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Fitbit Trackers; Let’s Talk

Posted by on Sep 24, 2015
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My mother is a genius. She doesn’t know it but she is. That’s because in my life there have been two recommendations she made to me that I kind of dismissed that she thought were really important… and she turned out to be totally correct. The first one was a computer, which she and my dad bought for me on my 27th birthday; the second was the Fitbit Flex tracker, which she bought on my 55th birthday.

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You see that picture to the right? That’s the wristband I wear that contains this little dongle that I’ll share in a different picture. The little dongle (that’s what they call it lol) is the actual contraption that tracks my steps and, when I remember to set it, tracks my sleep. It’s the steps part that’s been paramount towards my health over the last year or so.

I can’t comment on any other trackers that are out there, so I’m sticking with the one I know. In my opinion, it’s one of the greatest things I’ve ever gotten. Mom bought me the first one; since that time I’ve purchased two others for myself and one for my wife.

You’re probably asking why I had to buy more than one; it’s not because it broke or went bad. I lost two of them; one in Memphis somewhere, the second on my final flight back from Memphis, where I knew I had it in Philadelphia but when I landed in Syracuse it wasn’t on my arm anymore; sigh… So, both totally on me.

As with everything, there’s the good and the bad and the questionable. Let’s start with the good.

When I first got it, I wasn’t totally sure of how accurate it was. Now I feel pretty good about its accuracy because I’ve run a lot of tests with it. In central New York, when it gets cold and snowy it’s not the smartest move in the world to be walking around outside. I hated going to the gym, so I created my own course in the house. I tested the steps thing and it’s right on the mark.

To track everything you need to download the Fitbit app onto your smartphone. Actually, that’s the smart way to go, because you can hook the charger to your computer, download software and go that route if you don’t have a phone. It’s just so much easier the other way.

It tracks steps, miles, calories burned and active minutes. The first one is the main goal but the one that’s most important are the active minutes. That’s the one that tells you whether the steps you took during the day were conscious steps, as in walking with a purpose, or just casual steps, like getting up from your desk to walk into another room. The more active minutes, the more calories you burn. If you tie it in with a food tracking app like Myfitnesspal it adds calories to your daily intake. That sounds pretty cool doesn’t it? Well, I’m going to come back to that.

You can also make adjustments based on your stride, which you determine based on your height. So, for me, it takes 10,575 steps to hit 5 miles, but my friend Steve (he’s 6’5″) can get it done in fewer steps. Anyway, that’s my daily goal, and I pretty much smash it every day, as I average between 17,000 and 20,000 steps a day. But there are times when I’m engaged in other work or travel and I know I’m not going to hit those numbers, but I always make sure to hit my 5 miles.

Oh yeah, I mentioned sleep earlier. If you double click on it the tracking mode changes over to track sleep. We all need good sleep. Unfortunately, I don’t sleep well, and this thing confirms it. I average about 2 1/2 hours of sleep a night; no, that’s not good. Most of my “sleeping hours” show me as being restless, which means I move a lot, wake, doze, wake, etc. So, in the morning it’ll show me how many total hours I was in bad, how much real sleep I got and when I got it. Hey, at least I know right?

The overall thing is that having something like Fitbit on you all the time encourages you to move; at least it does for me. I don’t have to count steps, it’s better than the old style pedometer, and if you’re willing you can add other people to your list and compete or just help to encourage each other to walk more. Frankly, anything that encourages us to move more is a good thing.

What it’s done for me is helped me lose inches. If no one’s ever told you that exercise doesn’t help you lose weight, I’m telling you that not. lol You lose weight by controlling what you eat. However, exercise helps you lose inches and get toned, and if you can also control how you eat, the combination works wonders. I’ve lost 4 inches off my waist to the point where I don’t have to undo any of my pants to pull them off; wow! Sometimes I don’t have to undo the belt either; what?!?!? :-O

Can you tell how much I love it? Good; now for the bad.

The wristbands aren’t close to being able to last overly long. My wife burns through her bands every 6 months; I go through one every 9 months or so. The thing is it’s made with some type of rubber that’s pliable enough, but you have to take the dongle out of it every few days to recharge, and over time that takes a toll on that area that stretches open all the time.

That and you can wear the band in the shower and in hot conditions because the dongle is protected, but all the weather changes will affect it also. The replacements aren’t all that expensive, and there are lots of varieties, but having to replace it that often puts some folks off.

I did mention the charging part also. Actually, last year when I was in Orlando for a meeting and then flew to San Diego I had lost my charger. My Fitbit worked for 6 days before it totally wussed out on me. That’s not so bad, but I like to try to charge it every 3 days if I can. I charge it around midnight, and the good thing is it charges fairly quickly if you don’t run it all the way down.

