric burn
  • Sleep trends
  •  And more keep coming out regularly

Community

There are topic-based public groups that you can join with other fellow Fitbit users. The groups are similar to Facebook groups where people can post their advice, encouragement, or questions. You might be surprised how you’ll get to know fellow Fitbit enthusiasts.

A sense of community always adds to the success of its participants. Find groups where you share similar passions, interests, and challenges so you don’t feel alone in your journey to better health.

Some of the group topics are:

  • Snacking Tips
  • Healthy Eating
  • Heart Health
  • Hiking
  • Sleep Well
  • Fit Seniors
  • Walking
  • Pregnancy
  • Vegetarian
  • (Chicago) and many other cities that might be near you
  • and plenty more!

How Do FitBits Work?

The technology is built on the basis of motion sensing.  The controllers for the Wii game system provided the inspiration for the Fitbit founders, James Park and Eric Friedman. They worked at getting the sensors small enough and inexpensive enough to be used in a portable fitness tracker.

I found a really good podcast that explains all the technology behind the Fitbit. It’s really interesting and you should give it a listen. The podcast is called TechStuff and the epidsode is The Fitbit Story.

As an example, they explain how the Fitbit monitors heart rate. Below is my interpretation to give you an idea of what they explain. You might start reading it and think it’s too technical, but keep reading because it’s pretty cool stuff.

Fitbit monitors heart rate through a process called photoplethysmogram (PPG).

Human blood is red, and red stuff reflects red light and absorbs green light.  So FitBit pairs a couple LED lights that are pulsing green light with a sensor that detects reflected green light. That is how it’s able to tell how much light is being reflected or absorbed by your blood.

Basically it counts the number of times the absorption and reflection pattern happens in a minute, and the result is your heart rate.

NOTE: Keep in mind, the FitBit is not marketed as a medical advice and, as some health care professionals are voicing, should be used as a guide rather than actual numbers.

Fitbit Features

Knowing what Fitbit model is right for you completely depends on your preferences. Like I said, I really prefer a small wristband and minimal features. The Fitbit Alta really entices me because it still has a slim wristband but has a watch and other fancier features.

On the flip side, the much larger Fitbit Iconic Smart Watch would be really fun and is loaded with amazing features. Of course it comes with a higher price, but it’s still pretty reasonable considering all the features.

I recommend you go to Amazon and checkout the features on various models. The customer reviews are extremely helpful. Click here to view all Fitbit models on Amazon.

Of course there are lots of different color wristbands and accessories available for Fitbits. Here are a few to give you an idea, but click here to view all Fitbit Accessories on Amazon.

Click image to view on Amazon:

Fitbit: Is It Right For You?

While a Fitbit hasn’t changed my life, I do believe it pushes me to be a little better each day. It adds a little fun and games to trying to live a healthy lifestyle.

Corporate wellness initiatives help Fitbit success by offering  employees to stay active, even if they have a job that requires long hours of sitting. Organizations recognize that keeping their employees healthy keeps insurance cost down.

If you’re lucky enough to have a wellness opportunity, take it! I participate in my employer’s wellness plan and it does help to keep me motivated to move.

Whether you invest in your health and climb aboard the Fitbit craze, or maybe you can dust off a Fitbit that you took a break from, I hope you get and stay motivated to improve your health. Don’t stop until you reach your health goals!

Let the Fitbit help you in the process of adopting a healthier lifestyle. It’s not magic, but it can help.

For more motivation, read How to Use Fun Challenges to form Good Habits. Is a Fitbit right for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below. Thank you for stopping by the blog today!

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