A friend of mine has a Fitbit Charge HR Wireless Activity Wristband and raves about it. I also noticed that it is the number 1 top seller in Fitness Technology on Amazon. That many people can’t be wrong, I thought. So I succumbed to the fever and bought one a couple of weeks ago. Fast track to the end of the post (spoiler alert!) – I highly recommend this to anyone who wants to find more motivation to exercise and keep track of some pretty vital information. As with any device there are a few things that are not so great, but they are minor, so read on for my first bold steps into the world of wearable technology.
Fitbit Charge HR Wireless Activity Wristband Review
Features of the Fitbit Charge HR Wireless Activity Wristband
Here is a list of the features of the Fitbit Charge HR Wireless Activity Wristband:
- Continuous, automatic, wrist-based heart rate monitor and simplified heart rate zones
- Tracks workouts, heart rate, distance, calories burned, floors climbed, active minutes, and steps
- Monitors sleep automatically
- A silent alarm
- Call notifications, daily stats and time of day on the OLED display
- Sync stats wirelessly and automatically to your computer and over 120 leading smartphones
- Comes in a range of colors, including basic black
The Fitbit Charge has surprisingly sophisticated features such as calorie burn, water consumption, exertion levels, etc. And it comes preset with default goals, such as 10,000 steps per day. A pretty good number for anyone to get started with. You can of course change this if you want to start slower, or if you are more ambitious and want to do more.
So let’s start with the obvious – I chose teal and it looks great! I don’t have a problem wearing this all day, even at the office.
There are also other colors to choose from.
Sizing of the Fitbit Charge HR Wireless Activity Wristband
You need to wear your Fitbit Charge about one finger width above your wrist bone, and then move it higher (two to three finger widths above your wrist bone) when working out. This brings me to my first small complaint. There should be more information on the website about where to measure your wrist so you can order the correct size. Unfortunately I chose a Small band and needed to exchange it for a Large band. If I was smart I would have read through the reviews where a number of people commented on the sizing – DUH.
I am an average-sized Caucasian woman, and there is no way on earth the Small would fit (at least not when it has to be two finger widths above the wrist). A friend of mine who has positively dainty wrists tried it on, and it was even too small for her. So my advice would be that unless you are an incredibly TINY person, order the Large.
Getting started with your Fitbit Charge HR Wireless Activity Wristband
The Fitbit Charge HR Wireless Activity Wristband is splashproof but not waterproof, so no swimming or showering in it. The Fitbit Charge HR Wireless Activity has borrowed from the Apple model of simplicity with only one button control. It also arrived in a pretty smart looking package with a USB charging cord, but without any instructions except to visit www.fitbit.com to get started.
First you plug a little dongle into your computer, and connect up your Fitbit Charge via the USB cord to sync it all up. Second minor complaint – the cord is really short, which make it awkward to work with.
Third minor complaint – the connection to the Fitbit falls out quite easily, so you have to handle with care.
Once you log in and set up an account at www.fitbit.com you have a personal dashboard on your computer that syncs with the wristband to track steps, exercise, sleep patterns, and many more features. You can also sync it up with your smart phone.
The unit was a little iffy the first couple of days – it labelled an outdoor bike ride as a workout, and didn’t seem to accurately count the steps walked or floors climbed during the day. This was easily rectified on the dashboard by deleting the inaccurate information and inserting the correct information. I think that the unit was in a calibration mode, because as the days passed the information became more and more accurate.
The Fitbit Charge HR Wireless Activity Wristband auto-records exercise
Here is a screen shot from the dashboard, showing how the Fitbit Charge auto-records various kinds of exercise:
Clearly there is some very sophisticated bio-feedback in use, because it distinguishes between walking and outdoor bike rides really well. This brings me to the most important feature of the Fitbit Charge HR Wireless Activity Wristband, which is that the unit is always ON! For people like Joe and I who also use Strava and Garmin to track activity, it can be a pain to try to remember to switch on and off to log the correct stats; not so with Fitbit Charge HR Wireless Activity Wristband! It just automatically logs your exercise, and it is really motivating and rewarding to be able to admire how much you used your heart during the day!
Another great feature is the information provided for each workout. Here is the analysis of a bike ride I completed on Friday. Because we live in a very steep hilly area I was using my electric bike. As you can see, even with an electric bike I still got 47 minutes of cardio and 40 minutes of fat burn! Proof positive that electric bikes will help you improve your fitness! See this post by Joe about the surprising number of calories you can burn on an electric bike!
