Let’s Get Physical
Each of the Fitbits I tested contains a built-in Global Positioning System (GPS) and tracks simple metrics like daily steps, distance, calories burned, and floors climbed. Users can display some or all the daily totals on their customizable watch faces and easily change the targets to match their lifestyles.
Tracking Daily Metrics and Goals
My daily miles target was preset at 3.1 miles. When I ran every day, that was easy to achieve, but I came up short on days I didn't work out. While exercising regularly, my weekly total exceeded 37 miles. My nightly dog walk was often interrupted by my Sense buzzing and displaying a visual reward acknowledging that I had accomplished five miles that day. Little touches like that can be inspirational for someone trying to stay fit.
When I didn't exercise, the dog walks upped my weekly total to 21 miles, a far cry from more active weeks. Of course, your mileage will vary.
One unique metric that Fitbits track is called Active Zone Minutes. It's calculated using your age and resting heart rate to provide you with a more personalized measurement of how hard you worked during any energizing activity beyond just steps. For me, I would clock an Active Zone Minute if my heartbeat were higher than 93 bpm and would get double credit when it was higher than 115. During a week when I ran every day, I logged over 550 Active Zone Minutes, but only 132 during a low-exercise week.
Taking a look at my daily Fitbit metrics and Active Zone Minutes
With these metrics popping up on my watch face throughout the day, aided by small vibrations heralding reminders to move after too much inactive time, it's easy to see how a glance at the Fitbit motivates you to keep moving. It's also fascinating to see these metrics displayed numerically and graphically on the app or website, including heartbeat tracking. Even though the watch face on the Charge 4 is smaller than the 1.5-inch, rounded, square-ish touchscreen of the Sense and more difficult to read in sunlight, the data is all large and easy to read on the phone or computer.
Did you know some studies have found that getting 7,000 steps a day could help you live longer? It's easy to track your steps with a Fitbit. Check out my video below to learn more about getting in your daily steps!
Fitbit Tracking and Data Accuracy
So, just how accurate is Fitbit's data? Regarding the Sense's electrocardiogram (ECG) app, federal regulators gave their OK to its algorithm's ability to accurately detect atrial fibrillation (AFib) from normal sinus rhythm.
On the other hand, since the Fitbit is usually worn on the wrist, a simple shake of the arm can cause the step counter to increase. I found that cooking could increase our step count a lot. Since those discrepancies tend to average out, I was fine relying on the metrics as an accurate relative measure of that day's activity level. Even when I cooked multiple meals for my kids, I rarely hit my preset target of 10,000 steps in one day.
If anything, the data recorded was often lower because of missed steps and exercise when I wasn't wearing the watch. The numbers may be rough, but you can still compare daily and weekly totals to each other despite these factors. In addition to the graphs and numeric displays, Fitbit would often surprise me via email with a badge, such as the Skydiver badge for climbing 1,000 floors since I started tracking, or the London Underground badge for covering 250 miles. I somehow earned a Skyscraper badge for climbing 117 floors in a single day spent in my two-story house without even working out.
Earning my Fitbit Skyscraper badge
During exercise itself, things got a little tricky. Fitbits recognize exercise sessions and display data after the fact, but I wanted to see my time and distance while running. To do so, I had to select “Run” from a list, then press the button to Start, Resume, and Stop tracking the activity. It was difficult to see what time it was mid-run, or sometimes to see the display at all without pressing the button again during a workout; I often accidentally stopped the monitoring while trying to see the data. On the other hand, after forgetting to start a workout on my Sense, it still accurately recorded that I spent 37 minutes on an elliptical machine. It was easy to see a map of where I rode my bike or ran and all the data for that exercise after it was completed.