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I wore a FitBit for a week, and here's what I learned (and why it made me think of Sting)

Lesson number one: Don’t lose the charger.

IF YOU WANT to, you can track every single aspect of your life: what you eat; your favourite wines; your menstrual cycle; when you last did some meditation.

As our lifestyles get more sedentary, tracking exercise and movement has become a way for people to try and analyse how fit they are.

So what happens when a non-gym bunny uses a FitBit to track how much she moves and exercises for a week?

I was sent a FitBit Charge HR (retailing from €149) by the company to wear and see how I would get on.

Here’s what I learned…

Charge_HR_Black_3Q_Front_ClockB3narrow_72DPI_no_shadow Source: FitBit

You might do some stupid things when you first use it

The FitBit Charge HR (let’s just call it ‘my FitBit’ from now on, and if I refer to any other of the six FitBit wristbands, I’ll give them their full name) is worn 24 hours a day (except in the shower… I realised this after wearing it through two showers) to track every step you take.

It’s the latest in the FitBit range, and is one of the newest wearable tech devices that gather information, usually using GPS, to track movement. The Charge HR also monitors heart rate, which can be handy when you want to see how well you’re exercising.

The FitBit is worn on your wrist, and looks like a chunky contemporary watch – its small screen is blank unless you move your wrist quickly, which causes the time to flash up.

Press a small button on the side and you can scroll through data which shows your daily steps, heart rate (that’s the HR bit), distance travelled, calories burned, and floors climbed.

fitbit 4

If you want to track your exercise, you press the button and hold it.

Stupid thing number one… In one of the first stupid things I did with my FitBit, I mistakenly thought that to track my sleep, I needed to press the button and hold it just before I hit the hay, then do the same when I woke up.

I ended up tracking eight hours of sleep as exercise.

Somehow – probably the same technology in the FitBit that is able to track your sleep without you actually doing anything – it recognised in the morning what I had done, and the data for my ‘exercise’ wasn’t tracked on the app.

fitbit 5

Phew.

Stupid thing number two… I lost the charger after five days. Don’t lose your charger. Though the battery lasts a considerable five days, I ended up having to buy a charger online, and lost a week’s worth of data.

This is why we can’t have nice things, etc.

Your FitBit is basically Sting

ROYAL Sting CBE Source: EMPICS Sports Photo Agency

Every step you take, every breath you take, it’s always watching you. Even when you’re asleep.

When you get a FitBit, you need to sync it to a dongle (that’s supplied) so that it can send your info to the FitBit desktop site and app. (This may vary depending on your phone but I have a ‘vintage’ iPhone 4s so it couldn’t sync with the app without the dongle).

When I got into work every day my FitBit data would sync up with the app and I could look at how I’d been doing.

It’s very easy to get obsessed with the minutiae in your data. With talk about orthorexia or exercise obsession, I can see how this might not be helpful for some people.

If you’re in any way prone to over-thinking about calories or exercise, then this type of tracking might not be for you.

You can’t fool yourself about how much walking you do

fitbit 1

For a healthy life, it’s often recommended that people walk at least 10,000 steps in one day.

When you reach the holy grail of 10,000 steps, the FitBit flashes up with a triumphant message to tell you that you’ve hit the goal.

It makes you feel like a boss.

If you’re languishing at 8,000 steps by the end of the day however, you’ll feel like a slithery slug. If it reaches 9,500 by 9pm, you will begin walking in circles around your very small living room to get to 10,000.

Or maybe that’s just me…

But is it easy to reach 10,000 steps? On the days I went for a run – usually between 3k and 5k – I’d clock up at least 3,000 steps on the runs. Then, it was easy to reach 10,000 steps.

On the days I didn’t exercise, it was a slog to reach 10,000 (which adds up to five miles), as I’d linger at about 8,000.

As I have a desk job, this wasn’t surprising, though I was glad to see that my daily commute and walking around the office added up quickly enough.

But any illusions I had about ‘not having that much of a sedentary lifestyle’ were put to bed when I realised that it definitely takes exercise to get you to the 10,000 goal.

Food tracking can be hit or miss

fitbit food Not great at tracking, am I.

I’ll be honest: I attempted to track my food, but wasn’t very good at it. You can log what you’ve been eating via the app, though not all the brands I use were in there, so I took a wild guess sometimes.

If you’re into tracking food, macros, or calories, this could be very handy for you. Again though, if you tend to find this an area where you struggle, it’s best to avoid.

It is very handy to be able to get a ballbark view of your calories in – calories out though if you are trying to lose weight (especially as the aim of the FitBit is to get you to exercise).

But it’s yet another thing to add data to, so might not be your sort of thing. Especially if you’re partial to the odd packet of crisps on your walk home after work.

Tracking exercise is its best feature

ab1-7-401x500

I love tracking my runs. I’ve written about my journey with running here, but what I didn’t mention in it is how much I love running apps.

They’re a great way of tracking your progress, and it’s very satisfying seeing your distance, calories burned, and speed clock up.

This is where wearing the FitBit came into its own for me. I could do without wearing it every day to track how much I was walking, but it was brilliant for tracking my runs.

I synced it to the app I usually track my runs with – Strava – and it would send the data to it every time. I could also use the FitBit app on my phone instead of the wristband, which I did when the charger was lost.

Unfortunately, this information did vary slightly between the FitBit and the Strava app, for reasons totally unclear to me. So I stuck with the FitBit data. Still, if you want to track exercise, I can see why people go for a product like the FitBit (or a similar wristband or watch). It’s really simple.

The ‘heart rate’ bit just might not apply to you

fitbit 3

The only time I really paid attention to my heart rate was running, to see how much it went up.

But I was quite clueless about what rate my heart should be beating at during exercise, so it led me to investigate that. More serious athletes will probably know more about this, and be more up for tracking.

When I walked up five flights of stairs one day at work, my rate shot from around 53 to 99.

Those who just want to get some exercise in could find it slightly redundant – or it might encourage them to learn more.

Monitoring your sleep can be eye-opening

photo 1

I usually use Sleep Cycle to monitor my sleep and wake me up at a decent time, but the FitBit enabled me to set a silent alarm, which was incredibly handy.

The alarm buzzes, rather than makes a noise. Again, you set this up using your app.

It also monitors how many times you were restless or awake during the night. Seeing ’5 hrs 35mins’ as my total sleep one night was very eye-opening.

Though I got eight hours of sleep another night, I was apparently restless for nearly an hour of that. Yikes.

photo 2

Barely anyone notices you wearing one

I haven’t worn a watch since I was about 12 (mainly because I kept losing them – and I did nearly lose the FitBit in a pile of washing, so I clearly haven’t changed much in 20 years).

So I assumed that once I put on the wristband, I’d have people asking me about it, or throwing glances at me for displaying my newfound love of fitness on my wrist.

Nope. Barely anyone noticed.

So at least: even if I was only clocking up a paltry 7,000 steps in one day; losing a charger for an expensive device; or taking the stairs at work just so it would show up on my FitBit… I didn’t look like an eejit.

For more information on FitBit products, visit the official website.

Do you use a FitBit or similar tracking device? What do you think about it? Tell us in the comments.

Read: What I think about when I think about thinking about running>

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