Fitbitted

Automattic recently announced that they were hooking all of us up with Fitbits, which is pretty damn cool.

I’ve had mine for a few days now and I’m really loving it.

You know, now that I’m getting over the obsessive, overly analytical phase I go through with a new gadget. Speaking of that – a million apologies to my wife, who has patiently put up with my neurotic wrist tapping and obsessive babbling about step counts and heart rates for the last few days!

Now that I’m getting used to it, the thing is great. I can see my heart rate throughout the day, how many flights of stairs I’ve climbed, how effective my sleep is, plus the app has an easy place to track water intake (I love this) and a food log (I don’t use this, that’s not a question I want answered).

…it’s amazing. It’s also motivating. Just the push I need in pretty much all of the above areas.

I’m taking the girls on longer walks, trying to get to bed earlier and drinking more water. I’ve even gotten myself back on the treadmill again.

All things I’ve been slacking on lately.

One Drawback

Apart from my initial concerns about it’s accuracy, which I’ve gradually made peace with (more on that later), the only thing I don’t love about my new Charge HR is its constant bluetooth activity. I’m not really a fan of continuous exposure to RF radiation.

I’d hoped that there would be a way to turn off the bluetooth manually, but sadly, there isn’t. That particular option hasn’t yet made it past the requested feature phase. I’d be pretty happy if you added a vote to that, btw.

For my own purposes, I’ve turned off the “All day sync” setting, so the tracker doesn’t try to sync every 20 minutes. I’ve also been making sure to keep my phone’s bluetooth turned off. This way I can open the app without triggering a sync.

All of that helps to mitigate my bluetooth concerns, if not completely eliminate them. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for a firmware update. I’m also telling myself that the health benefits of my Fitbit induced higher activity level will, maybe, outweigh the risks?

Accuracy

So, I kind of touched on this before, but whenever I set up a new piece of tech I tend to obsess a little. That can sometimes lead to being overly critical of a new device, which is exactly what happened here.

In the end, I absolutely love the Charge HR. I figured I’d share the process I went through to get there, just in case any other new Fitbit owners are prone to doing the same thing.

When I first put the Fitbit on a few days ago, I found myself somewhat disappointed by its performance. I just felt like it was constantly adding extra steps. Lots of them.

The most common tip for this is to put the tracker on your non dominant hand, and then update it to the “Dominant” hand setting – decreasing the sensitivity. This seems to have helped (no more steps when I move my mouse with my right hand) though there still seemed to be a lot of extra stepping going on.

Now, don’t misunderstand. I get it – it’s on my wrist, so there will be some motions that register as steps. I’m open to a reasonable margin of error.

This just seemed like a LOT. 10-20 steps for tying my shoes? Or washing my hands? 40 steps for rubbing Wynnie or Vega’s bellies? Extra steps for putting on pants? Last night I logged over 100 steps loading the dishwasher and washing the pots and pans from dinner. In case you were wondering – my sink doesn’t move. This was a mostly stationary activity.

These just seem like things that will add up pretty quick! Obviously, being in New Gadget OCD Mode means I’ve been actually checking all of these things (more than I should be) and shaking my head every time, which isn’t really a good habit to get into.

After 72 hours or so, I’ve managed to work out what the patterns seem to be, and I did a little estimating. Most of the activities I listed above look like they’ll average out to about 500-600 extra steps on a given day. That includes 200 or so random extra steps for activities I haven’t thought of.

Sounds like a lot, until I take it as a percentage of my 10k step goal. It also helps that I’ve noticed missing steps, depending on how fast I walk or how I hold my arm. So the above number is actually going to be a little lower, which is nice.

Ultimately, I realized that it’s okay if it’s a tad inconsistent. As long as it’s consistently inconsistent, it will all work out in the averages, which is really the best measurement.

On top of that, I’ve come to accept that some activities, like washing dishes and folding laundry, simply aren’t Fitbit friendly. So I’ll take it off for those. Probably good to give my wrist some time to breathe, anyway!

Final Thoughts

I love this thing. Once I got over my initial overreaction to the whole extra steps thing, and had the lightbulb moment that I can take it off whenever I want, it’s awesome.

Based on my current step count, the thing is at least 90% accurate – much better than my initial estimates. As my average total increases, that will only improve.

When actively walking, the step counter is really cool. Every time my foot hits the pavement, the step increases. The stair counter is really accurate too – as soon as I hit the top step it updates. I love crap like that.

Then there’s the sleep tracker – it’s super accurate. Like Santa accurate (he sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake… get it?). If I wake up in the middle of the night, it knows.

When I woke up this morning, I felt a little groggy. My sleep stats explained why – last night was the most restless night I’ve had since I put the tracker on. It works. Really well.

Oh – two other cool features of the Charge HR are Quick View and Tap Gesture. I don’t use Quick View, because I wear a watch on my other wrist, but basically it automatically displays the time when you lift your arm to look at your wrist.

Tap Gesture pulls up your choice of stats when you double tap the device, and then cycles through them on subsequent taps. I’ve found it works best to tap below the screen, on the flat part of the band, rather than on the screen itself. It’s not that it’s drastically easier than hitting the button – it’s just a lot more fun 🙂

So yeah. Thank you Matt, thank you Automattic, and thank you Fitbit – all for being awesome.

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