Was your fitbit a game changer...or not?
May 7, 2014 8:48 PM   Subscribe

I'm really itching to buy a fitbit to help lose weight and get in better shape. I'm interested in hearing from people who got one. Was a fabulous gamechanger that totally whipped you into shape? Or just something that ended up in your junk drawer because it was too cumbersome? Also, is it reliable for women when clipped to the center of the bra between the cups? I don't want it to be visible.
posted by skjønn to Health & Fitness (39 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I used mine every day for a month, then it lost re novelty effect and I haven't touched it since. It's very neat, I just can't be bothered to charge it every few days.
posted by third word on a random page at 8:51 PM on May 7, 2014

I liked mine for the data collection, but it's not likely to make that big a difference in terms of weight loss by itself.
posted by tau_ceti at 9:00 PM on May 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've had mine about a year and a half, and wear it clipped in the center of my bra. It has been a useful tool and I've added a lot more activity as a result of tracking it. The batteries are about $3 and I've replaced them twice.
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 9:01 PM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

I clip mine on the inside of my pants pocket, so almost totally not visible. Also, I used it rigorously for a month and then basically forgot about it.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:02 PM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

For me these gadgets can be helpful, but you have to be self-motivated to set and meet goals. If you don't have some self-motivation or you think it will whip you into shape, it's much more likely to be a waste of money. The mistake most people make with these things is that they buy them and expect that the device will turn them from feeling like being a couch potato into feeling like being active. If you're not motivated, then a little device lighting up and blinking, or an app on your phone is not going to do much to get things started.

But if you have that motivation already, then it can be a cool tool for you that will show you exactly how far you are to your goal.
posted by Old Man McKay at 9:06 PM on May 7, 2014 [5 favorites]

I got bored with the sleep and fitness tracking stuff, but do find the alarm ridiculously useful, so I keep it around for that. I'm considering taking the refund offered on my recalled FitBit Force and buying a cheaper, potentially more comfortable vibrating wristwatch thing.

If you don't want to give up on using it, set an alarm or two with it so that you'll have a good reason to stick with it. It's a good way to wake up, or remember to take medications at a certain time, or whatever else you might need to do, and allows you to set a whole bunch of alarms each day for different days of the week.
posted by asperity at 9:25 PM on May 7, 2014

I love my fitbit!

- I keep mine in my pocket, and it's pretty reliable
- It has happy messages like HELLO and LET'S GO that make me smile
- I like the cumulative awards, like climbing as high as the Empire State Building
- Charging it is no big deal for me, as I usually keep a USB charger plugged in for various and sundry

I used it more my first year when I was hiking almost every day or walking a lot for work, and I'd be surprised to discover how far I'd walked in a normal day. I found it in a drawer last month and I've been using it.

For me, it's been a nice motivator to be more active.
posted by mochapickle at 9:34 PM on May 7, 2014 [5 favorites]

I recently re-discovered my fitbit after many months of it being in the bottom of a drawer, and I'm wearing it today. I wear it clipped to my bra and it doesn't stick out, but I suspect that might vary depending on the geometry of your bra and boobage. I think that it over-reports my steps, both when clipped to my bra or my pocket. I must admit it hasn't been a game-changer for me, but when I've been highly motivated it has sometimes spurred me on to do more walking than I otherwise would, and I think in general it raises my consciousness a bit about my level of activity, which is good.
posted by Cheese Monster at 9:56 PM on May 7, 2014

If you're interested in seeing how it works out for you, you could try getting super cheap (but nonetheless awesome) alternatives. I use the app Moves and the app Sleep Cycle, which track your steps and your sleep, respectively. They cost a combined total of probably $5 (if you have an iPhone not sure about other systems), and are excellent and intuitive to use. You also carry them with your regular phone, so they're unobtrusive. Maybe try them out and see if they make you increase your steps/whatever, then see what you're thinking?

Data point/disclosure: I had a fitness tracker thing like the fitbit and it was fine but hard to really build into my routine. I'm into these apps because they're frictionless.
posted by c'mon sea legs at 10:09 PM on May 7, 2014

I didn't have a fitbit, but I had a similar gadget, and it turned me into a crazy person that would walk in circles while waiting for lights to change at crosswalks, just so I could get in more steps.

Then again, I'm a little obsessive.
posted by ktkt at 10:10 PM on May 7, 2014 [7 favorites]

I've had two different fitbits over the past year. I love it.

