A Tale of Two FitBits

 
I’m a numbers kind of guy. Someone complains at work that the “internet is slow” I look at my bandwidth monitors. Server bogged down? I’ll take a peek at perfmon and look at the metrics. So it is no surprise that I’m a FitBit guy. I started with the Flex and was amazed with how many steps I would accumulate and try to beat it the next day. I discovered that it’s 65 steps from my couch to the mailbox (could be a Jeopardy question one day). But does a FitBit make for a good fit for everyone?

Like I mentioned, I started with the FitBit Flex. It was cool but the numbers were basic. I had to add a Polar H7 bluetooth heart rate monitor (HRM) to the mix to get more useful information rather than just guessing how many calories I burned. Linked it with this app that pushed it to this other app and eventually it would all end up in MyFitness Pal (MFP). Another device I had to remember to bring (and wet) to my workouts. Another app to worry about not syncing properly after an update. Another device that I had to charge or get batteries for. It all worked well as long I remembered to put the right information into the right app. I’m always looking for ways to streamline. Less is more. 

Luck would have it that a FitBit Charge HR landed on my wrist with the opportunity to save some healthcare dollars. So far, it has been a great companion for me. The Charge HR gives me the perfect amount of feedback (steps, calories burned, pace, duration, distance, heart rate zones) that I need to feel motivated and reinforce that I’m moving in the right direction. The reason my FitBit Charge HR works for me? All my exercises are step centric. Walking around the lake, elliptical, treadmill, perpetual steps…all center around steps.

My wife inherited my FitBit Flex and immediately took to it. The motivation to save some healthcare dollars is a wonderful thing. Before wearing a Flex my wife would use a Polar FT4. The FT4 is a pretty straight forward device. You enter your vital information (height, weight, sex, age) and you strap on the chest strap HRM, buckle the watch to your wrist and you get your sweat on. Once all is said and done, you look at the read out on your watch and manually enter your activity and calorie burn into MFP. No bluetooth, no syncing apps…no bells or whistles. She used her Polar FT4 for workouts and FitBit Flex for her steps. As long as she entered her time accurately in MFP, she avoided any double counting of calories (from the steps). She had device envy though and would make a frown whenever she had to open the FitBit app to see how many steps she had whereas my step info was two clicks away. Fast forward to the Amazon Prime Day vs Walmart Rollback and I was able to pick up a small purple FitBit Charge HR for her from Walmart for $117. Two days later, the Charge HR arrived and she was in business ready to rock it. 

After a few days of experimenting, frustration set it. The Charge HR was reporting 50% less calories burned when compared to her FT4. Why were her results so different than mine? My wife likes to work out at home to an assortment of DVD workouts from Jillian Michaels or Beach Body’s TurboFire or my favorite, Butt Bible! While these videos have both cardio and strength components to their routines, step based components are few.  We figure that the Charge HR is looking for a combination of heart rate and steps to calculate calories burned. So when you are doing push ups, sit ups or my wife’s favorite, planks, the Charge HR thinks you aren’t moving. The FT4 assumes you are moving and relies solely on heart rate (and your vitals) to calculate calories burned.

Two FitBits…two different outcomes. I’m sure if my exercise routine involved swimming, cycling, avid running or I became butt bible enthusiast (instead of a voyeur), a different device or combination of devices would work better for me. So before you head out and invest in a FitBit or any fitness tracker in general, be sure the device(s) you are considering is actually the one best suited for your exercise routine.

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