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Fitbit Flex Review – or ‘How My Fitbit Changed My Life’*

Although I’ve called this post a Fitbit Flex Review, a better title would probably be “How my new Fitbit Flex finally got me off my ass, when everything else failed.”

If you’ve been reading my regular weekend updates, you probably know that I’ve been seriously struggling with exercise lately – and by “lately” I mean “my whole life”. I think it’s safe to say I’ll never be a gym bunny: I’m the kind of person who’s always had to force herself to do any kind of exercise at all, and recently I’ve been… well, not doing any kind of exercise at all.  Or not much, anyway: I’ve had a few short-lived periods of renewed motivation, but they’ve never lasted more than a few days, and every week has been yet another fresh start that didn’t last.  Not even the purchase of new workout clothes has managed to tempt me back into my running shoes for long  – in fact, not even the purchase of new running shoes managed to do it, and when new shoes can’t motivate you, I don’t know what will.

fitbit flex review

Well, actually, I DO know: the Fitbit Flex has managed to motivate me, and that’s why this post isn’t so much a Fitbit Flex review as it’s a quick rundown of how it’s helped me. I’m not going to give you an in-depth breakdown of the Fitbit Flex features, or tell you how to use it, because there are plenty of sites out there doing a better job of that than I could, but for those of you who don’t know, a Fitbit is an activity tracker, designed to monitor how much you move in any given day, how well you sleep, and a bunch of other stuff besides. So it’s a fancy pedometer, basically.

There are a few different types of Fitbit to choose from: I got the Fitbit Flex (or rather, Terry got it for me, because I’m spoiled.), which is a slim band you wear on your wrist. You’ve probably seen it in some of my recent posts, in fact, on account of how I never take the damn thing off. (Other than to shower, anyway, and it’s waterproof, so you don’t even need to take it off for that if you don’t want to…) I sleep with it on. I exercise with it on. I, er, take blog photos with it on:

Fitbit Flex review - what the Fitbit Flex looks like on

All the time, people, not even joking.

Because of this near-constant use, I’m able to use my Fitbit Flex to monitor:

○  HOW MANY STEPS I TAKE EACH DAY

○   HOW WELL I SLEEP AT NIGHT

○   HOW MANY CALORIES I EAT EVERY DAY

○   HOW MUCH WATER I DRINK (Clue: NOT ENOUGH)

○   HOW MUCH EXERCISE I DO EVERY DAY

And so on and so forth. The steps, sleep and exercise are measured automatically, thanks to the motion censor on the Fitbit Flex itself. The rest (food, water, etc) you have to log manually, either using the iPhone app which syncs with the Flex, or the desktop version, which does the same thing. Both of these also give you access to all of your stats (arranged into handy graphs and charts, for your viewing pleasure), and allow you to see how you measure up to your Fitbit-owning friends, who you basically compete with to see who’s done the most steps in the last seven days. Nifty.

 

UM, ISN’T THERE AN APP FOR THAT?

Here’s the thing: none of this is anything new or revolutionary. Pedometers have been around for as long as I can remember (I once got one free inside a packet of Cornflakes, actually. True story.), and for everything I’ve just mentioned, there is, indeed, an iPhone app. I should know: I’ve used them all. I’ve used apps to track exercise, apps to count calories, apps to encourage me to drink more water, apps to monitor sleep… You name it, I’ve probably believed it was going to change my life at some point.

So how is this different?

Honestly, it’s not: if you wanted to, you could track all of this information on your iPhone or tablet, and save yourself a bit of money. Plus, you wouldn’t have to walk around looking like you were wearing an electronic tag, so there’s that.

For me, though, where the Fitbit Flex triumphs over all those apps is first of all in its ability to pull all of that information together in the same place, where you can see at a glance how active you are – or how active you’re NOT in my case, because WOW, were those first few days of stats a wake-up call for me. I mean, I work from home, and because of that, I knew my lifestyle was fairly sedentary: if I don’t make an active effort to go for a run or something, I’ll basically just sit at my desk all day, and that can’t be good for me. Like I say, I knew this, but I hadn’t really thought much about it until the Fitbit arrived, and I started looking at the stats. Most people seem to set 10,000 steps per day as their goal, so I followed suit, assuming I’ d probably get pretty close to that just through normal activity, right? How hard could it be, after all?

Folks, it can be hard.

My Flex arrived on a Friday, which meant my first full day of tracking was the following day – Saturday. That night, Terry and I went to a party, and I managed to clock up 7,000 steps in a couple of hours, just from dancing. Yay! This was SO TOTALLY EASY!

