Wednesday, 21 August 2013

I walk far more than I ever dreamed - Review of the Fitbit Flex activity monitor

In my quest to get fit I have been sent a Fitbit Flex fitness monitor (or flashy pedometer to someone like me) to wear and review. I must have gone a bit geeky as I am super excited about this and find this little gadget one of the best toys I've been given in ages.

Last year I was given an electronic activity tracker by work and I wore it on my shoe and it counted my steps and would then download to my computer if I had the receiver plugged in. I thought that was nifty and it motivated me to beat my own totals until I got this one.

Unisex Wristband

The Fitbit Flex is much more advanced and is conveniently worn on your wrist and it tracks you 24 hours a day, well as long as you are wearing it of course. As a default it is set to a goal of 10,000 steps a day as that is what the government recommend a healthy adult should do. It became apparent very quickly that I needed to increase that goal, as within my first few days I had totted up 19,233, 23,476 and 20,102. This moving to the countryside lark is proving very good for my activity levels!

I have to be honest and say the wristband is not the most glamorous thing to wear but it is fairly understated and no-one has questioned what it as.  I think most people would confuse it with the rubber wristbands that people wear to support a cause. I love the fact that it is waterproof and I have worn it in the shower to try this out. In fact it only really comes off my wrist when I need to charge it.

The wristband I was sent is slate grey and I received two sizes, a small and a large but only one tracker and clasp. At first I thought this was a bit wasteful as you could just order the size to suit you but actually for me I think this is quite good as JJ has shown an interest in wearing the tracker and this means I can loan him it for a week or so, once I have seen my patterns start to emerge and because of the colour and design it is totally suitable for a guy to wear too. There are other colours available and you can buy more wristbands if you wish to change them, I’m not sure I’ll bother as this one is fine with everything.

Recharging
I found the wristband a little difficult to do up on myself at first but then found the knack was to press down between the fasteners and then it pops on easily. The tracker fits into the wristband and mine appears to need charging every 4 days or so but the great thing is I get an email to tell me that the battery is low and thus I don’t have to remember to do this off my own back.

Charging the tracker is easy but it did take about 2 hours to fully charge it in the little UBS convertor that came with it. This does mean you cannot be using it at that time which is a bit annoying but not sure how you would get round that to be honest. I have just taken to charging mine when I would be sat at the laptop anyway.



Flashing Tracker
The tracker has a light display which flashes through the wristband and by tapping it twice it will show me how far I am into my daily steps target for that day. There are five lights and the more lights that are on the more I have done. Sadly I cannot see on the wristband my exact steps, so that always remains a nice little surprise ready for when I log into my Fitbit dashboard.

Sleep Mode
When it is time for bed I can also tell the Fitbit that I am about to sleep by tapping it rapidly for a couple of seconds, it then shows me a different series of lights and changes mode. I’ve never had anything that tracked my sleep before so this was really interesting to me. On the first night it showed I had awoken/ been restless 14 times in the night but that I had 96% sleep efficiency that night – well I never! Of course in the morning I do the same and tap the Fitbit rapidly and it changes back to day mode.

Download and Dashboard
The Fitbit tracker has a tiny USB receiver which is small enough that I leave it permanently in my laptop and carry it about. This means that whenever I am connected to the internet the Fitbit syncs and my information carries across without any effort from me.

I can easily see on the dashboard how many steps I have done, miles walked, calories burned and really active time I have had that day. I can also view my sleep patterns. There is a ton more functionality in the dashboard as well and I love the fact I can find other friends from Facebook who are using the Fitbit as well. My friend Clare is very active and when I first saw she had done just over 26,000 steps in one day I never thought I’d get there but I have!


I can also manually log my sleep, food, activity, blood pressure, glucose, heart rate, weight an journal if I so wish and there appears to be a really active and encouraging online community for those who use Fitbit trackers but I didn't use that side of things as I have enough friends encouraging me in my weight loss journey and of course my journalling is done here.


Overall I think the Fitbit flex is fabulous and I would happily buy one. At £79.99 it is not cheap but it is robust and rechargeable and thus should last me many years. You can buy direct from Fitbit.

What I really like -
  • How easy it was to set up, 9 simple steps to go through and just about 3 minutes
  • It emails me when the battery needs recharging, how cool is that? And the battery lasts for about 4 days too.
  • It syncs and downloads my data automatically whenever I am close to my receiver and the laptop is connected
  • It vibrates on my wrist and lights up when I reach my steps goal for the day
  • I get motivational emails awarding me badges for the best amount of steps I have walked in one day
  • I can wear the wristband for showering and swimming and thus it gives me an accurate total for my days activity
  • It tracks the quality of my sleep and this has definitely reminded me to go to bed earlier
  • It can wake me with a vibrating silent alarm 
  • If nothing else, it is always there acting as a visual reminder to move more and sleep better and that I am finding makes a real difference to me
What is not so good –
In the interest of a balanced review I always like to point out the not so good parts of a product but to be honest I’m struggling with the Fitbit Flex as is works really well and does everything it is sold as doing. I suppose my only complaint is that it does  sync with my iPhone 4, I need a newer version for it to work with it.

Disclosure: I was sent the Fitbit Flex free of charge for the purposes of this review. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.
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