Fitbit For Dummies
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Having a Fitbit is all about getting fit and living a healthier lifestyle by tracking what you do and what you eat each day. Sure, you can try keeping all your activities and meals in your head, but believe me that doesn’t work. It’s always better just to let your Fitbit handle the hard part, which leaves you free to focus on the bigger picture. This Cheat Sheet helps you with that broader view by telling you everything — yes, everything — you need to know to get and maintain health and fitness. You also learn the most useful Fitbit account settings.

The 10 most useful Fitbit account settings

Fitbits seem like such simple devices, but they have a lot going on under the hood, whether that “hood” is the device itself or your Fitbit account. For the latter, the complexity comes from offering dozens of account settings. Many of these settings are obscure and rarely needed. You also have some Fitbit apps that can add even more to your Fitbit experience.

Fitbit user
©By George Rudy/Shutterstock

Here are ten Fitbit settings that you should definitely tweak as needed:

  • Personal: This setting controls all the personal data that Fitbit stores about you, including your gender, age, height, and weight, all of which are crucial for getting accurate Fitbit metrics. In the Fitbit app, click Dashboard→Account, click your profile name, and then click Personal.
  • Wrist: It’s vital that Fitbit know on which wrist you’re wearing your tracker. In the Fitbit app, click Dashboard→Account, click your Fitbit device, and then click Wrist.
  • Reminders to Move: One of the most important fitness and health ideas to emerge in recent years is the notion that you need to move regularly throughout the day. To help with that goal, configure Fitbit’s Reminders to Move, which nudge you to achieve 250 steps each hour. In the Fitbit app, click Dashboard→Account, click your Fitbit device, and then click Reminders to Move.
  • Goals: Keep yourself motivated and progressing by using the commands in the Goals section to set your all-important goals. In the Fitbit app, click Dashboard→Account, and then click each goal-related command: Activity, Exercise, Nutrition & Body, and Sleep.
  • Auto-Recognized Exercises: You can make your Fitbit life much easier if you set up the device to automatically recognize certain exercises, such as a walk of at least 15 minutes. In the Fitbit app, click Dashboard→Account→Exercise, and then click each exercise type in the Auto Recognized Exercises section.
  • Privacy: Your Fitbit account stores a ton of sensitive personal data, so it’s crucial that you control who can see what online. In the Fitbit app, click Dashboard→Account→Privacy, and then configure each type of info to one of the following: Private (seen by only you), Friends (seen by only your Fitbit friends), or Public (seen by anyone).
  • Notifications: The Fitbit app can send notifications both to your device and to your email account. To control this often-intrusive feature, you can turn off any notification you don’t want to receive. In the Fitbit app, click Dashboard→Account→Notifications, and then click the switch to Off beside any notification you don’t want to see.
  • Exercise Tracking: Cues are a handy way to receive feedback (such as current distance and pace) during exercises. In the Fitbit app, click Dashboard→Account→Exercise Tracking.
  • Heart Rate Zones: If you’re serious about losing weight or getting fit, take advantage of Fitbit’s heart rate zones for training. You can set up either a custom maximum heart rate or a custom heart rate zone in the Fitbit app by clicking Dashboard→Account→Heart Rate Zones.
  • Stride Length: If you want more accurate pace and distance measurements during exercise, forget Fitbit’s default stride length calculations. Instead, determine your true stride length by walking a route of known length (such as a running track) and dividing that length by the number of steps you took. Then enter this value in your Fitbit account as follows: In the Fitbit app, click Dashboard→Account→Advanced Settings→Stride Length. Repeat by running the same route to get your running stride length.

Get and stay healthy and fit with your Fitbit

If you read the newspapers or blogs, you probably think that getting fit and healthy (and staying there) is a complex business that requires special equipment, arcane diets, and subscribing to the latest guru’s newsletter. Forget all that. With your Fitbit strapped to your wrist, getting and staying fit and healthy requires only the following techniques:

  • Do something. When it comes to getting fit and healthy, doing anything is always better than doing nothing. Even the slowest stroll is way better for you than sitting on the couch watching TV.
  • Get enough weekly exercise. Most people should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity (or greater) activity each week. That’s just 22 minutes a day, or 25 minutes six days a week. You can do it!
  • Move throughout the day. Don’t stuff all your daily movement into a single exercise session. Instead, move at least a little every hour. Fortunately, your Fitbit will automatically remind you to do at least 250 steps each hour. That’s just a few minutes of walking, so no excuses!
  • Don’t sit too long. It’s a sad and unfair fact that long periods of inactivity can negate any benefits you accrue by moving. Therefore, try to get up from your chair and stretch (or, even better, move around) at least every half hour or so.
  • Get enough sleep. Our bodies and minds suffer when we don’t get enough slumber, so set up a sleep schedule to ensure that you get all the sleep you need.
  • Weigh yourself every day. Everybody’s weight fluctuates up and down a bit day-to-day. If you weigh yourself only, say, once a week, you might be weighing yourself on an “up” day, which could be discouraging. Instead, it’s better to just weight yourself every day to get a better sense of your true weight trend.
  • To achieve a weight goal, monitor your calories in and calories out. Losing or maintaining weight couldn’t be simpler, at least from a math point of view: Subtract the calories your burn each day from the calories you consume. If the result is negative (that is, you’re running a calorie deficit), you will lose weight; if the result is zero (give or take a few calories), you will maintain your current weight.
  • Eat well. Your body really wants nutritious food such as grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruit. If you’d like to feel great every day (and I know you do), give your body what it wants. You can still have junk food or red meat, if that’s what you crave. Just make sure you give yourself these treats in moderation.
  • Drink enough water. The benefits of being hydrated run from keeping your innards lubricated to keeping your energy levels high. So, if you feel thirsty, forget the soda pop: Drink a glass of refreshing water, instead.
  • Do something to reduce your stress. Do you want a guaranteed way of making sure that none of the previous techniques do you much good? Live a stressful life and don’t do anything to reduce or relieve that stress. Hey, I get it: Modern life is inherently nerve-wracking. But do yourself, your body, and your mind a favor and take up some kind of regular practice designed to reduce stress: exercise, deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and tai chi can all help you chill.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Paul McFedries is a lifelong runner, hiker, fitness nut, and self-tracker with a downright ridiculous collection of Fitbits, GPS watches, heart-rate monitors, fitness apps, and other health-related tracking gear. Paul has written nearly 100 books that have sold more than four million copies throughout the solar system.

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