The next day, I did 2,500 steps, if that.

The day after that? The same.

It turns out that without the dancing, and without what I think of as exercise-for-the-sake-of-it, I hardly move AT ALL. And honestly, that made me a bit ashamed: especially when, as I said in this post, I could see my mother-in-law, who’s in her 70s, easily smashing that 10,000 step target day after day. Now, don’t get me wrong: I know there are plenty of people who aren’t able to be active, for a whole range of perfectly legitimate reasons, but the fact is, I’m not one of those people. I’m young(ish), I’m fit(ish), I’m healthy… there’s absolutely no excuse for me to be sitting on my ass all day, and I can justify it as much as I like by saying how OMGBUSY I am, but I know I’m kidding myself if I think I can’t fit in a quick run from time to time. Also – and there’s no way to say this without it sounding super-cheesy, but realising how little I move every day made me realise that one day I may not be ABLE to move around easily (And that day will come sooner than later if I continue to sit at my desk guzzling coffee for 14 hours a day), so I should probably get off my ass and make the most of my health while I have it. Sermon over.

 

fitbit flex tracker

So that was the first way the Fitbit Flex helped me: it provided me with a much-needed wake-up call. Here are some of the other benefits I’ve found to it:

○   GOAL SETTING

I’ve mentioned before that I’m very goal-orientated: I like being able to set a target for something, and then meet – or preferably BEAT it. The Fitbit Flex allows you to set targets for steps, calories burned, weight loss, or whatever you want, and then it tells you how close you are to meeting those targets. I’m the kind of person who will not rest until she’s met her target for the day/week/year/whatever, and I mean that literally: if it’s almost bedtime, and I still have 500 steps to go until I meet my daily target, I’ll get on the treadmill and walk/run until I’ve done it. I’m not saying those additional few steps will make THAT much difference to my overall health and fitness, and some would argue that setting arbitrary step targets is a bit pointless really, but without that target, I probably wouldn’t work out AT ALL – in fact, I’d barely move at all –  so it’s something that works for me, and regardless of what you think of counting steps as a measure of activity, in my case there’s no arguing with the fact that it has made a big difference to how active I am.

 

○ HEALTHY COMPETITION

This won’t be a factor for everyone, but I find a little bit of (friendly) competition quite helpful in motivating me, and I like being able to log in every day and see where I am in the ‘league table’, so to speak. You can “friend” people via the Fitbit app in much the same way as you do on Facebook, say, and once you’re friends with someone, you can see their 7-day step total. Even if you’re not competitive, it can be useful to see what the “average” level of activity is amongst your friends, and see how you measure up to that. If you ARE competitive, you can start contests with your friends to see who completes the most steps in a day/weekend/whatever. I haven’t tried this, because I’m not really into that kind of competition, but if you are, it could be another way to motivate yourself.

fitbit stats

○ IT WORKS.

Once I got past that first weekend, and realised how little I was doing, I have to say, this has done exactly what it’s supposed to do – it’s motivated me to get up from my desk and actually MOVE. I’ve run more in the past week that I have all year, and I’m already seeing the benefits from it, in that I’m sleeping better, waking up earlier, and feeling more energetic during the day. My current aim is to get my 10,000 steps in first thing, so rather than procrastinating at my desk for hours, I have my morning coffee, then get on with trying to hit my target, which I do through a combination of dog-walking, running (either on the treadmill or outdoors) and what I guess I’d call “normal activity”, i.e. moving around the house, running errands etc. Because I still find exercise-for-the-sake-of-it pretty boring, I do my best to try and be more active in other ways: walking rather than taking the car, taking the longer route rather than the shorter one, etc etc. I’m not claiming here that 10,000 steps per day is the perfect amount, or that it’s going to change my life, but I DO know that it’s significantly more activity than I had been getting, and that has to be a good thing.

 

○ CREATING HEALTHIER HABITS

Most of all, I think the Fitbit Flex has helped change the way I look at exercise. It hasn’t made me LIKE it, I hasten to add – it would be a miracle that would do that, not a black rubber wristband. I haven’t suddenly started leaping out of bed every morning, eager to go for a run, and when I DO work out, I’m still glad when it’s over, but the biggest change is that I no longer feel quite so resentful about having to do that workout in the first place. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I don’t ever seem to get the famous endorphin rush people talk about through exercise, and I’m not aiming to lose weight either, so in the past, working out always seemed like a bit of a thankless task, really. It was boring, it was time-consuming, it didn’t make me feel great afterwards, and although I knew that it was good for me, there was no tangible evidence of that to keep motivating me: it was just a chore I did because I felt I had to, and it felt like a lot of effort for very little reward.

