Fitness trackers are more popular everyday and with Apple recently releasing its new watch, that trend will continue. Can they guide you on your quest for optimal health? Are they worth the cost?
I decided to find out.
Why the Fitbit Charge HR?
What intrigued me about a fitness tracker was the ability to track heart rate throughout the day. I was curious to see how high my heart rate would go during intense Crossfit style exercise sessions, how quickly it would recover, and what it would average while doing normal daily activities.
With that in mind, my research into the different types of trackers left me with two options. The Fitbit Charge HR and the new Apple Watch.
The next day found me in an Apple store to try on the new Watch. It looked great and I liked some of the features but I just couldn’t justify the nearly $500AUD cost. The Fitbit Charge HR performs all the functions I’m looking for at under half the price. Perhaps after a few upgrades and better fitness apps, the Apple Watch will be a contender.
I’ve been wearing the Fitbit Charge HR for over a month now and here is the good, the okay, and bad.
1) Sleep tracking. I didn’t get the Fitbit for this reason but it is something I’ve found useful. You can’t get away with telling yourself you are getting good sleep when the results are tracked to the minute. It also shows how many times you wake up in the middle of the night and how restless you are. I now know after drinking alcohol or eating food that I know is bad, my sleep if very restless. Eat good food and my sleep is better. I found myself consciously trying to improve the quality and quantity of my sleep from the information gleaned from the tracker.
2) Steps per day. Again this wasn’t my main goal but I’ve found knowing how active I’ve been throughout the day motivating. Most days I am quite active however I can’t avoid office work forever. On those days I am very inactive. Seeing a big fat 0 for my number of daily active minutes motivates me to get up and do something.
3) Silent alarm. I am usually up and off to work quite early and it has been a challenge finding an alarm that wakes me and not my wife. On the Fitbit Charge it is possible to set an alarm that wakes you up by buzzing on your wrist three times.
1) Battery life. I can make it through the week only charging the Fitbit twice. That is far better that the current Apple Watch, however, once per week would be more convenient.
2) HR monitoring. It really is amazing that a device worn on the wrist can monitor your heart rate and most of the time the Fitbit Charge HR appears to be quite accurate. The exception to this seems to be while doing high intensity exercise. I wore the Fitbit Charge HR for quite a few Crossfit sessions where I know my heart rate was exceptionally high. The Fitbit did register an increase in heart rate however not near what the maximum should have been. Also, one of the main things I wanted to see was how quickly my heart rate would recover post exercise. The way heart rate is reported in the app doesn’t show this in enough detail to be useful. It has been interesting to see what my average heart rate is throughout the day, however I wouldn’t say this has impacted my motivation or fitness in any meaningful way.
1) Sleep tracking glitches. The Fitbit Charge HR automatically detects when you go to bed and wake up. I have found that some nights a portion of one night’s sleep will be credited to the previous nights sleep. Many times it seemed that I only had 4 hours of sleep when it was actually more like 7 do to this glitch. This can be edited through the app and on the computer however isn’t practical to have to do this everyday.
2) Comfort. To get the most accurate HR reading, the wristband needs to be quite tight on the wrist to block out any ambient light interfering with the sensors. I don’t really like having things on my wrist and having something tight is even worse. Most of the time I have been wearing the Fitbit HR quite loosely which does affect the HR accuracy slightly.
Fitbits and similar trackers can be useful in tracking your activity and sleep. If something is going to motivate you to get in extra exercise or search for better quality sleep, it is worth wearing. I wouldn’t call them essential or must have but the more accurate sensors and reporting becomes the more useful these trackers will be.