A Review of the Fitbit: Is it Overrated?

The trend for wear-on-the-wrist activity trackers is growing fast in the fitness world, with Fitbit being one of the main players in the wearables market. I wanted to find out whether they live up to all the hype.

I've wanted a Fitbit for ages but could never justify spending that much money (they retail at £99.99 on the website for this model, the Fitbit Charge) for what I believed was essentially a pedometer. In the end, I shopped around and found them on Amazon for £69.99, which is £30 off the RRP - so I decided to go for it.

Sorry about the quality of this picture. It was late, dark and I was so excited to have a Fitbit that this was the only picture I took before ripping it open. Here's the scene 30 seconds later:

After using my Fitbit for a few weeks, I've decided to write a review for anyone else thinking about buying one - what I like about it and what I don't. Hopefully this will help you decide for yourself whether it's worth the investment.

My first challenge was the setup. I naively thought I'd be able to rip it out of the box and have it on my wrist tracking my activity within five minutes. How wrong I was. It took me more than an hour to sync the Fitbit to my computer and set up an account, although this was probably partly due to my being a technophobe who doesn't have a clue when it comes to this kind of thing, and my husband being out and unable to come to my rescue. If you're good with technology this part may not cause you as much distress as it did me.

The actual Fitbit tracker (the watch-like gadget that you wear on your wrist) has a time and date display and tells you steps taken, miles walked, calories burned and floors climbed. It also tracks your sleep (but you have to view this in your online account) and allows you to set a silent alarm (also from your online settings, not the actual tracker itself) which wakes you up by vibrating on your wrist.

The sleep tracker is great, in fact it's my favourite feature of the Fitbit. You just wear your Fitbit to bed and it can tell you exactly when you fell asleep - I'm not sure how, maybe something to do with your heart rate? - how many times you woke up or were restless and how long you slept altogether. I was surprised to find out that I'm only actually asleep for about 7 hours per night, as I give myself enough time in bed to get at least 8 hours sleep.

The step counter I don't find accurate. My job requires me to use my hands a lot and I've found that whenever I move my arm, it adds on a few steps to my total. I tweeted Fitbit to ask why this happened and received this response: "Since your Fitbit is a motion sensor on your wrist, hand movements are being tracked to give credit to your activity".

However, I personally don't count hand movements as activity and would prefer not to be told I've just taken five hundred steps when I haven't actually moved my feet. I tried changing the settings on my profile to say that I wear the tracker on my dominant hand (I'm right handed for writing, but do a lot of other things left handed) to see if this helped. Doing so is supposed to make the Fitbit less sensitive to hand movements, but it didn't make much difference. 

Your online Fitbit profile is like your personal fitness diary. You add all your details, such as age, height, weight, even stride length, and it can tell you things such as your BMI and how many calories you burn per day. It also tells you how many floors you've climbed, active minutes and miles walked. It allows you to track the food you eat, your water intake, which activities you do and how much you weigh this week/month/year. The more information you give it and the more you use the online dashboard, the more accurate information it will give you back. There's a discussion forum and you can even add other Fitbit users for motivation, challenges and friendship. There's also a 'Help' page in case you get stuck (like me).

You can also download an app onto your phone so you can track your activity on the go and not have to wait until you get back to your computer. If you do sync it to your phone you can even get caller ID on the Fitbit's screen when somebody rings you - a nice touch.

Conclusion: For those looking to lose weight, start a fitness journey or just track how much you already do, the Fitbit can be a good motivational tool. It's much more than 'just a pedometer' like I originally thought. However, if you use your hands a lot throughout the day, keep an eye on the steps it tells you you've taken, because it may not be correct.

Do you have a Fitbit? What do you think of it? If you don't have one, would you consider buying one?

[N.B. I was not paid for this post, nor did I receive the Fitbit in order to review it. I purchased it myself as stated above and wanted to offer my opinion on the pros and cons to help anyone else thinking of buying one. Affiliate links have been used in this post.]

UPDATE: I have reviewed my Fitbit three months down the line:
My Fitbit: Three Months On