With my tracker, though, I’ve been able to see exercise in context: I can see how little I was doing before, and I’m now starting to see my daily workouts less as a chore to be got through, and more as an investment in my health, as cheesy as that probably sounds. I resent it less because I feel like there’s an actual purpose to it now, and although that purpose may be a purely manufactured one, it works for me.

monitoring daily water intake with Fitbit Flex

HOW ACCURATE IS THE TRACKING?

Finally, the main question I’ve been getting from people in “real life” about my Fitbit is how accurate the tracking, and how useful it is to aim to walk X amount of steps, anyway.

First of all, the step-counting is just one of the ways you can measure activity: it’s the one I’ve chosen to use, purely because it’s easy, but if you’re not interested in how many steps you do, you can choose to set your goal as calories burned or distance walked instead. As far as accuracy goes, I’d say it’s fairly accurate when walking – when I’ve tried walking with the app open on my phone, I can see the steps being counted, and they always correspond pretty well to the steps I’m actually taking.

It seems a little less accurate when I’m running, which I’m not hugely concerned about: the Fitbit Flex is supposed to be an “activity tracker” as opposed to a simple step counter, and as long as the tracking is consistent, and the number of steps it counts in a hour today is roughly the same as the number of steps it’ll count in the same activity tomorrow, I’m OK with it occasionally missing a few steps. I’m more interested in increasing my activity levels than in knowing exactly how many steps I’ve taken in a day, so I’m using the daily step total as a benchmark to measure how active I am, as opposed to a way to count every single step I ever take.

 

THE DOWNSIDE?

I guess for me, the only real downside to this little gadget is that it’s not the best looking accessory out there. Mine is the black version, and while it’s not horrible looking, it’s not exactly something that goes with every outfit, or that I’d choose to wear for aesthetic reasons. You can, however, buy replacement Fitbit Flex bands, including these Tory Burch for Fitbit bracelets, which I really like:

Tory Burch for Fitbit bracelets

They’re pretty pricey, so I’ll be waiting a bit to make sure I’m actually going to keep using it before I think about getting one: I wouldn’t wear it when I’m working out, or for day-to-day use, but I think they’d be handy for those times when I’m wearing something that DOESN’T work with a black rubber band…

Anyone else got a Fitbit? What do you think of it?

[EDITED TO ADD: I wrote this post yesterday, and right before I went to bed, my Fitbit randomly stopped working. Looks like it’ll have to be replaced – mine was a refurbished one, so I’m guessing there was probably something wrong with this specific one to start with, rather than it being a problem with the device in general, but I thought I should probably mention it given that I’m publishing a review on the thing! ]

* slight exaggeration

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29 Comments
  • Amber I’m not kidding when I say (as another Fitbit user) that this could have been written by me, word for word…! As you know I also work from home – being a full time blogger does run the risk of creating a sedentary lifestyle sat at your computer all day. Without repeating what you’ve already written, here’s my thoughts…

    You mentioned about getting up and getting a lot of activity out the way first thing in the morning: this is a habit I’m trying to get into, and today was a model morning: straight out of bed, a 20 min walk and then put a washing load on, had breakfast and was sat at my desk ready to start all by 8:30am. If I can fit in another walk at lunchtime I will, and then I do a proper workout or go for a half hour run in the evening. All of that plus a few bits of housework throughout the day just to give myself a break from the screen adds up to not *that* much more than 10,000 – you’re right it’s scary how little you move when you have a job that involves working at a computer! I do it for all the same reasons as you. Like I said you could have written this for me, about me.

    Right – time for a cuppa and to hang that washing (few more steps). If you like we can be buddies on Fitbit – or is that a bit scary?! Seeing as ours lifestyles/jobs are similar it might make sense (we might both regret it because I like having goals and can get quite competitive too, hehe)!

    Great post. If I didn’t have a Fitbit already I’d be straight out to buy one after reading this 🙂

    Catherine x

    • Amber
      May 13, 2015

      Yes, let’s be Fitbit friends! The more the merrier, I think! It honestly is quite scary to realise how totally inactive working from home can make you – I knew I wasn’t doing much, but it was really useful to have a few days where I didn’t actually attempt to do anything extra, and just monitored my average activity. Left to my own devices, I’d probably struggle to do 10,000 steps in a working week, let alone in a day – pretty shocking, really!

