Fit bit...body media arm band or other option?
January 24, 2014 3:29 PM   Subscribe

I would like to get an idea of how many calories I burn in a single day. I'm also interested in being able to log my food intake using a database. I do not want to have to sync with my computer daily, but do want to use my smartphone. I am looking to spend $150 or less. I am willing to wear the monitor on my wrist or arm. I do have a large hand so any bracelets would need to be a strap with closure. Please tell me which monitors you like and don't like about the one you use. What does the hive recommend?
posted by Coffee Bean to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
My wife uses the fitbit force (the one with the clock).
She LOVES it. I liked it, but had issues with the band causing a rash (which apparently is an quality issue with the band many users are reporting it). My wife thinks it is because water gets trapped under the band and bacteria starts growing there if it isn't regularly wiped clean. I'm not sure if this is actually the case, but she is careful and has had no issues. The sleep functions were AWESOME.
Fitbit will sync with your phone. Make sure your phone is on the qualifying list if you have an iphone, some work and some don't based on how old your model is. Both of our Android phones work just fine.

It does come with an app to input exercise, food, water. I didn't use those functions, and neither does my wife who uses it primarily for steps and sleep. It looked like those functions would have been easy to use on the smart phone.

The results are laid out in nice graphs for an easy understanding of data which I really liked.
posted by AlexiaSky at 3:42 PM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I love my Fitbit Force but the key to getting steps etc. to register is to have its dongle plugged into a computer you pass by fairly regularly so it can update. You can otherwise keep track of food, etc. on your smartphone or tablet. It comes with a longer strap for bigger arms so that should work for you. The Fitbit support people are great, and the website and app are both very functional.

I also find that the Force makes a fine little wristwatch.
posted by bearwife at 3:44 PM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

AlexiaSky is right -- the Force band causes a rash in 8-10% of users who are sensitive to the trace amounts of nickel in the band. The FitBit people are working to fix that by finding a nickel free band material. If you are one of the majority who have no nickel sensitivity, you won't have a problem.
posted by bearwife at 3:46 PM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


The fitbit we have will transfer step information to our phones with no issue.
posted by AlexiaSky at 3:50 PM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I had the Fitbit Flex, and really liked it, but like the wife of Alexiasky, it gave me a rash (and they're only reporting this about the Force, but I'm here to tell you it happens with the Flex as well). The first time I used it, the rash didn't happen for about 6 weeks, so I gave it up. I tried it again two months later, and I had itchy welts within three days. I loved the alarms on the Flex, I used them to remind myself to get up at least once an hour at work and make a lap around the floor to help my back out. I miss being able to use it.

The one thing that the Fitbit One had going for it, that the Flex does not, was its ability to track your steps up stairs. Unfortunately, the container for the Fitbit One just caused me to lose it all the damn time.
posted by instead of three wishes at 3:50 PM on January 24, 2014

I have the fit bit one, which at times can be a little annoying to wear if you don't have the right bra on, but otherwise is great. If you're a dude this obviously won't be a concern. I've even inexplicably put it through the washer and dryer at least twice and somehow it's just fine.

I also find the calorie count to be very accurate.
posted by whoaali at 3:51 PM on January 24, 2014

I love my Flex, but I have the rash issues too. I actually thought it was caused by something else until the news about the force band came out and I realized it was the Fitbit causing the rash. I'll probably upgrade to a Force when they figure out the allergy issue anyway. If you want to track all your food intake/measurements/other stuff, the fitbits also integrates really well with MyFitnessPal. My Flex was an upgrade to the One (before the Force was released...grar!) after my One finally died after one too many accidental cycles though the washing machine.
posted by cgg at 4:06 PM on January 24, 2014

I loved the Fitbit Force, but returned because of a rash as well.
posted by Fig at 4:08 PM on January 24, 2014

I have the Flex and like it. It does what you want. The large strap is large. I got mine new for about $80 as an Amazon Warehouse deal -- the package had been opened but I didn't see any wear on the Flex itself.

I have a nickel allergy but haven't had a reaction to the band.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:17 PM on January 24, 2014

I have a Fitbit Force and love it. I haven't experienced a rash. I love all the info it captures. I have used a Nike FuelBand in the past and liked it too, but it lacks the ability to enter food into the app.
posted by bedhead at 4:28 PM on January 24, 2014

I have the Fitbit flex and I find the band comfortable. If you regularly do activities that have you walking while keeping your hands still, like pushing a stroller or a cart, it will not register those activities correctly from your wrist. I put it through a belt loop and it registers it fine.
posted by bq at 4:45 PM on January 24, 2014

If your primary exercise is walking or running the Fitbits are great. But if you cycle or swim or otherwise do exercises that do not register in foot strikes, it's not going to track it. In that instance you want a heart rate monitor. Someone else would be better able to advise you on which one.
posted by cecic at 4:51 PM on January 24, 2014

Fitbit Flex (no rash), sync with iPhone and log food via My Fitness Pal. Works great.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 4:51 PM on January 24, 2014

I have the Fitbit force with no rash issues and it syncs up nicely with my Moto X.
posted by octothorpe at 5:14 PM on January 24, 2014