I've also lost about 40 pounds over the past year. The fitbit has helped with the weight loss, but it's not the reason for the weight loss (though the walking I did initially, before any diet changes, probably is responsible for the first ten pounds).

The main thing it has been useful for is as a general guide to how much I'm moving. Last fall, my daily goal was 12000 steps, but this spring I was preparing for a major exam, so I lowered it to 8050, since I had less free time. Because I know how much I'm moving, I know what my real baseline of activity is, and now that my exam is over, I know I need to kick it up a notch, rather than just keep on keeping on.

I've got the force now, and the vibrating alarm is also super helpful in making sure I get up on a regular schedule. I don't really do the sleep tracking.

When I had the clippy kind, I wore it on my bra strap, not the middle. It was unobtrusive, and easy to check when I wanted to see my progress.
posted by ocherdraco at 10:25 PM on May 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've been loving mine, mainly because I can just leave it in my pocket with my keys and not worry about it each day.

As for effect, it's definitely improved the amount I walk each day (and made me more mindful of walking vs. elevator vs. bus, etc.)

I really liked/used the food-tracking aspect, but the holidays killed that habit for me after a couple days of not wanting to deal with updating it. (I should get back on that, now that you mention it...)
posted by CrystalDave at 10:48 PM on May 7, 2014

I found that it's sort of cool to know how many miles you walk in a day but didn't find it gave me any motivation. OTOH my boyfriend is someone who is really, really driven by numbers (all his hobbies are things that he quantifies by tracking high scores, speed records, etc.) and for him it did definitely lead him to walk more and go to the gym when he didn't make his goal, but at the same time if he forgot to wear it he would be *less* inclined to walk than if he never had one. That said, everyone I know who had one has lost or broken theirs at least once, often several times, and most of them got sick of replacing it -- it's possible the new designs are an improvement on that.
posted by phoenixy at 1:11 AM on May 8, 2014

No gadget is going to be a fabulous game changer to totally whip you into shape. Either you have the internal motivation to exercise more, or you don't. Lesson learned after buying way to many gadgets.
posted by COD at 5:00 AM on May 8, 2014

Junk drawer (or rather, junk pocket of backpack) for me. I used it all the time for a while, but like ktkt, it turned me a bit mad. I didn't walk in circles at traffic lights, but I DID walk in circles in line for the coffee machine at work, or while waiting for the elevator!

What I find helps me most is reminders to get up and move. I am an object at rest that tends to remain at rest until acted upon by an outside alarm. I tried to use the fitbit for this, but couldn't program it to vibrate more than 8 times a day. I need reminders like... every 15 minutes or so.
posted by kythuen at 5:16 AM on May 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't have one, but was talking to a friend yesterday who does. She said she is probably the only person who got a Fitbit and then gained weight. Something about seeing all those steps she's taking makes her feel more justified in eating that cheeseburger. So that's a completely different data point to consider.
posted by thejanna at 5:43 AM on May 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

I've had one for years and love it. The data is nice and helpful, but what really makes it a keeper for me is that my wife has one, too, and we're linked online. So every week, we compete to see who can walk more and climb more steps. That social aspect for us has been the real engaging piece.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 5:54 AM on May 8, 2014

I got a fitbit One recently and also love it. Their web interface is great (you can sign up free and check it out ahead of time) and I enjoy the leaderboard with my friends. I find that wearing it daily keeps fitness and nutrition on the top of my mind, so I've been eating better and starting to lose weight again after a stall without really changing my exercise habits.

I've used a sleep watch before and pedometers, but the big leap forward of the fitbit is that all the maintenance, data logging, etc. is all automated. I just walk near my computer and it syncs; I don't have to remember to. It notifies me to be charged, which I do when I'm sitting at my desk already. It's pretty invisible to me other than checking that I have it.

My #1 lifestyle change from using the fitbit has been, surprisingly, from the sleep tracking - I thought I was getting 7+ hours per night, but through the fitbit I've found it's usually on the 5-6 hour range. I fall asleep quickly, but I was going to bed later than I gave myself credit for and not taking care of sleep hygiene well. I can tell now when I have more restless nights and have started taking the dog out before I go to bed so I didn't have to wake up overnight any more.

I lost my first One about a week after I got it - clipped it on the outside of my pants (no!) and ran the dog's morning walk because I was running late.

