Healthcare Tech

Fitbit: Tracking Activity, Exercise, Food, Weight and More


Fitbit: Tracking Activity, Exercise, Food, Weight and More

More than 28 million people worldwide use Fitbits, wearable activity trackers that can monitor heart rate, track activity levels and even monitor sleep time. With a multitude of models and accessories, plus variable settings for choosing the activities to track, Fitbit leads the market of wearable fitness trackers. These devices can be programmed to suit individual needs and a range of lifestyles, and they pack plenty of features for getting fit and staying healthy. Here’s a look at the Fitbit family of activity trackers and what people are saying about them.


What Is Fitbit?

Fitbit is arguably the most familiar name in the fast-growing fitness tracker market. These devices combine features of wristwatches, computers and old-fashioned pedometers and more to help people keep track of a variety of fitness metrics, such as the number of steps taken or calories burned. Trackers can also be programmed to monitor other metrics, such as heart rate, body temperature, sleep time, and calorie count. Trackers can also be synced with computer apps for sharing data with others, joining fitness challenges or even sending data to a doctor’s office.

Fitbit first hit the market in 2009, taking advantage of two unstoppable trends: advances in wearable technology and massive growth in the health and fitness market. Emphasizing features that “fuel your fitness journey,” Fitbit targeted its products to active people committed to a healthy lifestyle, not as a medical tool – although Fitbits can also be helpful for people who need to monitor health conditions like hypertension.

Now, Fitbit sells not only an expanding set of iconic fitness trackers, but also smartwatches, scales, and accessories such as fashion bands and apparel. The company also has an app that connects to a community of Fitbit users, fitness challenges, and health and nutrition information.


How Do Fitbit Trackers Work?

Activity trackers use advanced sensor technologies to measure movement and collect data from a wearer’s body. Their sensors can measure the start of motion, intensity, and the end of motion, such as when a wearer stops to rest. The data the tracker collects is processed with an internal chip that powers the tracker’s readout, so it can instantly show results such as the number of steps taken or the current heart rate. Trackers can also be connected via Bluetooth to a smartphone or computer app that can process the data, store it or share it with others.

Some trackers also come with more specialized sensors, such as an altimeter to measure altitude – a useful metric for climbing stairs or mountains. Other types of sensors measure things like pulse rate and oxygen levels, or movement during sleep.

Trackers can also share some features with smart watches like the Apple Watch, which can also track some fitness metrics and do things like track calls and messages when synced with a smartphone. But trackers are designed to operate with one goal in mind – to track and collect data about movement and intensity.

Depending on the style and model you choose, Fitbit’s collection of activity trackers include varying combinations of these features, plus some unexpected extras such as built-in GPS.

Whether you’re a dedicated athlete, casual exerciser or just embracing a healthier lifestyle, trackers like the Fitbit can provide useful insights into your health, and help you make smarter decisions about exercise, nutrition and sleep. All Fitbit users can connect to Fitbit’s community forums and blog for tips on healthy eating, weight loss and general wellness.


The Fitbit Tracker Family: Products for Everyone

Fitbit offers four dedicated activity tracker models, including one for kids, and prices range from an affordable $49.95 USD to $169.95. All of them can be customized with stylish bands at an extra cost.

The Fitbit Inspire is Fitbit’s most inexpensive offering at just $49.95. It comes in several colors including black, lilac and sangria. The Inspire tracks all day activity, including steps taken, distance traveled, and calories burned – as well as stationary or resting time. The Inspire is waterproof and can be set for personalized reminders to do things like move, get hydrated, or go to sleep.

The Inspire HR has all the features of the Inspire, and for $69.95, adds a few more. This version tracks heart rate during exercise and includes built in GPS as well. Like the original Inspire, Inspire HR is waterproof for tracking swim times and includes onscreen call, calendar and text alerts.

Fitbit Ace 2 is made for kids, with a screen featuring cartoon characters and a range of colors including neon yellow, watermelon and teal. At $49.95, it’s swimproof and includes parental controls. Kids can customize the Ace 2 with a range of wristbands, clock faces and avatars, and connect with the rest of the family on the Fitbit app for extra motivation.

The Fitbit Charge 4 offers serious fitness motivation with built in GPS and altitude and distance tracking. At $149.95, the Charge 4 comes in four colors and styles, and includes extras such as sleep tracking, female health tracking and guided breathing sessions. There’s also a Charge 4 Special Edition for $169.95 that features a selection of stylish reflective woven bands.

All Fitbit’s trackers come in a variety of colors and can be accessorized with different bands for all occasions, so you can wear your Fitbit to work as well as to the pool.


Do Fitbits Really Work?

Fitbits aim to give people the information they need to make a variety of healthier choices. But although these and other fitness trackers claim to help people become more active, lose weight and focus on their health, healthcare professionals are divided on the benefits.

A recent report from Mayo Clinic notes that in one study, researchers found that people who used wearable activity trackers actually lost less weight over the course of the study than their non-tracking counterparts. Other research suggests that many users don’t actually use the information provided by the tracker to exercise more, change sleep habits, or eat more nutritiously.

But for people who are already committed to making those changes, trackers can provide motivation, inspiration and guidance for a healthier lifestyle. Some research suggests that Fitbits and other wearable trackers are useful tools that can help people reach their wellness goals, especially if they’re used as part of an overall program that includes accountability and support from the community that forms around tracker users. And Fitbit aims to create a formidable user community, with a robust array of health and wellness information, fitness challenges, and workout tips available through the app and website.


What Do Users Say?

Fitbit products seem to inspire a spectrum of user reactions. For example, the Fitbit Inspire gets a 4.5 star rating averaged from over 19,000 Amazon reviews. Most users love the comfort, style and easy readability of the Inspire’s screen, while others complain about mechanical issues such as problems keeping the battery charged and poorly fitting bands. But overall Fitbit remains the most trusted brand in fitness trackers, well ahead of its major competitors.


Fitbit Competitors and Alternatives

Activity trackers are so popular that Fitbit competes with an array of trackers and smartwatches offering similar functions and services.

Topping the list of Fitbit alternatives is the Apple Watch 5–a smartwatch with state of the art fitness tracking features built in. Along with heart rate, the Apple Watch 5 can even check your heart rhythm with an ECG app. Women can track menstrual cycles with the Cycle Tracking app, and the Apple Watch 5 features activity rings to visually show movement and activity. Along with all these features, it’s also an advanced timepiece with an always-on retina display. The Apple Watch 5 is the most expensive Fitbit alternative on the market, retailing at over $400.

Running a close second is the Garmin Vivoactive 4S, a smartwatch with tracking features that emphasizes advanced tracking specifically for exercise. Like the Fitbit, it comes in a variety of colors and monitors the full range of metrics including heart rate and motion. But this and other Garmin products come with a significantly heftier price tag than Fitbits: the Vivoactive sells for $300 or more from most retailers.

The Samsung Galaxy Fit Activity Tracker at $99.95 is a moderately priced Fitbit alternative that falls between the Inspire and the Charge. This device is actually a smartwatch with tracking features such as measuring calories burned, heart rate, and distance and steps taken. It syncs to a variety of Apple and Android devices for use with a variety of fitness apps.

The Bottom Line

The Fitbit line of dedicated activity trackers won’t automatically make anyone eat better, work out more or get enough sleep. But these popular trackers can provide useful tools for supporting a commitment to getting healthier. Fitbit trackers are stylish, customizable, and backed up by a large and loyal community of users and the Fitbit team. With a version made just for kids, they can help to make fitness a family affair – and keep people of all ages moving more each day.



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