  • The Dame Intl
    May 13, 2015

    I’ve been thinking about trying a gadget like this, I too sit at home, usually in my bed, online all day, blogging and researching etc, I try to get to the gym a few days a week, but I like that I can also log how much water I drink and how my sleep patterns work out given that my walls are so thin my neighbour’s crying baby sounds like it’s in my own bedroom!

    • Amber
      May 13, 2015

      I love the way that it lets you monitor so many different things, and get an overall picture of your general health… I’d been doing my best to fit in a few runs a week, but I’d convinced myself that 30 minutes would be more than enough: seeing how little difference those 30 minutes actually make was a real eye-opener!

  • Gemma
    May 13, 2015

    I bought replacement bands (polka dot & floral) for £2 each on ebay. Ironically, I still use the black one more, but it’s nice to have a change.

    • Amber
      May 13, 2015

      Yeah, I’ve been looking at some of the replacement ones on eBay – I have my eye on a polka dot one, but a lot of the others seem to have a “neon” theme, which I’m not keen on! I don’t mind the black one most of the time, but I would like to have a nicer one for when I’m going out somewhere – when we went to a party a couple of weeks ago, I felt a bit silly in a nice outfit and a black rubber wrist band, but I couldn’t bring myself to take it off, and miss out on all those steps I knew I’d log from dancing!

      • CiCi Marie
        May 13, 2015

        When I told my mum I was getting one and she commented on the ‘not looking nice with nice outfits’ thing, I said I could wear it on my ankle – problem solved! Until she pointed out the police would be after me to cart me back to prison.

  • Donna
    May 13, 2015

    I am a little bit obsessed with my Fitbit, well mostly the sleep tracker. I find it quite fascinating. I was laughing this morning as I had dreamt about being at a gig and, if my Fitbit is anything to go by, I was clearly dancing in my sleep! It’s a really useful tool and I can see how it would motivate someone who is self-competitive. I’m having to suppress that side of me as the reason I got one was to try and stop myself from overdoing it and staying within my limits (health reasons). It is good to have a visual reminder so that I can adapt what I am doing. I think the Fitbit makes tracking all of the parameters so easy. Whereas you can save money and use your phone with things like my fitness pal, it’s a hassle having something that drains the battery so much. The Fitbit is great as it doesn’t need charged all that often.

    • Amber
      May 13, 2015

      I hadn’t actually thought about it being useful in other ways, but that’s a really good point – I can totally see how it would help you stay within your limits if you’re trying not to over-do it! I’m quite fascinated by the sleep monitoring too, and it’s actually helped me feel a bit less guilty… I tend to get up quite late (well, later than someone with a “normal” job, anyway), and people assume I’m lazy because of it, but it made me realise that yeah, I don’t get up super-early, but that’s because I don’t go to bed until the early hours of the morning! (I obviously knew that, but something about seeing it in black and white made it all a bit clearer! Unfortunately I think a lot of people will still just assume that unless you get up at the crack of dawn, you’re super-lazy, but at least I know different!)

  • Anca
    May 13, 2015

    I was so interesting to read this post about the Fitbit. I think I should buy one, but I do walk at least 1 hour each day and with the dog at a steady fast pace and I do intensive workouts 30 minutes each day. I’m not sure I would need it.

  • Mckristie
    May 13, 2015

    email or call Fitbit customer service regarding yours not working. They are great and may replace.

    • Amber
      May 13, 2015

      I didn’t get it from them, unfortunately – we’ve contacted the seller, though 🙂

  • CiCi Marie
    May 13, 2015

    Because I am completely influenced by other bloggers and tv adverts I just ordered mine with the help of some birthday money this week! I’m really excited for it to arrive (read: completely impatient and why isn’t it here already even though I ordered it on Monday?!), as though I’m not particularly goal orientated, I am obsessed with tracking my calorie intake vs my activity levels. I’ve been using the phone app and really pleased to see that on the days I’m commuting (which is most of them) I’m easily smashing my 10,000 step target, so hooray for that! We could be Fitbit friends but I might make you feel bad about that 😉 That, mind you, would be the only thing I made you feel bad about considering how much chocolate I eat daily and lack of ANY other activity there is in my life. Exercise isn’t even going to be recorded on that thing as I don’t do it… Thanks for the review anyway, it’s made me even surer it was the right thing to blow my spending money on!

    • Amber
      May 13, 2015

      If it makes you feel any better, you can’t see other people’s calorie intake or exercise, all you see is their 7-day step total, so you can continue to eat as much chocolate as you like – I know I do 😉 Definitely send me a request once you get it – hopefully I’ll have mine replaced by then: I’m SO impatient waiting for them to get back to me – I just keep thinking how far behind everyone I’m going to be by the time I start tracking!

