Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Fitbit Ultra review

Normally when I get home from work I sit in front of my PC until Andrew's on his way home, cook some food and then collapse in front of the television. The only time that changed was when I bought a pedometer a couple of years ago. I started aiming for 10,000 steps a day and felt much better for it, but the lure of a warm front room and aversion to wintry weather meant that it went in a drawer, never to be seen again.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love a gadget, and a bargain. I'd looked at Fitbits before, but couldn't justify the cost as they are normally around £70. The Fitbit is a smart pedometer, about the size of a memory stick. It tracks how many steps you have taken, the distance you've walked (based on your height), the number of stairs you have climbed (hills are counted too), and your overall activity level. I started to consider getting one again when I spotted that a Fitbit Ultra was one of the items listed during Amazon's Black Friday week. I made sure I was online when the sale started and managed to strike lucky, getting it for £39.99.

 The next week it arrived, but, thinking it would be complicated to set up, I left it sitting unopened until the weekend. I needn't have worried. I opened the package and followed the instructions which were very straight forward. I downloaded and installed the software, set up a Fitbit account, plugged the base station into my USB port and put the Fitbit onto the base station to charge. Whilst waiting, I set up my profile and tweaked the settings. I left it to charge overnight (although it should only take an hour or two), so I could start using it the following morning.

The Fitbit is formed in a U shape so it can easily clip onto clothing. The optimal position for wearing it is on your waist (a holster is provided to help clip onto thick belts), but you can also slip it in your pocket or wear it on your bra. As I rarely wear belts and had a panic after losing my Fitbit the only time I've worn it in a pocket, I tend to clip it onto my bra. It's invisible to the outside word and I know it won't go anywhere! One it's in position I forget it's there and carry on with my day. 

The Fitbit syncs whenever you're near the base station. You're recommended to charge it every 5 - 7 days, by putting it on the base station, but I've left it up to 12 days without emptying the battery. I was away from home for a couple of days over Christmas and was worried that it would lose data, but it synced the intervening period when I returned home. The only issue I found is that it tracks car journeys as light activity, meaning it over counts both steps and stairs (and therefore calories, activities and distance covered). This is when I'm snoozing in the passenger seat, not even driving, but unfortunately you can't tell it to stop recording.

The other functionality with the Fitbit is the sleep recorder. It comes with a wrist strap which you tuck it into, start the timer when you're ready to go to sleep and stop it when you wake up. It gives a good indication of how long it took you to fall asleep, how long you were in bed for, how many times you moved and, as a result, how efficient your sleep was. Whilst this isn't entirely accurate, as it won't know if you're lying in bed still, but not asleep, it does give a good indication of how much rest you're getting.

It's already making me more conscious of my activity levels, helps me get out for a walk when I don't really feel like it, and take the stairs rather than the lift. The Fitbit itself provides simple data, but the online dashboard is where it comes into its own, you can drill into each type of information and look at historic data to keep you motivated.

Now that the Christmas break is over, I intend to use the Fitbit to get me out after work to get a few more steps in, instead of sitting in front of my PC. If you have a Fitbit too and want to add me as a friend so we can keep each other motivated, add a comment to let me know.

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