Check craigslist and ebay - I got my replacement here, which saved me a bunch since I already had all the accessories. I made a new stretchy sleep band that it stays in all the time and that bundle gets tucked in my pants or into my bra during the day.
posted by bookdragoness at 6:20 AM on May 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Got one as a gift, recommended by my sister-in-law, who loves it, and used it for about 2 days. The main factor was that I do not want to wear it clipped up against my body, for possibly superstitious health reasons (but see warning notices re Fitbit Force). I was wearing it on a necklace chain, which looked stupid, plus the reply to my inquiry was that data collected that way would not be accurate.
posted by mmiddle at 6:20 AM on May 8, 2014

I have had a Fitbit flex since January, and I love it. I completely ignore the calorie counts because they seem suspiciously high, so I've avoided falling into the trap thejanna mentions above. Having a step goal really does make me more active -- instead of throwing out papers in the can by my desk, I'll walk to the copy room to put them in the recycling bin, or when I'm walking the dog I'll tack on a couple extra blocks. The social aspect is fun and motivating, as are the various badges you can unlock.
posted by coppermoss at 6:33 AM on May 8, 2014

I have used my One every single day that I have had it, for about 1.5 years or so. I track my steps, food, calories, and use the alarm. I think their iPhone software is good, but not great. Watching my step count motivates me to do things like walk to the bathroom that is up a floor instead of the one right outside my office or park farther out, just so I can get those few extra steps.

I have looked at the BMR/TDEE calculators online and compared them to what my FitBit measures. Overall, I would say that is fairly accurate, as long as you are accurate about your food logging. I try to error on the safe side for all additional exercise, overestimate what I am eating by a bit, and I have had success.
posted by Silvertree at 6:50 AM on May 8, 2014

I think the answer to your question is just going to depend on what motivates you. For me, the answer is yes, definitely a motivator. I have to confess, I don't have an actual Fitbit, but I've been using the Fitbit app (and others) on my iPhone 5s.

For me, gamification of daily tracking turns out to be a huge motivator, especially if there is a challenge aspect. I'd been using My Fitness Pal to track food for over a year, and it has turned into a habit. I struggle with activity though, and walking is pretty much my primary exercise.

I'd been considering Fitbit and had done research (what I found is that many people find the One clip more reliable than the Flex bracelet; in addition to causing skin reactions in some people, the Flex will erroneously count arm movements as steps). Then I upgraded to the iPhone 5s, and realized that I could tryout the app to see if it actually was motivating.

First, I just sort of worked out my baseline daily movement. This was January during totally shitty weather in NYC, so I wasn't doing much extra walking. Then I discovered a similar app to Fitbit, called Striiv, that has even more game elements, including tracking your progress against "friends" on a daily basis. Once I added a few friends (not people I know, people I connected with through the MFP forums) , and the weather has gotten better, I'm really upping my daily average. I take walks at lunch, get off a couple of subway stops early to walk home, and take long walks with my partner. My overall daily average has moved from about 3000 steps to 6062 steps.

Just this past week, My Fitness Pal has integrated a step tracker into it's functionality. So now I have three separate step tracking apps. They all tend to be similar, with Striiv sometimes being ahead by a few hundred steps. Since these apps are doing the trick, I've held off on buying a FitBit... although I do think I would like the stair counting functionality.

One more thing... the FitBit/step counting thing hasn't really been a big weight loss thing. Making nutritional changes was the key for me. But increasing activity has helped me power through a plateau.
posted by kimdog at 6:57 AM on May 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have one and like it. I have been losing weight through diet alone for 15 months and wanted to get more active. I made myself walk on the treadmill for 3x a week for a month before I bought it.

I do wear it every day (on my wrist), and I love the sleep tracking, but I have never hit 10000 steps once. I have a sedentary job and am a student (online), so I have to make an effort to exercise because it's not just going to happen. Because I am so busy otherwise, I am fine with walking 1-2x a week (as I will be done with school in December). If I can be more active in the mean time, that's great, but this thing hasn't made me more active. (I got it in November) (I also got it very cheap, gently used, from someone on Facebook)
posted by getawaysticks at 7:15 AM on May 8, 2014

I have the Fitbit Force and I really feel like it motivates me to move a lot more. I try take stairs more and elevators less and take fewer shortcuts.
posted by octothorpe at 7:22 AM on May 8, 2014

What I find helps me most is reminders to get up and move. I am an object at rest that tends to remain at rest until acted upon by an outside alarm. I tried to use the fitbit for this, but couldn't program it to vibrate more than 8 times a day. I need reminders like... every 15 minutes or so.
The Jawbone UP & UP24 have a customizable idle alert. You set the interval and the timeframe.