The Fitbit Charge HR Wireless Activity Wristband measures calories burned quite accurately
Joe and I were always skeptical about the calories burned calculated on our Garmin bike computers. They sometimes recorded 800 calories burned on a 20 km ride! (On that basis, both Joe and I would have lost enough weight to completely disappear years ago!) Because the Fitbit Charge HR Wireless Activity Wristband has access to your body mass index, and works with METs (metabolic equivalents) this is clearly a more accurate calculation of calories burned.
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Problem with bike rides not being recognized as active minutes by Fitbit Charge
I can understand why bike rides do not contribute to the daily step count, but I am not sure why it is not recognizing the ride as active minutes. I researched it, and it seems it is a common problem – one that has made a lot of people very angry, as the problem seems to have started with a software “upgrade” last year. On the one hand, the Fitbit is very much step-based, so one bit of crazy advice on the internet is to wear it on your ankle while cycling! Given how tiny these things are, and my ex-runner legs, I would need to buy a size XXXXXL to fit one on my ankle. Not doing that! Besides, as the Charge has an integrated heart rate monitor, it absolutely should be counting my bike rides as active minutes. No excuses when my heart rate is so high not to count the active minutes.
Fitbit – sort this out!
Constant heart rate monitor
Apart from that bizarre problem, the constant heart rate monitor is perhaps the best feature. The normal range of a resting heart rate is between 60 to 80 beats per minute (bpm). As you become fitter your bpm should decrease. A great motivational feature. Even better for someone with a heart condition as it beats wearing those uncomfortable heart monitors on your chest. At any moment you can press the button and check instantly how your HR is doing.
Automatic sleep monitor on the Fitbit Charge
The biggest and best feature in my opinion is the Sleep monitor. I highly recommend this, especially if you battle with sleep issues, as I do. The unit tracks the time it took you to fall asleep, how often you woke up, and how often you were restless each night. This is brilliant!
I lent the unit to Joe so he could track his sleep for a week because we were suspicious that he might have sleep apnea. He now has a report he can take to his doctor, which confirms that he is spending enough time in bed, yet not getting enough sleep. Look at this comprehensive information summary. There is also a report feature that is provided free of charge. This report shows someone who is just not sleeping well enough.
Smart phones, caller ID and challenges on your Fitbit Charge
In addition to linking the Fitbit Charge HR Wireless Activity Wristband to your computer, it will also sync up with your smart phone so you can check your progress in real time. And if you link it to your smart phone, it shows caller ID on the Fitbit, which is really useful for someone like me who often loses her phone. This way, I don’t have to run around like a loon looking for the phone, if I can see on my wrist that the incoming call is not important anyway.
Much like Strava you can also set goals, invite friends to challenges, etc. For example, you can set yourself higher goals for steps walked on weekends, or challenge a friend or partner to see who can do the most steps! I can see Joe and I getting into some serious duels over this! All great motivational tools.
Steps climbed feature on the Fitbit Charge
One minor quibble I have is that the steps climbed feature does not work for me at all. Some days it will tell me I have climbed 57 floors – not in this lifetime! I don’t know why it does that. I know it calculates steps climbed using a built-in altimeter, so it may be that this happens when I cycle uphill. So no, the technology is NOT yet perfect.
Making smarter choices because of my Fitbit Charge
I found that just because I was wearing the Fitbit Charge, I started making smarter choices. Should we walk to the restaurant or drive? Let’s walk – I haven’t hit my 10,000 steps goal yet! It also reminded me to get up and walk at lunch time, because I could see that if I didn’t, I would not hit my goals. So I would say it definitely achieves its primary mission, which is of course to get you to exercise more and generally live more healthily.
I don’t tend to agonize over calories, but if you want to, the Fitbit is just right for that. You can input food eaten straight into your smart phone or the dashboard, and the Fitbit will keep a running total of how many calories you have eaten and how many you have expended. This would be great for anyone wanting to lose some weight.
Motivation from my Fitbit Charge!
I found wearing the Fitbit to be HUGELY motivating. When you reach 10,000 steps, it has a little buzzing fit – which really made me weirdly happy! As in, aced that one today! And as I said, it encourages me to keep making healthy choices, all day long.
I highly recommend the Fitbit Charge HR Wireless Activity Wristband as a stylish and motivating workout buddy. After my initial annoyances with it, I now love it, and would not want to be without it. And of course, Joe wants one too, after trying it out for a couple of nights!
If you do decide to get one, please consider clicking through from one of the links in this post (such as this one) to thank me for my research and writing. Think of it as buying me a coffee – except that Amazon will pay, not you!
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