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One last thing is the dongle isn’t all that big, as you can tell from the picture. If you’re not paying attention you can lose that… and if that’s lost you have to buy a whole new set since the dongle is actually the Fitbit.

Okay, time for the questionable.

How private is it and what about all the data they collect. It’s as private as you want it to be. People can only find you if you tell them you’re on it, and you can only be added if you have a Facebook account or if you send them email and they decide to connect. If any of you are on Fitbit and want to connect with me, leave me a message mentioning it and I’ll send you an email from the email account I use there and you can add me. Course, remember how many steps I’m getting in; we’re not really competing but I think I might have chased a couple of people off who didn’t realize how serious I was taking my walking. Lol

The question about data… that’s interesting. They track and data to sell to those who can use it for health studies, or for the creation of other types of products that someone might be able to create and market later. You get to set the levels of privacy via the online account you create (that’s where you’re directed to so it can start tracking you), which not only limits what others see about you but what can be shared with these outside sources. The only thing you can’t block is the number of steps you’re taking. They don’t share your email address and you only have to put in your first name, so that’s fairly private.

Finally, prices. I own the Fitbit Flex, where the price goes for between $79 and $99. The range depends on which band you buy and where you buy it from. At the link I’m sharing here where you can look at some before you go to the website I’m sending people to (Buy.com) most of the prices are around $79. There are other brands such as the Charge, which tracks a lot more things than the Flex does, and the Surge (which not only tracks even more things than the Surge but also acts as a watch) that come in around $215 and $250 respectively, and the Zip, which comes in around $60 but only tracks steps. There’s also the Fitbit One which, like the Zip, you wear on your pocket like a traditional pedometer that also comes in around $99.

This is a product I’ll be pushing because I love it so much. There’s a link to the right listed under Product Pages along with books I recommend. If I mention it in any further posts I’ll link to it and you’ll know it’s the product page because you’ll see a blue line underneath it (any time I link to products or affiliate items from this page the blue line is there, unless I’m linked only through the picture; otherwise it’s to an article); you already saw my example above.

If you have any questions please ask. I’ll be doing a video also, which might be strange because I’ve mentioned it in a few other videos, but I’ve never talked about it exclusively. Hey, that’s what marketing’s about right?
 

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29 Comments »

Mitch, thanks for this blog about the Fitbit Flex.
I started with the Flex and got hooked on monitoring my fitness. Then I bought one for my wife. We are now avid trackers of our fitness, diets, and lifestyle. I found this entry level device a little less rugged than I need for my level of fitness. Like you, I almost lost my flex. I contacted Fitbit, and they told me that it had recently synced with my cell p[hone, so I determined that it must be near me. Turned out it came off when I put my laptop in my bag on vacation. After finding it, I upgraded to the Fitbit Charge.

The Charge monitors my sleep without the need for me to actively change modes. It is more rugged and not easily accidentally knocked off my wrist.

We use our devices to monitor our diets also. It turns out to be very easy because Fitbit captures what you enter, and on subsequent entries, you only have to select a previous choice. More importantly, most food producers and restaurants now publish the calorie content of their menus, so entering what you eat is more accurate.

I am so impressed with the overall approach to managing fitness that Fitbit provides, that I recently invested in their stock when they went public a few months ago. So far, the investment is increasing in value. So, this is a win-win-win for me. Management of fitness, leveraging technology, and increasing my wealth portfolio.

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Mitch Mitchell Reply:

Good share Roger. Actually, the reason mine came off my wrist the last time is because for the first time ever, the people at the airport decided to mess with it. I thought I’d popped it back on but obviously I hadn’t. Now I’ve added velcro to it… that bad boy ain’t going nowhere. lol I’m good with what I have, but maybe one day in the future I’ll upgrade to the higher priced one. I have to admit I like the thinness of it, especially since I don’t wear a watch because it was too wide.

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September 24th, 2015 | 4:45 PM

Hello Mitch Sir!
Maybe a silly question but I do most of my exercise in the gym, will it be able to record this and also swimming? 
I’m looking for a fitness watch that does sleep, gym, swimming, walking, heart rate, time etc and so I’m still confused as to which  would be best for me.
By the way you are doing perfect.
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Mitch Mitchell Reply:

Uttam, there’s a place where you could put in your exercise, but that would work better on Myfitnesspal because it at least calculates some of the calories for you. As for swimming, it calculates your leg movements so I think that would work out well. The Flex definitely wouldn’t do any of that so you’re looking at either the Surge or Charge… it would depend on whether you wanted the watch part or not. If you click on the link I shared you can look at either of those to see which might fit best.