I have an UP24 & a Fitbit Flex. (They're both bands—I wear them 24/7.) They all sync with MyFitnessPal, so you can “earn” more calories to eat while still losing weight.
posted by editorgrrl at 7:34 AM on May 8, 2014

I have the One (or had, it recently went through the laundry). I was already pretty active, so it hasn't been a life changer for me, more of a neat tool. It was fun to give it to my postal carrier boyfriend to see how much he walks on his route. And to compare my steps on trips to places like San Francisco to my everyday life. The automatic logging for activity was nice, but I would have to manually add in activities it doesn't do well such as cycling and weight lifting.
posted by weathergal at 7:46 AM on May 8, 2014

I have the flex, and I've had it since it came out.

It wasn't a game-changer, since I was already trying to lose weight and be more active. I like that it syncs with myfitnesspal, so it increases my calorie budget on days I move more.

I do find myself getting a little competitive with my friends, and doing things I never would have done, like walking around the train station for 20 minutes while i'm waiting for my train to come--I need those steps!
posted by inertia at 7:55 AM on May 8, 2014

My UP (similar concept) has done three things for me:

1) The idle wrist alert has made it so that I don't even think about getting up to stretch/walk a little bit every half an hour - It's now Pavlovian. Great for my back health, my eye health, and my overall movement during the day.

2) The sleep settings make me get to bed at a reasonable time, as I can now quantify how much deeper and better my sleep is the more time before midnight I get to bed.

3) The step counter makes me feel accountable to myself to hit targets. I get an email every week with how I did and knowing that, if I feel like I haven't been active enough during the day I go for an additional walk to compensate.

I would say this - if your biggest problem isn't getting started, but sticking with a thing...and you like data/reports - I found the UP very helpful in this regard. It is akin to the little number of undone tasks on my to-do icon - it puts just enough pressure on me in the moment to make better choices that overall I do.
posted by rutabega at 9:29 AM on May 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Another vote for: Not a game changer.
posted by vitabellosi at 9:34 AM on May 8, 2014

Didn't like it. Data was wildly inaccurate. Driving a car got me lots of points for exercise, while exercise rarely added minutes. And I got virtually no useful sleep data, which was my main goal.

You must subscribe monthly to get direct access to your data. The wrist version doesn't have a secure clasp and so gets launched from your body when you brush it against things.

And worst for me was that in the SF bay area FitBit early adoption tended to be a nonpositive social indicator, at least in my experience. Perhaps it is in wide enough use now that this is no longer an issue.

I'm a fan of the concept, not the execution.
posted by lothar at 9:56 AM on May 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I enjoy having mine but agree with the above that it isn't a game changer in and of itself. Mrs. mmascolino does the bra clipping approach when she is pocket-less and I have never been able to tell that it is there.
posted by mmascolino at 11:37 AM on May 8, 2014

I've had 3 different Fitbit devices over the past 5 years, because they seem to keep me moving somewhat more than I do without them. Not a miracle by any means, but I'm slightly more active.

My previous one survived two washing machine trips before it stopped holding a charge longer than 24 hours, and now I have a wristband so I don't do that again.
posted by telophase at 1:06 PM on May 8, 2014

I love my Fitbit. Honestly, for me, it did change my life.

I have a One, and wear it every single day. I leave it in my pocket and it's pretty reliable. I wear it on my bra when I don't have a pocket and it again, seems pretty accurate. I don't use the sleep function.

I use it paired with Myfitnesspal to track my calories in/out. If I walk more, I'm allowed to eat more calories. Simple, yes, but it works - for me anyway. I like that it's based on real data - so I feel happy eating my extra calories when I know I've 100% earned them. Something about tracking calories just really clicks with me.

In the last 1.5 years I've lost 30 pounds and maintained that loss using the Fitbit/Myfitnesspal combo. I'm 33 and feel healthier than I have in 15 years.

My boyfriend, Mom, Dad, and two of my uncles use their Fitbits everyday too, so that's five more data points.
posted by peanut butter milkshake at 1:27 PM on May 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

I love mine. I had a Flex since last fall and it definitely motivated me to move more. I thought I'd do it for a few weeks just to get a baseline, but I've fallen for it.

