Fitbit Flex product review March 2015
Please note that this product review is my personal experience and opinion, there is no scientific evidence included. – Vicky Caulfield
With all of the media attention around achieving a minimum of 10,000 steps per day and the growing number of clients purchasing Fitbits I thought I would give it a go and find out how it all works. I was also very interested in seeing how a Fitbit, or similar gadget, could influence physical activity levels and see how realistic 10k steps per day really is.
I wore the Flex for a few days to get an idea of how it works and getting used to the idea of keeping it with me at all times. The Flex is one of Fitbit’s middle of the road options, it measures steps taken, calories burned and sleep, but doesn’t measure heart rate and intensity as their Performance range of trackers does. Once I had established what it took for me to get to 10k steps I did begin to question its accuracy.
I used a standard pedometer as my control unit and then wore the Fitbit in various positions.
- On my dominant hand;
- On my non dominant hand;
- On my waist similar to a pedometer;
- On my shoe
I found the most accurate spot was on my shoe; however this is not all that practical. The next best was on my non dominant hand set to ‘dominant’.
I drive a manual diesel car consequently the vibrations of the gear stick when driving add steps to my daily count. So a trip to gymnastics drop-off can add 500 steps! Within the Fitbit app, you can log driving as an activity, which will remove any steps logged during your daily car trips. I also noticed that if you talk with your hands like I do it will add steps to your count.
- Sleep Monitor
There were times when I got up went to the bathroom and spoke to my husband at 3am when he was going to work, went to the kitchen got a drink and the Fitbit registered I was in a deep sleep the whole time. Other times it registered that I woke up and was restless when I was sleeping. Ultimately I think you know how much sleep you are getting and if it is quality or not. I don’t think you need a Fitbit to measure this! I think this feature is a bit of a gimmick.
The Fitbit Flex does not distinguish intensity of exercise. Walking for 30 minutes will record 30 active minutes, as will the same duration of running. Obviously the running minutes are much more intense. This can give people false perceptions of how active they are. For good health and weight management intensity is an important factor.
- Exercise Recording
Not all forms of activity are recorded. Doing sprints on the spin bike or cycling outdoors may not register any movement at all……this can lead to people not choosing this form of exercise as they are less likely to meet their daily steps quota.
When you enter some forms of exercise in to the Fitbit diary it removes those steps from your daily count. This is because the ideal situation is to take 10k incidental steps every day, over and above your actual exercise time. This in itself is encouraging you to move more, but will be challenging for some people, especially those in sedentary jobs.
- Food Diary
As an American product the food diary is geared for the American market so it’s difficult to use in Australia.
First and foremost I am a fan of anything that helps people increase their activity levels and helps them realise how much activity they do compared with the recommended guidelines.
The Fitbit can be a great tool for increasing your daily activity levels provided you have a goal and work on achieving that goal. Many people I have seen with a Flex use it to measure their daily steps out of interest but they don’t actually set a target number of steps a day or week.
Don’t get bogged down in the 10K is the be all and end all mentality. For some, they will easily achieve this in a day, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t need to increase their activity levels. It may be they need to aim for 12-15k steps per day or 100k for the week.
For those with extremely sedentary jobs/lifestyles 10k may be a little overwhelming so they give up because it’s too hard. If you find yourself in that situation, start by aiming lower but still increasing activity levels on a regular basis: e.g. aim for 7k steps per day or 50k per week.
The Fitbit can be a useful tool provided you set goals and targets. The Fitbit is only as good as the goals you set and the effort you put into achieving them. Like all things there is no medical device that will make you lose weight and stay healthy……you must move more and eat less. This is just a tool that may help you to do this!