A Few Days With Fitbit

Lauri and I picked up a couple of Fitbit One’s to help with our fitness efforts. For those that don’t know, the Fitbit One is a small pedometer that you wear on your body and it tracks all your steps. It also tracks the number of floors climbed. It gives you an estimate of calorie burn throughout the day based on your activity. Combined with food tracking it can help you manage your food consumption relative to your exercise a bit more easily. It can also give you a sense of how active you are and how much you move around. You can also wear it while you sleep to get an estimate of when you are asleep vs. awake.

Over the last few days I’ve worn it continually during the day. It’s so unobtrusive I forget I have it on. It silently monitors my steps though it will show them to me on demand. When I come in range of my computer or run the iOS app it sends over the current information to my fitbit.com account.

It’s been fascinating seeing when I move around. As a programmer I lead a fairly sedentary lifestyle so I’m trying to make sure I get enough exercise. Fitbit “rewards” me with virtual badges for achieving activity levels throughout the day. That’s cute and might help some people but I’m motivated by data. Seeing how much I’ve moved and how many calories I’ve burned really helps motivate me to keep moving.

It seems fairly accurate. The floor counting sometimes misses and sometimes give me credit I don’t deserve but it seems to average out. The number of floors may not match the physical number of flights of stairs climbed since Fitbit defines a “floor” as a 10 foot elevation change. This means that I got credit for 11 “floors” during a walk that had enough small ups and downs to account for 110 feet of elevation gain over the course of the walk. This seemed high to me but matched what an iOS walk tracking app said within a few feet. If it is wrong it at least matched the result from a totally different method so they are consistent.

I’ve used it to track sleep a couple of times. The velcro wrist band you sleep the Fitbit into seemed like it would annoy me but I was totally unaware of it after a few minutes. It’s idea of when I was awake pretty much tracked what I remember though there was one definite false negative where it said I was asleep but I know I was awake. I haven’t fiddled with the sensitivity setting for sleep yet but that might rectify that. According to Fitbit I’m sleeping with 95-100% efficiency, falling asleep within 10 minutes and sleeping throughout the night with only a few points where I wake up.

The website is fairly basic but you can integrate with other services like Withings, Lose It! and MyFitnessPal and others. People doing food tracking may find MyFitnessPal a better choice to log food since they are reputed to have a better database than Fitibit. With connected devices like Fitbit and Withings you can remove the need to log weight or most exercise leaving only food to be accounted for. This minimizes the amount of data entry needed so should help minimize the drudgery.

In five days I’ve taken 32,000 steps and climbed 74 “floors” for a total of 14.1 miles. That puts me in the middle of the pack of my four Fitbit friends. Have to see if I can move up to second place!

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