25 June 2015

Activity Trackers - Yay or Nay? My Fitbit Review


Fitbit Flex review: Activity Trackers - Yay or Nay?


Activity trackers are all the rage now. Have you jumped on the band wagon?

This year Gus asked me what I wanted for Valentine's Day - a Fitbit or a Kindle PaperWhite (I already have a Kindle Fire, but it sucks for trying to read in the sunlight) - and I picked the Fitbit.

There are several different types of Fitbits, and some of them are pretty fancy. And expensive. And big.

I didn't get one of those.

I knew I would never wear it all of the time if it was big and looked, what's the word I'm looking for? Bulky? Sporty? Whatever. I already wear a large watch on my left wrist, so I didn't want a huge fitness band on my right. Even though I had to give up some of the features to get the slimmer band, I was okay with that.

The one I got is called the Fitbit Flex. It's only 1/2" wide, so most of the time, I forget I have it on. Gus got mine from Amazon & used our Prime membership, so it arrived in 2 days for $94.95 + free shipping (it's only $79.99 now, of course, LOL!).

FitbitFlex activity tracker

Here's what comes in the package:
  • Fitbit Flex tracker
  • 2 wristbands (small and large - small fits wrist 5.5"-6.5", large fits 6.5"-7.9"; I wear a small)
  • charging cable
  • wireless sync dongle

What's included in your Fitbit Flex package

Here's what the Flex will do:
  • track steps & distance
  • track calories burned
  • track active minutes
  • tracks how long and how well I sleep (once I put it in sleep mode)
  • can set silent alarms
  • syncs wirelessly to apps like My Fitness Pal (tracks my calories, weight, exercise), Walgreens Balance Rewards for Healthy Choices (you earn points for rewards)

What you can do with the Fitbit Flex

As you can see, it's pretty basic. It doesn't track my heart rate or blood pressure. I have to manually put it into sleep mode when I go to bed and manually bring it out when I wake up - although it's just a matter of tapping the face of the wristband, so it's not difficult. Once you get into the habit of doing it, it's, well, a habit, LOL.

Here's what happens when you tap the face of the wristband when the tracker is inside:

Tapping the Fitbit Flex wristband causes the display to light up

The number of dots shows your progress - if you have more dots, the closer you are to reaching your goals for the day. Also, if you tap rapidly, it will vibrate and you will see two dots appear at opposite ends of the display. That means that the tracker is now in sleep mode. You just repeat that action to take it out of sleep mode - and it will vibrate and you will see five dots flash across the display, indicating it is now in active mode again.

One other "odd" thing (although it makes sense if you think about it) - it won't track my steps as exercise if I use the treadmill - because I'm walking in place. If I take a walk around the block, it's fine. But for the treadmill, I have to track the exercise through My Fitness Pal or just add it manually to the Fitbit.

Sometimes, I do get a little tired of wearing a silicone bracelet and wish it was a little fancier. I love, love, love the Tory Burch accessory bands that they have for the Flex. But I do not love, love, love the price! This silver hinged bracelet (love!) is $195!!!

Tory Burch for Fitbit - Metal Hinged Bracelet $195
 (photo courtesy of toryburch.com)

This french gray + Tory silver double wrap bracelet (also love!) is $175!!!

Tory Burch for Fitbit - Fret Double-Wrap Bracelet $175
 (photo courtesy of toryburch.com)

There are also new silicone printed bracelets that are cute, and those are just $38, but they're not classy like the silver one. Sigh. I do like the pink one though...

Tory Burch for Fitbit Flex silicone band in pink, $38
 (photo courtesy of toryburch.com)

You can buy a multi-color 3-pack of the regular bands from Fitbit or Amazon (other places, too) for just $29.95.

Fitbit Flex multi-band package in bright colors
(photo courtesy of fitbit.com)

I've also seen other brands of wristbands for the Flex tracker on Amazon and even Etsy. I've never tried them, so I don't know how well they work. I did see a nice leather one from Brookstone, and it was only $14.99 plus shipping. I was really interested in that one until I read the reviews. So always read the reviews folks. Fitbit also makes a pendant and a clip-type holder that can be clipped onto a waistband or pocket if you want to go that route. I'm just kind of nervous that I would lose it, so I prefer a wristband.

I've read articles that say these activity trackers are great because they make us more aware of what we're doing and they make us want to do more - and then I've also read articles that say they're a waste of money because they don't really "do" anything. I think it's just like anything else. If you look on the internet, you can find arguments "for" and "against" anything. Personally, I think if you like it and you think it fits into your fitness program, then by all means, get one! Wear it proudly! Who cares what anyone else thinks?

I guess there was a recall of the Fitbit Force back in 2014 because it was causing rashes in some people. They claimed it was from the nickel in the battery and reduced the amount of nickel before releasing a new version. But I understand there are still issues with rashes. I read an article from May 2015 that said scientists said it was plausible that sweat could enter the charging ports of the Fitbit Force - and that would cause a chemical reaction that would product toxic compounds like sodium hydroxide (think Drano) - which could severely burn the skin, causing blisters and rashes like people are experiencing. I'm glad I didn't get a Force.

Let me reassure you that the Flex is completely enclosed in the silicone wristband with the charging ports covered. The instructions say you can wear the Fitbit in the shower. I don't, but that's just my personal preference. My Fitbit has been wet, but I usually try to take it off, pop out the tracker, and dry everything off as soon as possible. It can also get kind of gunky down inside the wristband, so I recommend cleaning that out a couple of times a week. It's very easy to clean.


I wanted to take a picture of it on my wrist, but I never seemed to think about it when someone else was here. Do you realize that it's virtually impossible to photograph your own wrist and do it well? Especially if it's your right wrist and you're right-handed. So you get a photo of it laying on the table. :-)

As I mentioned, I use my Fitbit with the MyFitnessPal app. I've used this app for years and I like it a lot. I track my weight, exercise, and food with it. You can also connect the MapMyFitness app (or any of their apps) to MyFitnessPal and/or the Fitbit. Once you connect your accounts, you just record your weight, exercise, and food in MyFitnessPal every day and it will automatically sync with your Fitbit Flex.

I also connected my Fitbit with my Walgreens app so that I can earn points for my Balance Rewards. Because it automatically records my weight and steps, I will earn at least 20 points per day without doing anything (except entering my weight on my MyFitnessPal app).

Do I "need" the Fitbit? No. Do I "like" it? Yes. Does it serve a purpose for me? Yes. I like tracking my activity and sleep. I like it all syncing automatically for me. With my health issues, it's important for me to track these things daily. Sometimes, just seeing that wristband is a little push to move a little more - a reminder to eat a little better. And at my age, I need all of the reminders I can get. Plus it's a validation of what I've done each day - or proof that I need to work a little harder. I think we sometimes tend to overestimate the exercise we get and underestimate the food we eat (or at least I used to until I started tracking it).

Do you use an activity tracker?
If so, which one?
If not, would you consider using one?
Why or why not?