There are some great smartphone apps for tracking physical activity, heart rate and sleep habits, but it becomes a bit of a drag after a while to keep entering data manually in all those different apps.
Enter fitness tracker bands, wearable bracelet devices that passively track a combination of health behaviours while you get on with life. There are three bands on the market right now: the Fitbit Flex, the Nike+ Fuelband and the Jawbone Up.
My friend Luigi Benetton, a technology and business writer, asked me which one I would pick, but given that my top choice is only just now launching in Canada, I relied on online reviews to make my purchase decision several weeks ago. Here’s why my pick is a Fitbit Flex and how I um, ‘weighed in’ on the alternatives:
All three bracelets track steps taken, distance traveled, number of active minutes and calories burned. You can wear them 24/7, even in the shower, because they’re water resistant. They all provide an online dashboard where you can see if you are meeting your goals.
On a recent visit to the Apple store, I noticed that one Genius behind the service bar was wearing a Nike+ Fuelband and another was wearing a JawBone Up. I asked them both why they chose their particular bracelets: She said she chose a JawBone Up because it tracks sleep and it’s easy to take on and off. He retorted that he doesn’t sleep much, so he was happy with his Nike+ Fuelband. Okay then.
What sets the Fitbit Flex ahead of the pack?
- A better price: Fitbit Flex costs $99 whereas you will shell out $129 for a Jawbone Up and $149 for a Nike+ Fuelband
- It has the least obtrusive design, the one you’re likely to keep on all day and night. “It doesn’t look out of place with a suit or a track suit,” according to Mathew Honen at Wired.
- The Fitbit Flex is rated as the best pick by Wired (Rating 9/10: “Nearly flawless; Buy it now).
- It syncs wirelessly to your computer or smartphone whereas the JawBone Up has to be plugged into your phone or computer to sync.
I’m a big believer in the health benefits of incorporating more activity into daily life after writing three stories about the health risks of too much sitting in the last two years. I work at a standing desk and think I’m keeping pretty active with running, biking, karate or just walking. But I know there is room for improvement, which I will only see if I can track actuals and set some goals.
Amy Sept, a marketing and communications colleague, loved her Fitbit One, a previous generation device that clips to clothing. She says, “It kept me more accountable to myself. Especially working at home, it’s easy to say, ‘I think I moved around a lot today,’ but hard to argue when the numbers don’t prove it. I also tracked my calories using the app, so on the whole it made me more aware of what I was eating, how much I was moving, and the amount and quality of sleep I was getting.” She’s keen to upgrade to a Fitbit Flex.
At a recent conference for the Professional Writers Association of Canada, another writer friend was wearing a Fitbit Flex that she had ordered online via Amazon.com in March. She showed me her progress on the online dashboard and she’s making significant positive changes to her health. The software integrates with MyFitnessPal, a terrific app for tracking diet and nutrition information. We walked for an hour one morning and her Flex measured that as 7,800 steps, a significant portion of the magical 10,000 steps per day that has been shown to help maintain long-term weight loss.
According to a recent press release, Fitbit Flex is available this month in Canada at Best Buy, Future Shop, London Drugs and later in the summer at Sport Chek. When I ordered a Flex mid-May from Fitbit.com directly, the backorder time was 6-8 weeks. As of writing this post, I’m still waiting…. tick…tick…