In the last two years fitness tracking devices have seemingly become a must have item if you are trying to get fit, or maybe they're just a fad that will run its course and be replaced by something else in the next few years. I have to say having got back into sport and fitness this year I decided to get one. I sold it to myself on the basis that it would help me monitor my progress and help keep me motivated.
To that end I looked at a number of options and was to a large degree guided by price, I didn't want to go cheap, but on the other hand I wasn't going to splash a whole load of cash on what might be a 5 minute wonder that would end up in a draw with a load of other obsolete electronic gadgets.
Having done my research I went for a Fitbit Charge 2, mainly because the app looked pretty good, it monitored heart rate and tracked sleep cycles, calories and you could map routes using GPS on your phone. It was mid priced which was good and when it arrived it was well presented and straightforward to set-up. Fit bit do hit you in the pocket a bit further when you realise that to get the full Fitbit service from the App you have to pay $49.99 a year, but the standard app is fine enough to start off with.
It was interesting when I first turned up to a bootcamp training session with it on. Everyone noticed it straight away, mainly because Id bought a leather strap for it which made it stand out somewhat. It was at this point that 4 of the group who had been coming for some time said they had one back at home in a draw somewhere. They'd all started out using one and then stopped bothering after a few months. Not a great vote of confidence I thought, but I was still interested to see what this gadget would bring to my fitness regime.
Firstly I must inform you that using one of these devices does require a reasonable amount of work on your part to get everything out of it. Most notably inputting you intake of calories can be a bit laborious. Equally you have to remember to track some activity using the GPS on your phone in the APP so that you can track your progress and your fitness levels mapped against O2 use.
So, after four months of use here are my pros and cons for using one of these devices.
Firstly this device gave me a way to track and get a real sense of my progress of my journey. I was diligent to start with and inputted all my calorific intake and monitored my runs and activity. Of particular use, is the reminder you get ,at 10 minutes to the hour, to get up and move. I sit at a desk all day, as do most IT professionals and office workers, and before I wore this device I wouldn't move for hours at a time. I particularly found the sleep monitor interesting to follow, although I didn't think it truly matched my restless sleep cycles and points where I new I had woken up during the night. Where this device really wins is giving you your bench mark points and showing your continued progress week in week out, with an emailed report every Tuesday on your weekly stats. These can definitely help motivate you, if like me, you constantly want to see progress and occasionally need the kick up the backside when you see your activity has dropped this week compared to last.
So, unlike some of my bootcamping buddies the tracker has lasted more than a few months. Will it last for loner? That I don't know, now I've started regaining my levels of fitness and I'm pushing onto new goals I seem to be checking the app and device less and less and gauging my progress by training routines and working on things like running form, whilst also deciding on a new bike to replace my 20 odd year old MTB that is falling apart.
The down sides of a fitness tracker have been, as mentioned, the dedication to inputting data, that can become a bit of a drag and is easily missed for a day or two, when life and work gets a bit hectic. The tracker I have is also not that acurate, so I have to ask, am I getting a true picture of my activity, I would say no, it's just a very general overview. Whilst the tracker can be motivational, when you've finished an hours intense workout and your app is telling you it tracked 12 minutes of exercise, it can be a bit deflating, also when exercise is intense the heart rate monitor stops working, generally, at around 150bpm. Some activity doesn't get picked up at all, whilst those of us who may have a tendency to tap there legs, air drum on occasion will find themselves being congratulated on achieving there step goals for the day having never left the comfort of their office chair.
That all said I have found the device overall very useful in helping me get a sense of where I'm going and it has motivated me to improve. But as I progress I think this version will end up being more of a watch than a fitness device. However, these devices are improving all the time and I can see that these devices, particularly at the top end will be used to monitor a whole lot of health data that can then be used by health professionals to help track and diagnose issues in the future. So maybe these devices should be compared, in a way, to an early mobile phone, and we've all seen where they've progressed.
If you have any good or bad experiences, recommendations or thoughts on trackers, why not let us know via FB, Twitter or Linked In.
Below is a useful and recent review of some of the more popular fitness trackers, broken down into different requirements, specs, price bands etc.
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The best fitness trackers are much more than just basic step trackers. The activity band is becoming a wellness device, with an emphasis on 24/7 heart rate monitoring, sleep tracking and sedentary warnings. The right fitness band for you will be based on your individual needs and how active your lifestyle is. Some will just look for step counting and reliable sleep tracking, others want GPS for running, advanced resting heart rate data and VO2 max data. The good news is that there's something out there for everyone. We've updated our roundup of the best fitness trackers and added a new at-a-glance feature list to try and make it easier to spot the right band for you. Got any questions? Let us know in the comments section below and we'll see if we can lend a helping hand.