Using the Fitbit Activity Tracker to Get Fit - dummies

Using the Fitbit Activity Tracker to Get Fit

By James T. Cains

Wearable fitness devices, or fitness activity trackers, can do everything from counting your steps and calories to syncing wirelessly to your smartphone or the Internet. Fitbit began making activity trackers in 2007 and has grown into one of the more popular brands of wearable fitness devices.

For general information on wearable fitness trackers, see What Is Wearable Fitness Technology and How Can It Help You?

Exploring different Fitbit models

Fitbit offers four different activity trackers, with two more on the way in 2015, each with a different set of features you can choose from, depending on your personality and level of commitment.

  • The Zip: This belt clip tracker is the simplest and least expensive at $60. It tracks your steps, calculates your calories burned, and determines your distance traveled. It has a clock, and it can also automatically sync your data to your computer and your smartphone.

  • The One: This is another belt clip tracker that includes the Zip’s features, plus a few others. It not only counts your steps, but it also tracks how many floors you climb. It also comes with a sleep monitor, which tracks how long you sleep and how often you wake up to measure your sleep quality. It’s priced at $100.

  • The Flex: This is the lowest cost wristband tracker (at $100) and has all the features of the Zip and One, except for the clock and counting how many floors you climb. However, it adds tracking for how many minutes you’re active, uses LEDs lights to show your progress toward your daily goal, and even reminds you when you need to get moving again.

  • The Charge: This wristband tracker, priced at $130, includes all the features of the less expensive models. It adds longer battery life (stated to be 7 to 10 days) and Caller ID when tied to your smartphone.

  • The Charge HR: For $20 more, the Charge HR wristband tracker adds a continuous heart rate monitor, but it has less stated battery life (5 days). As of this writing, the HR was not yet available, but is promised for 2015.

  • The Surge: Costing a whopping $250, the Surge aspires to be the ultimate activity tracker/wristwatch combo. It adds GPS tracking, as well as call and text notifications from your smartphone. You can also control your smartphone’s music playlists. The Surge is not yet available, but should be in 2015.

Getting the most from your Fitbit

Using your Fitbit by itself is fine for casual use, but to get the most out of it, you should use it with the Fitbit mobile app. Fitbits store data for only a short time (how long depends on the model), and they automatically sync with your smartphone to transfer your data so that you can see your long-term progress toward your fitness goals.

Here’s how to use your Fitbit tracker and app to meet your fitness and health goals:

  • Set goals: Any fitness and health plan needs to start with setting goals. Use the app to set activity goals (such as a certain number of steps per day) or weight goals (by using calorie tracking).

  • Log your exercise workouts: Fitbit allows you to record your workouts down to the second and puts them on your exercise calendar.

  • Log and monitor your caloric intake: You can use the barcode scanner in the app to record your food intake and chart how many calories you eat. You can also use the calorie estimator. If you know you’ve met your caloric intake limit for the day, then you may find it easier to skip that midnight snack.

  • Track your sleep trends: If you wear your tracker to bed, it’ll track how long you sleep and how often you wake up during the night, giving you a clearer picture of how well you sleep. You can see the trends of when you go to sleep and wake up, and you can adjust accordingly to get your body into a proper sleep rhythm. You can also set a vibrating alarm to wake you up in the morning so that the alarm doesn’t disturb your significant other.

  • View progress reports: You can evaluate your activity trends. Are there certain days when you slack off? If so, break those habits. Use Calorie Coaching to compare your caloric intake with calories burned data from your tracker to see if you’re achieving your weight goals.

  • Use the built-in motivational tools: You can set up notifications to remind you to get active, and you can earn feel-good badges as you work toward your goals. You can even receive kudos when you achieve your goals.

  • Connect with Fitbit friends: A whole community of Fitbit users is out there to encourage you to reach your goals. Reach out and cheer each other on. Share ideas for different workout strategies. You can also challenge others and compete for position on the Fitbit leaderboard.

    The FitBit app dashboard.
    The FitBit app dashboard.