I just switched to the One this week, as some of the walks I take involve big hills and I wanted credit for them, and so far I like it more than the Flex. I know it's inevitable that I'm going to put it through the wash.

I just started the social aspect last week, when a friend invited me. So far that's a motivator, too. I'm competing with a friend who lives in NYC and doesn't have a car, and seeing her do twice as many steps as me makes me realize how many more opportunities I have to walk. My kids wear my old Flex and the blinky lights motivate them, too.

So yes: motivated! But I have that sort of mindset. I love quantifying things, and keeping records, and I'm a sucker for the perky "You can do it!" messages Fitbit sends me. Plus my One calls me "Hey Babe," which I like.

The One seems to be better for tracking sleep than the Flex. It's more comfortable, and it seems more accurate. I, too, realized I wasn't sleeping as well as I thought I would, and in fact I just poured a leftover cup of coffee down the drain instead of drinking it for just that reason.

You can get them used, or get "open box" discounts on Amazon or what have you. If you have $80 - $90 to spare, it's definitely worth trying out.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:43 PM on May 8, 2014

I couldn't deal with one more thing to charge, put on, monitor, etc. I wanted to love it, but it's sitting in a drawer.
posted by barnone at 2:06 PM on May 8, 2014

I've worn mine every day for months. It helps me notice when my overall activity is going down (like, I moved offices and stopped walking half a mile each way to the bus stop). But it really kicked in when my friend got one about six weeks ago, and now we compete on the leaderboard. We are right about the same level of activity so I know that walking an extra thousand steps might put me on top for the next week or not, which I find really motivating!
posted by the agents of KAOS at 3:30 PM on May 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

I got one a few months ago, and I've lost close to 10 pounds so far with it and with a calorie tracking tool. While I already went into things with the intention of losing weight, it has helped me quantify my activity levels (and reminded me just how sedentary I usually was), and the various tools for tracking weight and food help as well, as long as you're motivated to use them. If having additional data and seeing graphs that show you your activity levels and progress towards a goal helps with the motivation, a FitBit is great for that.

The fact that it's small and requires little effort to use also helps; most exercise equipment ends up neglected because I "forget" to use it and I don't integrate it into my habits. With the Fitbit, I don't *have* to change my routines immediately, but because it is always there measuring my activity, I start to look for ways to increase my activity by taking more walks or parking further away, or taking the long way around the building to get somewhere, etc. If there's any "magic" to what the FitBit does, it's that it's really easy to add to your existing lifestyle and see visible results to even minor changes in activity immediately (even if they are just numbers on a screen) that a scale won't measure for you until weeks later.
posted by Aleyn at 3:51 PM on May 8, 2014

Like rutebaga I have an Up. I've had it since December 26 last year. For me it's a terrific motivation device. I use it to track my sleep and my activity. My Up has helped me increase my level of activity to a GREAT extent and has helped me quantify how much movement I do every day/week/month. I sleep with the Up and I spend my days with the Up on my wrist. I never take it off, unless to clean it.

I use it to track how mobile I have been in a day. I do some activities that cannot be picked up by these Fitbit/Up/etc devices (for example, lifting weights) and that's fine, I can still enter these activities in an app for calorie calculations.

I track my numbers daily with a weekly point of view (eg, I shoot for at least 70,000 steps a week). I have been known to go for a walk at 10pm to top up my steps to 10K at the end of a non-rest, active, day. But I also usually take one day off every week for recovery, as I usually train 1-3 hours a day. I need that one day of nothing every week.

These devices are fragile. I'm on my second Up, the first one conked out a few days after reaching 1 million steps. The customer service has been excellent, I received another Up within a few days. My friends, who have other devices (Fitbit, Basis, etc) have had issues with theirs as well, and have received replacements quickly as well. This is new technology, and the companies are vested in a positive customer experience.

Finally, beware the calorie estimates from these devices. The variances for the same hour of elliptical (for example) can be quite great across device manufacturers, trending on the too optimistic. Err on the side of conservative, on that point.
posted by seawallrunner at 5:49 PM on May 8, 2014

Do you enjoy balancing your checkbook? Then the Fitbit is right for you.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:46 PM on May 8, 2014

« Older Identify this half remembered parable   |   Looking to buy a particular pair of shoes Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.