Friday, July 31, 2015

The bit on trackers that make you fit

In true trifit tradition, the monthly blog is the very last day of the month! Because I took a hiatus from Fitbit land and entered Vivofit land, I figured I owed you guys a review on activity trackers, so here is the bit on trackers that keep/make you fit. Remember, they only work as well as you let them work. It's a gimmick that some people get tired of after a while, much like any other fitness fads. However, if you can keep it on and hold yourself to your steps and know what is good for you when you feel unmotivated and don't want to take an extra turn around the block to hit that step goal, then they work wonders, for anyone from the fitness enthusiast to the couch potato. It also helps if virtual peer pressure motivates you (i.e. the Fitbit leader board), and let's face it, in the era of social media, virtual peer pressure is what it's all about! You don't need a gym. You just need your phone app.


The skinny: great online interface, great following so many of your friends are probably on it, estimates stairs, tells more information about sleep/wake cycles than other trackers, maybe not so great in terms of accuracy as a tracker

So many of these aren’t the best pedometers. Wrist-worn accelerometers (what activity trackers are) aren’t as accurate as the clip-on accelerometers that function more like pedometers; the wrist-wearables tend to overestimate steps. So, if accuracy is your thing, you are better off buying the Fitbit Zip (If you want something simple) or the Fitbit One (if you also want it to tell you about your sleep like the other higher-up wrist-worn Fitbits), since these are not wrist-worn. But, if challenging yourself to get more and more steps each day and being at the top of your Fitbit Friends list is your thing, get the Fitbit Charge. The Fitbit Flex is more affordable, but the Charge has a nice display, telling you the time and all the other fun info like steps, calories, stairs, so you don’t have to wait until it syncs with your phone app to have that information. And it can be a watch and not just a bracelet. The Charge HR is nice if you want to know your heart rate all the time, but it’s not as accurate as a heart rate chest strap monitor, which isn’t that surprising. The Surge has GPS tracking. I see this as the wanna-be workout watch, sorry folks who have this. (Leah, I think you have one. Sorry? I really think you would like the Garmin Vivoactive more because it also does golf and cycling!) If you want a GPS watch, you have to go with Garmin, the people who have been doing GPS for multiple sports for the longest amount of time. But I can see the appeal of having your steps and your workout watch be the same thing. As a triathlete, I would rather have the Garmin 920XT because it works for swimming, biking, and running. But I am waiting for someone to get me that for Christmas. (HINT HINT) If you just want to track your running, and you don’t mind wearing a bigger watch all the time, then the Surge works for that and keeps everything in one watch. If you’re into more than running, then Garmin also makes another watch that’s great, the VivoActive, which I will talk about later.
Even Violet agrees the chest-strap heart rate
monitors are better. By the way, I didn't  ask
her to do this pose. Our daughter likes going
to get my bag of tri goodies when we are
about to head out for a stroller run. And today
she thought she'd try out the heart rate monitor.
I didn't even tell her I was doing this blog.
Oh, Violet, you are so amazing!

Come on, Nike. The battery life is pretty awful. Fitbit lasts a good 7-10 days, depending on how active you are, but Nike Fuelband lasts 3-4 days at best. It doesn’t track steps. It tracks activity and you earn "fuel" on a kind of points system. Nike has to be different. I just don’t have a lot to say about this watch. It’s not as cool as Fitbit, sorry.

Does all the stuff Fitbit does (steps, calories, sleep, etc.), but from what users tell me, it has had more problems. The band is really cute and dainty and can pass as jewelry, but for some people it comes off in the most inopportune times because it doesn’t actually clasp, it overlaps. I was pretty much obsessed with the UP3 coming out before I bought any activity tracker, and my husband thought better of it and didn't get it for me because he knew that Fitbit was the better band. Good looking out, Curtis. They may be getting better, but I think they're still behind Fitbit and Garmin. The UP3 does do resting heart rate, just like the Fitbit Charge HR, and it is much sleeker and prettier looking, if that's your overall goal.

The Skinny: nice watch, water-proof, never needs charging (battery replacement at one year), but gives less sleep info, no stair counts, and the app could use a little help

Vivofit 1 and 2 – I bought the Vivofit2 because I am doing a research project with it and feel like it’s a good investment to use what the subjects are using, so we are all on the same page J Also this was a good excuse to try out another activity tracker. So far, I definitely LOVE it. It’s sleeker than the Fitbit Charge, and I like the “button” that you use, as opposed to the side button on the Charge. It also displays the time (or steps or calories, whatever you preference, to be chosen in the settings) all the time; you don’t have to press the button to see it. I find this great because it makes it more like a regular watch, which is how I use it. It’s also water resistant to 50 meters (basically waterproof, as far as I’m concerned), which is a huge plus over the Fitbit, which is not. It also has a year-long battery life because it uses a replaceable watch battery, so you don’t have to charge it. This is similar to the Fitbit Zip (6-month battery) and Fitibit One, but the Vivofit is a wrist-worn tracker, so that’s one-up for Garmin. You can wear it swimming, and it counts your “steps.” I think this is a major plus, but that’s just me. But you also don’t have to take it off to shower, like you do the Fitbit wrist-wearables. And it has a very secure clasp. My Fitbit would come off accidentally sometimes, but this has a lock on the clasp, so it stays on. Amazing!

