Monday, August 10, 2015

Fitbit Charge HR Review

I've had a Fitbit Charge HR for almost two weeks now. I really like it!

I was initially interested in a fitness tracker back in early 2014 (or was it 2013?). My husband got me a BodyBug for Valentine's Day, which required a separate monthly subscription after the free three-month trial. I liked that it kept track of my heart rate, but it was quite visible. You put it around your upper arm, and it was quite lumpy under clothes and even more obvious when wearing tank tops. I did the three-month trial, liked it, but didn't continue because I'm apparently more vain than I think I am...and cheap. The $7/month fee seemed a bit steep.

I had been eyeing the Fitbit for a while, but it seemed like an overpriced pedometer. When the Charge HR came out, I was a bit more intrigued because it kept track of your heart rate (much like the BodyBug), but it was easier to wear. And these days it seems like at least a third of people my age wear some fitness tracker.

So I bought one in a moment of weakness almost two weeks ago. It's pretty awesome, especially the social media aspect of it. You can easily find friends if you link it up to Facebook, and then you get invited to challenges. If you have any competitive spirit, you get sucked into doing your best on challenges.

Since my frame of reference is the BodyBug, I'll do a little comparison to that. I think the BodyBug was better at tracking sleep. I get a bit of funkiness in the Fitbit Charge HR sleep reporting that the BodyBug didn't seem to have. As mentioned previously, the Fitbit Charge HR is less obtrusive, and it has the social media element that the BodyBug didn't have.

Now let me go over a few features of the Fitbit Charge HR and my general sense after only wearing it for 2 weeks:


If I read in bed before falling asleep, it usually counts it as sleep even though it's not. If you take a nap for less than an hour, it doesn't recognize it as such. The false readings may cancel each other out in some people, but I think overall it slightly overestimates the amount of sleep you're getting. This is the one area where the BodyBug was superior.

Heart Rate Monitor

I've seen several reviews that say the Fitbit's heart rate monitor isn't the best, particularly if you're doing high intensity interval training. My personal fitness regiment doesn't include that type of training, so I can't speak to it. I do a lot of walking, some jogging, and weights. The weights are for toning, and I know there's not much "exercise" as it's traditionally defined while doing it.

Because the Fitbit is mainly a pedometer, it encourages activities like walking and running. If you do activities that you can't do with the Fitbit (like swimming) or the Fitbit doesn't give you credit for (heavy weights), then you might want a different tracker.

If you choose to record specific workouts, then you get good data on your heart rate during the workout, provided that it includes walking/running/climbing. If you don't choose to record the workout, then you can't get data on your workout as a whole. However, you can look at what your heart rate is while you are doing the workout.

I find it's helpful to use the "check your heart rate" feature to see approximately what your heart rate is based on your exertion level. If I feel like I'm really pushing it, then it makes me feel good if my heart rate is over 150.


Pedometer Function

Every 2,360 steps for me seems to equate to a mile in distance traveled.

Calories In/ Calories Out

I told the Fitbit that I wanted a goal of losing a pound per week (500 calorie deficit per day). I love the concept that it takes into account the food I log as well as the exercise I've done throughout the day. I find it's easier to cut yourself off from food using the Fitbit. Oops, out of calories, you either have to get off your butt or put down the cookie.

I've only gone over calories once since I've had it. Every other day I have created that 500 calorie deficit.

However...I have a problem with understanding/interpreting the Fitbit during the middle of the day.

So it's around noon right now. I've eaten 501 calories so far today. But it says I have 714 calories left to eat, which doesn't make sense because that implies I have a 1,215 calorie/day limit. Not true! I have a 1,600/day limit + can eat anything I burn over 2,100 calories/day. By the end of the day, it makes sense, but in the middle of the day I have problems understanding the "calories left" field. It seems extremely low.


I am so glad I bought the Fitbit Charge HR! A small part of me is skeptical about the calories burned field because it seems kind of high, and it's fairly easy to get a 500 day/calorie deficit. I'll have to come back and see if it affects my long-term weight. I have lost 2 pounds in the 2 weeks, but it's really hard to determine if that is solely because of the Fitbit or due to any other reason.