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Unbiased FitBit Review – Should You Join the FitBit Cult?


Join the FitBit Cult ?



The growing market for wearable, interactive health monitor technologies brings much needed focus on results with the benefit of community support for getting into better shape. I love the concept of the FitBit (and competitive designs). I have watched the evolution of FitBit and other monitors over the years and finally decided to give FitBit a try with the release of the HR Charge.


Should you join the FitBit Cult we have been hearing so much about?


Well, I have been wearing my new FitBit HR Charge for 5 days now and I have mixed feelings. I mean, I REALLY want the FitBit to work for me and track my ongoing health and fitness journey. I am a data-driven guy, and appreciate the transparency of accurate 24-hour data to drive my lifestyle, workouts and nutrition. But, for me, the data MUST be accurate.


After 5 days I am loving the sleep data (I need better sleep!), although I am not sure how the monitor knows if I am asleep or just laying still wide awake. Actually, I don’t think it does based on my data. Still, very cool to see more insight into my sleep patterns, especially awake time and “restless” count.


The mobile app is awesome and I am a big fan of the caller ID and vibrating alarm features. The look and feel are great for the FitBit HR Charge. The heart rate data seems accurate during the day EXCEPT when I exercise.


Wait, what?


Yes, that is the case for me and apparently many others after doing some further research on FitBit ratings. Bummer. Heart rate is WAY lower than actual real-time heart rate data acquired from my trusted Polar H7 Bluetooth enabled monitor as well as further confirmation with a manual pulse check similar to a doctor visit. In some cases, 10 – 60 beats per minute lower. And, my FitBit can’t register above roughly 130 beats per minute for me. My Polar H7 Bluetooth has a chest strap and I have always been a fan of chest strap for accuracy with heart rate. I have tried different hands, positions and tightness on wrist with no luck with the FitBit. I have others on my Team with some FitBit challenges too.


Here is an example of true side-by-side tracking with my Polar H7 chest strap heart rate monitor vs. the FitBit HR Charge wrist monitor. Exact same workout with data collected simultaneously in real-time for both devices. (Click on the image to expand view.)


FitBit vs Polar



I love the features of the FitBit and I am still working with the Support Team to get it to work for me, but the heart rate data is not accurate for me. Perhaps a moment in time at low heart rate may look accurate, but I clearly question the real-time data over the course of a workout. From this workout, Polar data = 371 cals burned over 40 minutes with average heart rate 129 beats per minute and max 174 bpm. FitBit data = 176 calories burned over 40 minutes with average heart rate 110 beats per minute and max 132 bpm. As a final verification, again, when I manually checked my pulse it was consistent with the Polar monitor data.


I also found with the FitBit that my “steps” would go up as I was sitting and working at a desk. This may not be surprising since it is a wrist monitor, and for all those people targeting 10,000 steps in a day, there may be more accurate and inexpensive options to track steps than FitBit. I took 700 “steps” working at my desk the other day. The stairs data was inaccurate as well.


As an independent test, my wife also wore my FitBit one night for sleep and next morning for her workout. The sleep data seemed accurate (she gets MUCH better sleep than me:). She was able to register over 150 beats per minute heart rate on the actual monitor reading, but it did not track on the app over 135 beats per minute. Still seems to be a disconnect. I also wish the FitBit would sync real-time without having to open the app and it would be nice to have capability to export the data for analysis in a common file format, other than TCX extension.


So, Join the FitBit Cult?


Probably not me. I will give my FitBit HR Charge a few more days to prove different, but I see no reason to keep using the FitBit if the data is inaccurate, no matter how cool it looks or how many people join their (cult) community. Overall, I love the theory of the FitBit and applications. I wish it would have worked as advertised for me.


I do believe strongly though that FitBit and other tracking monitors are a GREAT way to see relative improvements in your own health and fitness. If they help you start or even maintain your wellness focus, regardless of accuracy, that is a great thing. And, anything that promotes and supports health in a community environment is amazing from my perspective.


What has been your experience with FitBit?


UPDATE: I kept the FitBit and continue to compare vs. Polar chest strap. There are now MANY more side-by-side data points in my Hammer and Chisel heart rate analysis further supporting the inaccuracy of this tool (at least for me). Check it out!! Also, I am finding that I have to charge my FitBit every 3 days, which is a bummer and more frequent than marketed, while I am developing some minor redness in the area where I wear the FitBit.

FINAL UPDATE: Given the challenges I experienced with the FitBit I decided to get rid of it and stay with my Polar chest strap for now. I am sure I will look at a new activity smart watch down the road as the technology evolves. For those interested, I bought my FitBit Charge HR from Amazon for around $135 and ended up getting $80 for it on eBay after using it for 3 months. Regardless, it was a fun experiment!!

IMPORTANT UPDATE!! There is now a class-action Lawsuit based on inaccuracy of FitBit heart rate monitoring and mis-advertisement. I rest my case!!


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Premiere 5 Star Diamond Independent Beachbody Coach, CEO and Founder of TEAM RAGE, Mike Nowak Fitness, and How Do I Get Ripped, LLC. You are about to learn how I went from out-of-shape busy dad with significant travel, 2 kids and a wife to losing 20 pounds, 16% body fat and 7" off my waist while getting paid more income from home than my Ph.D. in Science & Engineering. Retired my Ph.D. career to focus on FAMILY & FITNESS!


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