And thanks for the kudos; I had my goal in mind when I started and I’m happy I got there.

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Purushottam Reply:

Thanks for listening me. I saw many reviews about this product, but many persons telling that after sometime its dead. Going to check your shared link.
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September 24th, 2015 | 9:02 PM

Since late April I’ve lost 16 pounds. My tool was the web site CalorieCount.

My formula?

For almost four months I tracked every food I consumed and daily physical activity.

I bought a scale and weighed myself every day.

I’ve been off the calorie counting for more than a month though I continue to weigh myself each day.

It’s working for me.

Devices like FitBit are very popular though I’m not moved to purchase one.

It must be disappointing that these tools have a life of only six months. I definitely won’t purchase one.

Having said that, it’s working for you and millions of others.

Heh, whatever it takes.
Steve Borek recently posted…It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over – Yogi BerraMy Profile

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Mitch Mitchell Reply:

Steve, the tool itself lasts way longer than 6 months. I said the band doesn’t last forever. They actually have some metallic bands tht would last longer, but you have to remember to take those off because they’re not waterproof. Not only that, but then you have to remember to put them back on; lots of folks forget that part as well.

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September 24th, 2015 | 9:05 PM

Hey Mitch

I bought a Fitbit Surge back in February and love it. I’ve lost over 30 pounds since then using it.

I record my food intake on Fitbit too to keep control of calories and back in June decided I’d try running again.

I also use Endomondo premium as my fitness trainer. It’s helped me to go from couch to running four days a week so far. I’m gradually building up to 5k runs and eventually 10k all being well.

The only thing about the Surge is you can’t change the strap. I bought the XL version but I’ve now lost so much weight the strap is quite loose on my arm. I wouldn’t be without it though.
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Mitch Mitchell Reply:

I didn’t know you couldn’t change the strap on the Surge. I guess that’s one bit benefit of the Flex. I’m glad it’s working for you in the way you want it to; getting healthy isn’t easy, but it can be more fun than perceived. Course, I’m not running! 😉

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September 26th, 2015 | 3:43 AM

It’s amazing to see people that are taking their health seriously, no doubt, it take a lot of work but it’s worth it.

Thanks guys for the motivation.

Cheers Mitch for this awesome post.

Keep it coming.

Dan
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Mitch Mitchell Reply:

Thanks Dan. I came to it late but I’m trying as hard as I can to stay somewhat healthy.

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September 29th, 2015 | 11:48 PM

Hey Mitch it’s been a while since I’ve visited. I was looking through your posts and was surprised to see this one. Surprised because my kids bought me the Fitbit ChargeHR and I love it.

I’m hoping it lasts longer than the 9 months you mentioned in your post. I’m thinking it will because the only dongle I got with it is the one that connects to the computer which I won’t be using because I’m connected with my iPhone and so won’t be using it.

The only thing that I can see that will break is the band and I’m hoping that will last more than 9 months.
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Mitch Mitchell Reply:

Hey Pete, I’m only talking about the band and not the dongle itself. These things should last a very long time, although I’m not really sure how long. I’m glad you love it; if you ever feel like hooking up with me and sharing steps, you’re welcome to do so. However, just so you know, I had 22K steps yesterday. 😉

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October 5th, 2015 | 1:32 AM

Hey Mitch, I did try but it couldn’t find you when I tried to connect to friends on FaceBook?
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Mitch Mitchell Reply:

What? But we’re connected; I wouldn’t have been able to send you birthday wishes the other day if we weren’t already hooked up there. I’ll try to see if I can find you & invite you.

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October 6th, 2015 | 4:01 AM

That we are but when using the Fitbit app it doesn’t register you as an active user. Heck, you don’t even come up as a Fitbit user.

I got this email from Fitbit saying you wanted to connect but when I click the ‘Join Fitbit’ tab the website returns a 403 error. Strange thing is I’m already a member.

I’ve even tried on the Fitbit site. Funny that Holly is there?
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Mitch Mitchell Reply:

At least we finally connected because I got the same error message from your email. Maybe they were having an issue at the time.

So Holly’s there eh? Well now… lol

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October 7th, 2015 | 12:16 AM

Hi Mitch,

It’s so cool to see that you’re using this.
It seems to be keeping you connected to the process of your own well-being, and that’s awesome 🙂

I totally believe in tracking activity. When I was on my own weight loss program, I tracked my nutrition and fitness activities online using a system. It wasn’t a fitbit (I don’t think they were around at the time), but it was effective just the same.

