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Holding Off on purchasing a fitness band...

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Old 01-24-2014, 10:59 PM   #1
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Default Holding Off on purchasing a fitness band...

Originally I wanted to look into getting fitness tracker from either Polar or Fitbit, but as I looked into the devices I wondered what actually separated them from pedometers and whether they were even accurate. I mean $100+ you end up spending in most cases and I wanted the best.

So I thought I would share some things I read to see if anyone who actually uses these trackers agree or disagree with the points made:

How Accurate Are Fitness Trackers?

Fitness Trackers & Sleep: How Accurate Are They?

Why Fitness Tracker Calorie Counts Are All Over the Map

I would like whatever I buy to be as accurate as possible, otherwise why bother, as one of the article points out, the devices inspire movement, however I can inspire myself for less than $100...inspiration is free .
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Old 01-25-2014, 01:35 AM   #2
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THis is an interesting question. I read all 3 articles. (I had read the one in the NY Times before).

I currently have a Fitbit Force that I got a couple of months ago and previously had a Fitbit One that I got last March. From September of 2012 until about May of 2013 I also worse a Philips Active Link (this is marketed by Weight Watchers and interfaces with the WW program). I've worn an activity monitor (or two) every single day during this period. I forgot to where one only once for a few hours.

During this time I've also been tracking my food and weighing at WW so I think I have a good feel of how accurate they are for me.

The Active Link I wore around my neck (I could have worn it other places that that is the one that I chose). I felt of the 3 devices it was the one that was the most inconsistent probably due to where I wore it.

The Fitbit One I wore in a pants pocket. The Fitbit Force I wear on my left (non-dominant wrist).

Oh, I have previously used a pedometer in the past. An activity monitor like the Fitbit does a LOT more than a pedometer. If I walk on a flat surface at a slow pace for 1000 steps the pedometer will tell me I took 1000 steps. If I do the same walk with the Fitbit it will tell me I took 1000 steps but will also give me a calories burned number. If I then walk on a hilly surface at a rapid pace for 1000 steps, the pedometer will tell me I took 1000 steps. The Fitbit will do that also, but will give me a calories burned number and it will be much higher than that in the walk on the flat surface. With the pedometer, you can't tell the intensity of the walk (or run) just the number of steps. With the Fitbit, it measures more information and does factor in the intensity so it gives you a calories burned number that varies depending on the intensity.

OK - some specifics

Steps - The Fitbit is very accurate in my experience in counting steps. There are two situations where the Fitbit Force is a little less accurate than the Fitbit One. There are enough advantages of the Force (for me) that I don't mind these. One is when you are walking and pushing a grocery cart (or anything else I get). If the arm your Fitbit is on is stationary pushing a cart it won't count very many steps. It counts some but not a lot. I have gotten good pushing the grocery cart one-handed. This is not a big issue though so I am OK with it. Some people deal with this by threading the Fitbit through their shoelaces.

Also, when I walk on the treadmill (and only on the treadmill, not when I'm outdoors), the Force undercounts my steps by about 5% if I walk at a slow pace. Once you get to about 2.5 mph this tends to go away.

The only other time I've seen it miss steps if you take a tiny step with little movement (I'm talking about taking a 6" step something like that).

You do get a better estimate of calorie burn (more about calorie burn below) if you determine your stride and input it into your Fitbit profile.

Non-step based activity - The Fitbit - in general - will record some non-step based activity. In my experience the Fitbit Force does better at this than the Fitbit One. I have a Concept2 rower. The Force does give me steps for my rowing (based upon my leg movement while rowing) and gives what seems like a reasonably accurate calorie count. The Fitbit One did not give me much calorie count for rowing.

Weight lifting that doesn't involve much moving around doesn't give you a lot of calorie count.

However, none of that is an issue in that you can go into the Fitbit website and name an activity and then it will give an estimated calorie count. It may not be exact but it seems pretty accurate (again more below on calorie burn).

Overall, the Fitbit does generally show greater calorie burn on days that I am more active just moving around the house or going shopping, etc. versus days that I am mostly sitting at a desk.

While I may have to name a few activities, it will almost always show an appropriate bump in calories when I do something that requires more physical exertion even if it isn't step based (for example, cooking in the kitchen or doing house cleaning).

Sleeping - I entirely agree with the article that the Fitbit isn't very good at measuring sleep. It definitely has me as sleeping more than I really sleep. That said, it does give me some patterns. For example, the other night it had me falling asleep quickly and hardly waking up at night. In fact, I took longer to get to sleep, but I didn't wake up much. It was a good night. The next night though I mentioned to my husband that I had had a very restless night and didn't get good quality sleep. And, the Fitbit recorded that I woke up almost 20 times during that night. So the general pattern is correct, but it isn't very finely accurate.

