My week with a Fitbit

Rachel spent a week wearing a Fitbit, an activity tracker which records how many steps you take and how well you sleep, to see if they could really help you to lose weight.

Fitbit makes a number of different activity trackers. Many of them perform the same tasks, however, I chose the Fitbit Flex as, unlike other activity trackers, it is worn as a wristband, rather than being strapped to your belt.

An activity tracker, such as the Flex, tracks the number of steps you take, the distance you travel, the calories you burn and, at night, it monitors how well you sleep. The Flex can even wake you gently in the morning when you are in your lightest phase of sleep.

The Flex tracks all of this information wirelessly. It then wirelessly connects to your computer or smartphone, so you can track your progress. You set a goal, for example taking a number of steps per day, and the Flex app uses graphs to tell you how you are tracking throughout the day.

Activity trackers are supposed to help motivate you to be more active. It is recommended that the average adult take 10,000 steps each day. The idea is that if, as the afternoon wears on, you notice you have only taken 8000, you might decide to go for a walk to make up the rest instead of heading straight home to sit on the couch.

But does it really work? Click NEXT to read about Rachel’s experience.

I wore a Fitbit Flex for a week to test the theory. I ordered it online at the Fitbit website, and the device arrived in the post within 48 hours. The packaging was simple, as was the setup (although there’s still a piece in the box which has no apparent use). I charged the device through my laptop, put it into the smaller of the two wristbands provided and decided to start using it the following morning.

The wristband itself isn’t too large – I didn’t get down to the smallest hole – but the design means that if you have narrow wrists it sits out too far on either side. It wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t a perfect fit either. This would only be a problem for some women.

The Fitbit Flex lets you know how close you are to your goal with five little lights. You tap the wristband twice and they light up – one dot for every two thousand steps. If you are partway through a dot it will blink. It was a subtle way of checking my progress throughout the day, which was handy.

The first day I used it I was surprised at my progress. I mostly work at a desk, but I’d had quite an active day, walking to meetings and the shops. But by the end of the day I’d only made it to 8000 steps. It was a wake-up call – I realised that on other more normal days I must be managing far fewer than the recommended 10,000 steps. Determined not to be beaten I did end up going for a walk to make up the 10,000, and was gratified when the wristband began to vibrate and light up, celebrating when I’d reached my goal.

The rest of the week was similar. On days where I hadn’t planned any physical activity I had to incorporate an extra walk to achieve the 10,000 step goal. If it was a day when I was visiting the gym I’d usually blitzed it by halfway through the workout.

I think that activity trackers such as the Fitbit Flex are a great way of making you more aware of your activity. It certainly prompted me to get up and move around which, according to recent studies, could be increasing my lifespan by up to five years.

I’d call this gadget a win, provided the cost isn’t too high and you aren’t too precious about wearing a rubber wristband.

You can find out more about Fitbit and its activity trackers, including the Flex, at the Fitbit website

What do you think? Would an activity tracker such as this help your fitness? Or would you rather monitor yourself without a gadget?