You can see this as a pro or a con, but the Garmin Vivofit calculates step goals for you. This is great for someone who isn't going to hit the recommended 10k steps a day right off the bat. It gradually increases your goal for the day, based on how you have been doing. I find this awesome because it encourages you to improve, no matter what level you are at, but I do miss the vibration and party of the Fitbit when you hit 10k steps. It would be nice if these trackers allowed you to set your own goal, but Garmin is onto something with this proposed goal thing.

The cons include that the Vivofit, didn't work as well when running with the jogging stroller because my arm wasn't moving as much. With the Fitbit, it didn't seem to matter if I ran with or without the jogger, but again, the Fitbit does overestimate steps a bit. The other major con is really that the Garmin Connect app just isn’t as cool as the Fitbit app. That is the bottom line. And maybe most of your friends are Fitbit wearers and not on Connect. There are a few programs that sync activities from Garmin Connect to the Fitbit app, but they only sync activities, not total steps. So, you can choose watch vs. friends list or you can wear a Fitbit Zip to have your bells and whistles dashboard that you like and your friends list but wear the Vivofit as your watch and wrist-worn accelerometer.

I think the verdict is still out on whether I like the Vivofit over the Charge. I prefer the Vivofit as a wearable. The waterproof feature and year-long battery are major, major pluses for me, and I like having all my workouts in one place, so on the Connect webpage I see my triathlon workouts and my Vivofit steps. But Fitbit works with my jogging stroller and estimates stairs (although often widely inaccurate in doing so, it's nice having that extra motivation).

Both Garmin and Fitbit also sync with MyFitnessPal, by the way, which is awesome, if you use that app. Fitbit may lend to you eating more calories than you should. I definitely lost weight exercising less but eating better with my Garmin, since it only transferred over "active calories" (calories burned during an activity) and not all those 18k steps I did throughout the day that weren't as active. But Fitbit makes you feel better about yourself haha. Such a tough call!

Vivoactive –

The Skinny: the best multisport, activity-tracker watch on the market; maybe it doesn't matter if you don't like the app because your watch is so awesome...but you still might miss your Fitbit dashboard.

One last plug for Garmin. The Vivoactive would be my solution to the issues with accuracy in the Vivofit, since this is a GPS watch. It's the do-it-all watch comparable to the Fitbit Surge (but better, in my book). For the running, stepping, cycling, and swimming enthusiast, this watch does it all! You can download golf courses to it and do all the stuff that those golf GPS gadgets do, but this is on your watch. It can count your strokes in the pool and your laps and all that fun stuff. It does GPS for running, so here you have your GPS watch. For cycling, it does everything a tri watch will do, especially if you add the cadence sensor to your bike. So, yes, it is pretty amazing, and it’s sleek and cool looking. However, the battery life is not for an Ironman athlete, at least not for an age-grouper like me, since it only lasts 10 hours in GPS-mode. Oh well. Still pretty awesome! This is the watch I would want if it wasn't half the cost of the 920XT. For the money, I'd rather just use my Fitbit of Vivofit for day-to-day use and then spend the extra dollars on getting my high-end Ironman watch. But I'm a little nuts. For most folks, the Vivoactive is the watch to buy! Will let you know if I try it out.

The bottom line:

I hope this has been somewhat helpful for anyone considering an activity tracker. Fitbit and Garmin are definitely the best options. The Fitbit Flex is a great, less expensive way to go for a wrist-wearable, if you don’t mind looking at your phone app, and the Zip and One are great and more accurate, if you don't need a wrist-wearable. If charging and remembering to take off your watch for water activities are going to be an issue for you, then you need the Vivofit. You might also consider this if you are just starting out, might get easily discouraged, and need a goal closer to your usual activity than 10k steps a day. If you want your workout watch and daily step tracker all in one, go for the Vivoactive. Hope this helps, folks! Now, get out there and get moving!

Diaz, KM, et al. Fitbit: An accurate and reliable device for wireless physical activity tracking. Int J. Cardiol. 2015 Mar 4;185:138-140.

On Deck:

-Resolution update, life decisions, and some cute Violet pics!