Monday, August 3, 2015

Review: FitBit Charge HR

I was a little hesitant to purchase a FitBit because I wasn't sure if I wanted to track all I was eating.  It sounded like a lot of work, and I didn't want to get obsessed with it.  I knew that the FitBit could help you track some of the variables surrounding overall health and fitness, and was curious about what I could improve.  I decided to take the plunge because it takes data to make changes.  You need to know what you are doing in order to decide what to act on.

I decided to get the FitBit Charge HR.  I have had heart rate monitors in the past, and know a bit about heart rate variability and training in the zones, and have enjoyed playing with this to improve my workouts.  This device, though, doesn't require you to wear a chest band.  I have always felt the chest bands to be a bit unwieldy, though the information is really useful.  I was unsure if this wrist monitor would be as accurate as a chest band, and have been pleasantly surprised by the accuracy.  I like the heart rate monitor feature when exercising, and am getting to know what my heart rate is based on what it feels like and then checking to see if I am right.  This is useful to me to see if I can be working harder, or if it is a good time to take a break.  When taking a break, it's useful to see if I am fully recovered or not. As you (may) know, the length of time it takes you to recover is a good indicator of overall health.

Another feature I was looking for and use is the pedometer. This actually helps motivate me to take more steps.  If it is late afternoon and I am low on my steps, I have been taking the kids out to walk up and down the street.  We all enjoy it, and it's helped us to be more active.  It does, however, add some false steps, like when I am sewing or fling my arm in my sleep, and it skips steps when I am carrying something in that hand (as expected but notable).

It also functions as a watch. Yes, an old-fashioned watch.  I mention this because I often look at my phone to see what time it is, then end up distracted by an incoming email ~ ETC!  I really like having a watch so I can see the time then move on.

Another unexpected thing I like about having this device is that it reminds me to stay on track all the time.  Wearing it is a subtle reminder of fitness and health wherever I am.  I think it helps me make better decisions... about eating, drinking, walking more, and the like.

Now... what I don't like about it is the battery life.  It would be nice if it came with a watch battery or something like that.  It needs to be charged for about an hour or so every three days.  It is unclear how long you have from after it tells you the battery is low until you *must* charge it.  I think people probably get into a routine plugging it into their USB port when they with at the computer, but I don't sit down at the computer every day.

It is "sweat resistant" but they say to take it off in the shower.  When I exercise, I drip sweat (hello, Bikram Yoga!). I am concerned that this will cause it to short out at some point.  But I've been diligent about removing it to swim or shower.  Which reminds me, it's too bad it can't track your movements when you are swimming.

I also think their app could use some streamlining from device to device to desktop.  On the desktop version, you can tag foods as favorites but they don't come up on the mobile app.  And on both, there is a spot for "recent" but recent foods never show up on it.  Same with frequent foods.  Their food database could also expand a bit.  On the desktop version of the app, the quantity of food adjustment button doesn't toggle very smoothly.  The mobile app lacks a way to see food macros for the day, though it is nice to see these on the desktop version (fat, carbs, protein percentages and grams). Both apps, though, have interesting graphs for viewing your data.  I would like a graph for the macros in relation to each other on both apps.

I still don't know what to do with the sleep data I am gathering.  It is interesting to note how many times I wake up/ am restless while sleeping, but I don't know what to do with this information.

All in all, I've been really happy with the device.  It translates how hard I'm working into calories* and steps (well, unless I am biking; in that case, only calories).  I haven't been surprised by the data per se, but it's nice to be able to see what I am doing and having the FitBit Charge HR has helped me organize myself a little better.


*As an aside, I'm not sure how much calories matter- but they are an interesting data point.

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