  • char
    May 13, 2015

    I don’t have one….yet. I have been considering one for a while, though.I have some Amazon vouchers stacked up and think this is what I’m going to spend them on. I have a Polar hrm and go through phases of using My Fitness Pal to log my eats, but I find it clunky and sometimes lose interest as it’s always telling me I’m not eating enough etc. I go to the gym at least once per day and it would be useful to have something I could wear all the time. I’m very competitive too, so would like the idea of being able to connect with other people.

  • kerry
    May 13, 2015

    Ok, so I am like you, I hate exercise. I do try hard, but I get no joy in it. If this little bracelet, (its a bit ugly eh) gets my lardy-arse off the settee, Im all over it! Thank you!

  • Sandra
    May 13, 2015

    Hey Amber – before you go out and replace it – send the fitbit company an e-mail. If you can prove that you bought it (still have a receipt or even a credit card statement), they will most likely replace it for you for free. They did with me! 🙂

    • Amber
      May 13, 2015

      I didn’t actually buy it from them, or I would have: I have contacted the seller, though 🙂

  • Harriet
    May 13, 2015

    I love my fitbit. It was scary how little exercise I used to do in a typical day, particularly on the weekend when I don’t have to leave the house. I have a fitbit zip which just clips on to my bra so no concern about coordination with outfits.

  • Liz Tea Bee
    May 13, 2015

    I have a Fitbit One and I can clip it to the center of my bra so you can’t see it at all. I really like that feature. I’m no usually a competitive person but I love beating my (thinner, healthier) sister’s step totals!

  • Fiona
    May 13, 2015

    I love my fitbit. I have always been reasonably active on days I’m at work (in a shop) but not so much on my days off.
    My fitbit makes me go for more walks (I’m even trying a little running), I’ve taken up Yoga through youtube videos and if you’re ever in my shop you might just see me pacing up and down the fitting room like an idiot to keep moving and get the steps in.
    I aim to get all green every day no matter what I have to do to get there!

  • Retro Chick
    May 14, 2015

    I’ve had a flex for about a year now, I love it! I love the feeling when it buzzes at 10,000 steps!

    It syncs with My Fitness Pal as well, which is really handy as I use that as a food diary.

    I’ve sent you a friend request using your email, hope it was the right one, I love having more people to judge myself against. Though all my friends who walk to work make me feel bad! I’ve also found it doesn’t track skating very well, so I started taking it off, so sometimes I’ve done like 2,000 steps, but actually spent 5 hours at Roller Derby practice!

    • Amber
      May 14, 2015

      Got it! I love the buzzing, too – I’m all, “YES! I HAVE ACHIEVED SOMETHING!” It’s the little things, sometimes 😉

  • Sharon
    May 14, 2015

    These activity trackers really open your eyes in my case I got a rude awakening as to what I wasn’t doing if anything.

  • Oh Hey! Blog
    May 15, 2015

    Everyone in my family has one and I feel the guilt instantly at family dinners when I don’t have the black band on like the rest of the cult (just kidding they are lovely, normal folk). I think I would be similar to you in that once I set a target I would keep working until it was just done.. I’m sure the reality of how still we are most of the day is the biggest wake up call!! I don’t know if I can handle that reality just yet ** reaches for cupcake**.

    Megan || http://www.ohheyblog.com

  • Nicola
    May 16, 2015

    I got the Jawbone Up Move and it really worked with me – for a little while!

    THen one day I forgot to put it on, and that was sort of it, I couldn’t get it back into my routine again. Plus the app annoyed me because every day it put me into the red for all my foods even if I’d eaten pretty well that day, haha. As I’m a shift worker it also didn’t work great for me, as it enjoyed having a go at me for weird eating times or for sleeping at wildly different times each day – which I get isn’t the best for you, but for those of us in the emergency services we don’t have a whole heap of choice!

    Nicola // pink-confetti.co.uk

  • Katie
    May 23, 2015

    Oh I love my fitbit! The thing that got me was the sleep tracker – I really wanted to see what my sleeping was like! It’s definitely a good motivator in getting more active.

  • manwithvanblackfriars
    May 28, 2015

    That is pretty awesome! I get used to walk and exercise regularly now. Getting my butt off the couch was one of the toughest things since that little thing come in handy! It is so good when there is a some kind of motivation and reminder of your scores throughout the entire process.

  • Katherina
    December 3, 2016

    I have a fitbit blaze and before that I was an avid (meaning I only took it off to charge) user of my fitbit Charge HR. I love my fitbit, definitely one of THE BEST purchases I’ve ever made!

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