It sounds like you’re doing the right things…and this was a fantastic product review.
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Mitch Mitchell Reply:

Thanks Dana. As I began with, Mom seems to know when something is good for me. lol I’m glad to have something that helps me work in staying healthy, and I can only hope it’ll continue motivating me for a long time.

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October 7th, 2015 | 6:34 PM
Ken:

This device is really awesome. I like fitbit because of its functions and design. I have a Fitbit that is two months old. I don’t hike but I like tracking my daily routine steps, especially my sleep and rests. Thanks for sharing this blog.

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Mitch Mitchell Reply:

No problem. I love mine a lot, and I’ve been sticking with my regimen.

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October 24th, 2015 | 7:43 AM

Hi Mitch,

I need to loose 30 pounds and this gadget Fitbit Flex seems like it would be perfect for me to use. I love your post on it and am ready to buy one. Thank you for your expertise. I will go back up and click on the link for it.

Thank you for sharing, Mitch and you have a wonderful day and weekend ahead!

Linda
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Mitch Mitchell Reply:

Thanks for reading Linda. Fitbit will help but it’ll also take a change in eating habits to really make a big difference. Fitbit has helped my health goals drastically though, and for that I’m a pretty happy guy! 🙂

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October 29th, 2015 | 3:08 PM

I have a fitbit as well and I use it religiously. I lost 7 lbs when I first started using my Fitbit by paying attention to calories burned and steps. I think it’s tremendously helpful for people who work at home because it encourages you to be active.
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Mitch Mitchell Reply:

Great stuff Yasmin! Course, I’m still getting in those steps and controlling my glucose levels, but it’s time to look at the foods I’m eating again at some point. 🙂

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November 8th, 2015 | 7:03 AM

Hi Mitch,
People definitely need to get in line with all that new technology available on the market. Fitbit is a good maker, but not the only one. There are so many more, and smartbands nowadays come in so many flavors. A smartband is very helpful indeed, in terms of coaching, tracking health, sleep, working out, comfortability, design, and more …
I know and I see you’re saying about the battery life, just to mention few excellent bands like Garmin’s Vivofit with 1 year battery life and Missfit’s Shine or Shine 2 with disc battery, replacing every couple of months or so.
One reader was asking for swimming and tracking, well there is Jaybird Reign and Shine 2, both great for swimming and come at a very reasonable price.
Shine lacks a heart rate tracking sensor, otherwise it provides very accurate measurements, like no other wrist tracker. Actually the accuracy of shine is so remarkable that it compares to devices equipped with GPS, even though it relies on accelerometer and magnetometer sensors.
I personally use a band for swimming, switched a few brands over the past 2 years.
All the best
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Mitch Mitchell Reply:

You’re right Jonathan, there are a lot of different wearables that do something similar. This is the first one I tried and I’ve loved it enough to stick with it, not even upgrading to one that tells me the time and does all that other stuff. This might seem like a strange question but compared to me are you relatively young? I find that younger people are more willing to spend money more regularly to test things like this. The only reason I’d do it is if what I had failed or stopped giving me just what I already was getting from it. It’s a reason I also don’t buy a new phone yearly. lol

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Jonathan Reply:

I am 33, younger indeed, though maybe I am not that young anymore 😉 , but I don’t like to think about this as the only explanation of my interest in such gadgets. Long time ago I was a “yearly new phone addict” guy, but nowadays I don’t care much, you would probably just laugh at my current phone. I also do exaggerate, sure, I am aware of it 🙂 but I have to, this is what I like, you see.
Going back to wrist smartbands, these are excellent motivational tools, especially these days, when taking care of your health is so difficult. Wouldn’t you agree that such wearables are the nudge many would actually appreciate? It may be that you are perfectly satisfied with the band you have, and that is awesome. I believe that when buying such a device if you don’t research enough you might be missing some really great feature for no great reason. And I am not pushing here for the most expensive or most popular gadget, as this is at times very misleading. Thanks for the followup
Jonathan recently posted…Fitbit Charge HR WristbandMy Profile

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Mitch Mitchell Reply:

I have to admit that I’d never heard of it before I got it. My first one was a birthday gift from my mother, who always seems to just know what I need at a certain time. Once I got it I’d have to agree that it helped inspire me to walk more, even though I did walk when the weather was good outside, and my life has been pretty good ever since.

As for youth… when I was 33 years old I was buying all sorts of new stuff and reading all about technology on a daily basis. I probably did that until my early 40’s, when it finally hit me how much money I was spending stupidly. lol

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