The Wirecutter recommends the Fitbit Force, but they talk in that article about a tracker coming out from Garmin in the next month that might be way better.
posted by Maecenas at 5:14 PM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I got a fitbit force for Xmas and I love it. I have never monitored anything before, and I love seeing my step count and my (terrible horrible restless) sleep patterns. You can log food and water intake, and it tells you calories in and out. My whole family has fitbits and we cheer eachother. It is the niftiest gadget I've had in a long time, and all my friends are sick of me talking about it. I use it as a watch as well. Recommended.
posted by oomny at 6:11 PM on January 24, 2014

Neither the fitbit or the jawbone up track heart rate, so they don't truly work for calorie monitoring.
posted by politikitty at 6:27 PM on January 24, 2014

With the Fitbit, can you enter foods using barcode scans?
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:15 PM on January 24, 2014

I use My Fitness Pal in my phone to do that. The two apps communicate with each other.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:37 PM on January 24, 2014

Here are the compatible devices for Bluetooth LTE syncing for Fitbits. If you have a phone other than these, you may or may not be able to get the mobile sync to work. My phone (and my 2012 Nexus 7) will acknowledge that the sync should be working but that my device isn't currently compatible. So I can only sync before and after work at my home PC.

With the Force you do have to get the specific size you need, large or small. The Flex comes with a band of each size. If you won't be able to sync with your phone then I'd recommend the Force since it's a bit easier to get feedback about your daily progress.

You can set the Flex to display progress towards one goal (calories burned, steps, etc.) but you only get a fairly vague 1 light = 20% to goal sort of thing and it's not nearly as precise as you might like.

Also be aware that there have been some sync delays with MFP lately, if that sort of thing matters to you for the calorie counting aspect (check out the Fitbit Users group on there for more info). It always gets there eventually but sometimes it takes a while. And it's worth noting that for activities like pushing a stroller or grocery cart, or carrying bags, if your arm isn't swinging freely you might not get an accurate step count.
posted by miratime at 8:06 PM on January 24, 2014

I had the body media device and I didn't like it much. It was too big and obvious. I also didn't think the calorie estimates for workouts were very accurate. In fact, I think it wildly overestimated a lot of activities. Other people have told me it seemed very accurate to them.

Now I have the FitBit One which I find accurate and unobtrusive. It's also very durable. I've tossed it in the washer and dryer and it's still fine. (Trip through the washer counts as about 5000 steps FWIW.)
posted by 26.2 at 9:41 PM on January 24, 2014 [5 favorites]

My wife and I use Fitbit Ones and we are both very happy with them. It is small and unobtrusive and fits nicely in a pocket. For days when Mrs. mmascolino wears a dress, she wears it clipped to the front of her bra like their web site shows. It is totally hidden.

The device will sync to modern iPhones and a growing list of popular recent Android phones. With that said, even if you just went with computer syncing it is really easy and unobtrusive. The PC side connector is tiny and you could leave it in all the time. You don't have to do anything overt to sync as your mere presence near the computer will trigger a sync.
posted by mmascolino at 9:51 AM on January 25, 2014

I use Jawbone UP and I LOVE it. I've had it since December 26. I use it for sleep tracking and for step monitoring. The UP also enables me to enter other exercises ( lifting weights, Nordic skiing, running, elliptical ) with an effort level ( easy, in the zone, difficult, etc ). I see trend graphs for the day, the week, the month, and "max". These trend lines display sleep, weight, steps, distance, etc... The UP comes in three sizes, choosing the right size is easy as long as the top and bottom touch your wrist gently at all times.

I also like the fact that I manually sync the device through the earphone plug on my iPhone - I don't like the idea of two devices draining their batteries by talking with one another all day.

The UP also sends me motivational challenges ( water, sleep ) and points to research on relevant health and fitness articles from medical journals and peer reviewed articles.

Because I have entered my height age and weight into the application it can calculate the caloric expenditure from a day's workout. I specifically enter exercises I have done, into the app, for more precision - simply tracking generic steps is not enough.

The device looks good and works well. I also use a food log on my iPhone called My Net Diary which works online as well as on my IDevices.

I wish you good luck with your quest for a wearable device. They are fun, easy to use, and useful.
posted by seawallrunner at 8:28 PM on January 25, 2014

For meal tracking, I find My Fitness Pal (free web and smartphone apps) to be much more convenient than either the FitBit or BodyMedia's apps (I have both those devices). You can use MFP for meal/calorie tracking and FitBit/BodyMedia for activity tracking. The data cross-syncs with each of the apps (MFP calories->FitBit and FitBit activity->MFP).
posted by elmay at 8:05 AM on January 26, 2014

I have a Jawbone UP and a Fitbit Flex. I linked them both to MyFitnessPal, where I log my food & drink. The Jawbone app is way better than Fitbit’s. UP has all kinds of customizable charts & a stronger social component. It offers insights (with interpretations of your data) & issues challenges like “take x number of steps today” or “go to bed by y o’clock.”

I bought them in spring 2013, and each has died & been replaced twice (so far). Fitbit’s customer service is way better. And Fitbit has more partner apps, including Health Month. Fitbit also makes non-bracelet trackers that can be clipped to your clothing or tucked in a pocket.

I don't sweat the accuracy. I use my step count as a metric to gauge my activity level (and, by extension, my health & well-being).
posted by editorgrrl at 9:49 AM on January 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

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