Calorie burn and Calorie deficit - I record my calories eaten at My Fitness Pal which talks to Fitbit and imports that info into Fitbit. Fitbit then tells me what my calorie deficit is for the day based upon the calories it says I have burned. This is a critical part of my weight loss plan so I look at this closely.

First, bear in mind that Fitbit can't possibly know what your personal BMR is. It uses a formula to calculate it based upon your vital statistics (age, gender, weight, height I think). So, while these are reasonably accurate for the population as a whole they may not be entirely accurate for you as an individual.

Since I got my Fitbit in March I've recorded what I've eaten on all but a few days. And I've weighed in at WW. I compared my weight loss at WW to what my calorie deficit was during the week. So, if I lost one pound at WW I figured that I "should" have a calorie deficit shown on Fitbit of 3500 for the week. There are periods of time where the correlation is really very close.

Overall, however, the Fitbit deficit shown right now is about 150 calories a day more than would be predicted based upon my Weight Watchers weigh in.

So, I weighed in and lost 1 pound that should be a Fitbit calorie deficit of 500 calories a day. But, on average, Fitbit might say I had a calorie deficit of 650 a day.

So, is that a flaw in Fitbit? I don't think so.

First - my recording of my calories eaten may be flawed. Maybe I under counted my calories. Also, there have been reports of foods having more calories than manufacturers or restaurants claim. So that 600 calorie entree at the restaurant might have really had 700 calories, etc.

Second - I have lost weight and regained before. People who have lost weight and regained tend to burn fewer calories than people of similar weight who have never lost weight. There is controversy as to how much that is. But, some or all of the difference in Fitbit may be based upon my metabolism being a little slower than the calculator would predict.

Third - It doesn't really matter because I am really looking at the general information and comparison. If it is 5:00 and Fitbit tells me I have a 200 calorie deficit for the day and I haven't had dinner yet, then I know I need to get in some more activity. It really doesn't matter whether Fitbit is exactly right on the deficit. The general shape of the information tells me what I need to know.

Today I weighed in at WW. On paper, I had a calorie deficit of 4329 calories which would be a loss of 1.2 pounds (WW rounds to the nearest tenth). But, since I have been wearing the Fitbit for awhile I figured that would be a loss of about 1 pound today and that was indeed the loss that I had. So, that was good enough for me.
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Old 01-25-2014, 08:23 AM   #3
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I use a fitness tracker. Right now, it is a fitbit force. It acts as a watch. Fitbit allows you to have friends so that you can challenge people or see where you rack up against others. Polar also has a similar thing. More importantly for me, I can get up to $600 in a health care spending account through my health insurance.

If you want something cheaper and have an iPhone (possibly android?), you can look into various apps that can help you track exercise but not necessarily daily movement.

And there is something psychological, not even only because it helps with my health insurance, but if I have x amount of steps to go to meet my daily goal, I will jump on my elliptical to get it before the end of the day. This has increased my movement a great bit.
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Old 01-25-2014, 11:57 AM   #4
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I wear the body media core armband 24/7 and I have found it to be very accurate. It is bigger than the two you mentioned thinking about and it comes with a monthly subscription fee which turns some people off. But that being said every day/week/month you can look at reports that show your activity level, steps, amount of moderate/vigorous activity and sleep.

I have been wearing it for 3 months now and the difference between the weight the armband says I should have lost and how much I have actually lost is 3 lbs. I consider that pretty accurate considering there could be error in my food measuring, hormones etc.

If you haven't considered this fitness tracker you might want to look into it.
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Old 02-01-2014, 08:22 PM   #5
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I also have a FitBit Force, and like another person said, find myself pushing to get over the 10,000 step mark regularly! I love to see the calories burned, and it actually does go hand in hand with the FitnessPal app as well!
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Old 02-06-2014, 03:47 AM   #6
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I was interested in buying a fitness band myself and I did a lot of research comparing a bunch and was leaning towards either the Fitbit Force or Nike Fuelband SE. I think the accuracy thing scared me off. Unless the bulk of your physical activity comes from walking those bands aren't worth what they cost. I mostly use the gym to burn calories and none are very helpful for tracking strength training or less mobile workouts.

I actually am settled on the Armour 39 which is technically more of a heart rate monitor that syncs to an app on your phone. What I like though is it can tell how intensely you are working and gives you a score for how well you push yourself in each workout. The calories it tracks as burned are spot on though because it picks up your HR.

A basic pedometer, if that's what you need is dirt cheap. Just my 2 cents.
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Old 02-06-2014, 08:55 AM   #7
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Polar also has an app that syncs with a heart rate band if that is all you want.

I work out at a gym but I also think it is useful to get a minimum number of steps per day and I work for those steps. Sure my weight workouts aren't counted but I also think what you do outside of the gym is just as important as what you do inside. I know you can get a pedometer but my fitbit force syncs with my phone, has a friends list so I can compete with others and I already mentioned it can earn me money through my health insurance.

I also don't like pedometers that are on my waist but that may just be me.
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