Four Weeks With My Fitbit Force

As far as Fitbit fitness monitors go the Fitbit Force is the best one yet but not perfect.

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The Fitbit Force (Personal Photo)

“Disclosure: I am participating in the Verizon Fans Voices program and have been provided with a wireless device and six months of service in exchange for my honest opinions about the product.”

Three things are certain in life.

Death, taxes, and new year’s resolutions vowing to shed inches in January.

Holidays inevitably bring on extra calories and unwanted poundage to our waistlines. As a result we resolve to get back in shape. But we all need a little help now, don’t we?

This where the Fitbit fitness monitors came in for me. I used the Fitbit One in 2013 and for 2014 the Fitbit Force.

Here’s the CliffsNotes version for the Fitbit One as a comparison:

FitbitOne 2

My old Fitbit One. (Personal Photo)

The Fitbit One kept track of how many steps, distance, and *approximate* number of calories burned during the day. I’d usually wear it in the clip carrier.

It also helped monitor the quality of sleep I was supposedly getting by inserting the Fitbit One unit into the neoprene/velcro arm band. If I move my arm around the Fitbit One’s accelerometer would record it as me being “awake” or not in R.E.M. sleep.

The clip was simple enough to use. I’d just hook it up to my pants pocket or belt loop and didn’t think about it.

The arm band was more problematic. Especially so when I needed to wear a long sleeve or if the weather was warm. Prolonged use of the arm band (sometimes I wore it during the day) caused skin irritation so I stopped wearing it.

I continued to exercise (mainly running) but ditched the Fitbit One about six weeks into 2013.

The Fitbit Force

Fast forward to January 2014.

The good folks at Verizon Wireless surprised the #VZWVoices #fan bloggers with the newest Fitbit, the Fitbit Force.

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Fitbit Force vs. Fitbit One (Personal Photo)

1) I really liked the idea of the bracelet instead of the arm strap used for the Fitbit One. The Fitbit Force strap was :

  • Easy to put on and take off. It’s a little bit stiff in the beginning but after a few wears I was able to fasten the bracelet without any problems.
  • The perfect size for my wrist at night when I slept (~6.5 inches) and for my ankle (~9 inches) most days. Sometimes I would just strap the bracelet onto my spinning (bike) shoe laces for indoor workouts. I don’t know how accurate those readings were since the Fitbit Force was calibrated for arm movement but it seemed to work.
  • Very comfortable to wear all day. The clock function was an improvement over the previous models too. I didn’t have to double up on a watch and the fitness monitor.

2) The “goal setting” feature is nice if you’re a goal oriented person. I had mine set for 10,000 steps, 30 minutes of very active exercise, 5 miles of distance, 10 flights of stairs, and about 2,200 calories burned. If I reached those goals in one day I’d be rewarded with all green stats. Woohoo.

Some days were easier than others. January 31 wasn’t one of those days.

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Fitbit Force Dashboard on the Android app on my Motorola Droid MAXX.

3) The Fitbit Force comes with a USB dongle that attaches to my laptop. So the syncing the device wirelessly to my laptop is a breeze once it’s set up.

I can sync it with the app via Bluetooth or if you have a NFC-enabled device like my Droid MAXX the Fitbit Force will activate the app with a gentle tap. I may or may not have done that repeatedly just because it was fun and cool.

The free Fitbit apps in iTunes for Apple and Google Play for Android are both limited in what you can do. Most of your adjustments and logs will be most likely be done via the Fitbit website.

4) The unit itself is very battery efficient. I charged it out of the box for a couple of hours (it comes with a special USB charger). I got almost a full 8 days from that first charge and then an average of a week after that.

5) The sleep tracking feature was eye-opening. It was very interesting to see exactly how often I’d wake up on any given night. As you can see I don’t get enough sleep.

Fitbit Force Sleep Log

Fitbit Force Sleep Log

You double-click the Fitbit Force button to start the timer and then double-click again when you wake up. Or you can manually log the hours on the website dashboard.

6) One of my favorite features is the silent alarm function. Once the alarm is set the Fitbit Force will wake you up with gentle vibrations. No more jolting wake up alarms from my phone alarm.

7) The Fitbit Force is water-resistant which makes it easier for your active lifestyle. Don’t worry about sweat and such but I wouldn’t swim or shower with it on.

 8) The Fitbit Force is fitness app-friendly. 

fitness apps that are compatible with the Fitbit Force

Other fitness apps that are compatible with the Fitbit Force (via Fitbit.com)

If you’re going to use the calorie tracking feature (I chose not to) connect it to My Fitness Pal. My Fitness Pal has a great interface for scanning/tracking the foods that you eat. They have a good size food database as well.

9) I will say that the “calories burned” metric is a hit or miss for me. I am a bit skeptical of their numbers. Mainly because the Fitbit Force does not utilize a heart rate monitor to actually read how hard your heart is working.

It seems they base their counts on your body weight, height, and age to start then your activities.

Oh and all “steps” are not created equal. I made the mistake of not logging specific exercises into the “activity” part of the dashboard. If you’re walking at a brisk pace (5 mph) then that will be count differently calorie wise than say just a casual stroll.

10) Get social with it.

Our Verizon Wireless sports bloggers made a competition of it (most calories burned in a two-week span) and had a fun egging/cheering one another on. There’s nothing like peer pressure to get you to that green smiley face when you reach your 10,000 step goal.

Still A Work In Progress

  • I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to use the Fitbit Force. I could do as much (calorie and sleep quality tracking) or as little (basic features only like number of steps and distance). It’s all customizable to the specific goals you want to achieve.
  • $129.99 is pricey though if you’re using it for the basics but overall it seems like a good investment for one’s health routine. The Fitbit apps and online memberships are free so that’s makes it a little easier to swallow.
  • One thing I would like to see from Fitbit is a heart rate monitor for their product line. That’d be taking it up a notch and make me a firm(er) believer in the device. Hope they read this and take note.
  • According to Fitbit.com in four weeks I have logged 232,043 steps, 368 flights of stairs, and 101.57 miles.
  • For what it’s worth, I’ve actually gained three pounds since I started using the Fitbit. I’m calling it three pounds of “muscle” weight. 😛
  • My Fitbit Force tells me that I’ve burned almost 300 calories while writing this post. So that means I can go have a cookie now, right?

Let me know if you have any questions in the comments section below and I will do my best to answer them.

Thanks for reading!