This past Christmas my mom and dad gave each of us ‘kids’ and our spouses Fitbit Charges. I was excited about it, but at the time, I didn’t realize how impressive this little device actually was. As a dietitian, I am a fan of any tool that supports achieving healthy lifestyle goals. So naturally, after just a few weeks, I started to fall in love with my Fitbit Charge.
Let me fill you in on the six ways this activity tracker stole my heart and why I recommend it for almost everyone.
1. It’s a pedometer.
Let me elaborate; it’s not just a pedometer. It also monitors when throughout the day you get your steps in, and pops them into a daily, weekly, or monthly chart on the corresponding Fitbit dashboard on your computer or smartphone. This dashboard also shows you how intense your activity was, based on how many steps you took in a certain time frame. As you know, the CDC recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate (or 75 minutes of intense) aerobic activity every week to promote health. You can see benefits even if you break those recommendations down into 10-minute increments. This activity tracker monitors exactly how much activity—and what kind (light, moderate, or intense)—you are getting every day, making it easier to achieve healthy activity goals.
2. It fills you in on how many calories you are burning.
This monitor uses calculations based on what we know about the human body and metabolism as well as the height, weight, age, and sex you enter into your profile. You can even update your profile to reflect a metabolism based on whether or not you are pregnant or breastfeeding. This corresponds to a recommended calorie intake that is displayed on your dashboard. A thermometer-type meter shows whether you are on track to meet your calorie intake and calorie burn goals throughout the day. Keeping tabs on how many calories you are burning helps you keep caloric intake in balance, which is the only way to maintain weight. If you want to lose weight, you can enter in a desired weight on your dashboard and the recommended calorie intake will be adjusted. Read more about using nutrition and exercise to balance caloric consumption for weight loss here.
3. It helps you keep tabs on calorie and water consumption.
So how do you balance all those calories you’re burning with what you are taking in? Log it into your dashboard. This is a feature a lot of people may think they “will never use.” In fact, I believe those exact words have come out of my mouth…because who has time for it? But I figured I’d give it a try and found it wasn’t too hard (since, alas, I do work a desk job). My favorite piece of this is that it will tell me the percentage of calories coming from carbohydrates, protein, and fats. I tend to eat a lot more from healthy fats and carbohydrates, so I've found that this helps me make smart decisions about what to consume as snacks. There is even place to log in how much water you are drinking every day.
4. It tracks your sleep.
This has been a very interesting tool for me. I have always been a night owl and I never realized how much sleep I wasn’t getting until I started sleeping with my tracker on. It monitors how much sleep I get based on body movement and also reports a sleep efficiency score based on how much I moved throughout the night (a.k.a ‘restlessness’) and how many times I woke up in the middle of the night. Just having this information available holds me more accountable for getting good sleep. It’s enough to make this night owl achieve the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep almost every night. Check out this blog to learn more about the importance of sleep.
5. It helps you set goals and motivates you.
Your activity tracker comes with set goals, such as 30 active minutes and 10,000 steps every day. Having these goals, again, holds you accountable and gives you something to strive for. It gives you an idea of where you are at and where you should be. It also sends messages to your phone telling you if you are almost there. I even find myself doing jumping jacks in the evening sometimes just to get to my goal. Hey, if it promotes a little extra activity I am all for it! It also sends you badges for different achievements or when you reach milestones in your physical activity.
6. Keeps you connected and adds a little friendly competition.
You have the ability to connect with friends and family who also have Fitbits and spark a little friendly competition such as the ‘Weekend Warrior’ competition I just had with my family. This compares everyone’s step count—highest count wins—which, as we were able to see this past weekend, got everyone moving! My friends were also able to chime in with some friendly cheers and taunts for added motivation.
Although I personally am a fan of the Fitbit Charge, I know there are some other awesome activity monitors out there. Other wearable tech accessories I've heard about that may be worth looking into include the Garmin Vivofit, Jawbone UP, and the Nike+ FuelBand SE. What activity trackers have you tried? If you have found a good one, let us know about it!