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October 15th 2013 12:16 pm

Fitness trackers and their impact on your life

Fitness trackers seem to be coming out from just about everywhere, almost as frequently as Bluetooth speakers. Nike just announced a new FuelBand, Fitbit seems to be dropping a new fitness device every six months, Withings has the Pulse and there is the incredibly data heavy Basis Band.

Despite the never ending stream and incremental updates (looking at you Fitbit), they still continue to be a popular category not just at gdgt but in the tech-sphere. A lot of people are turning them with hopes of getting that motivational kick they need to become active; this is not just limited to devices either services like Strava and RunKeeper are there too.

They all look different but their end goal is the same, to get you to be more active. They all accomplish this through data metrics with some focusing on pure steps, others with points, and most through gamification. Fitbit and Withings offer very user friendly metric gather, while Jawbone and Nike are using a more proprietary way of measuring your activity. And then there is Basis who takes it to a whole new level with the amount of data it collects.

The question that always comes up though is are they effective in what they do? If you've been using one for some time know have you found it to be effective in making you more aware of how much you're being active? Or have they turned into nothing more than just a way to collect data for the sake of data tracking?

I have a Fitbit and recently moved over the Pulse. I thought the switch would make a bigger change since the Pulse can do more than the Fitbit, but at the end of the day I still am finding it having no impact on making me move around more. I wont say this is entirely the fault of the trackers though as I am a cyclist who rides 3-4 times a week, so perhaps these kind of devices are not best suited for me.

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7 replies

My fitbit has changed my life. now i know how much i exercise and use my fitbit to ensure i do 10k steps everyday. My fitbit keeps me honest. a fantastic motivation.
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I wouldn't say my Fitbit has made me more active, just more aware of how active I've been. I think my unfit physique is more of a motivator to do things than the number of steps I've taken in a day.
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As with any device you only get out what you put in. I use my Fitbit flex to remind me to get up and move, I use the alarms, and it is also a trigger for me because it is on my wrist all day. Just like my heart rate monitor, if I can see my heart rate isn't increasing or where I need it to be in a workout I push it more. I use my fitness gadgets to fuel me with information so that I can take action.
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I too have a Pulse, but don't find it nearly as effective as my Withings scale. That thing has made me pay more attention to my weight than any thing else.

The Fuelband SE looks interesting, but the next wrist/fitness device I purchase will (hopefully) be an iWatch. Not looking to replace my tracker or my watch until I can converge the two.
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What makes the Withings scale more affective than a regular scale?
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I want a Fitbit Force because I love the connected watch form factor, but being an owner of a Lumo belt I share your sentiments. It's important to recognize that buying fitness equipment for you home can easily give you the same sense of hope and initial motivation, but lead to being bored and unstimulated.


I wore the Lumo for a few months after backing it on Kickstarter. Initially I did learn how bad I was slouching at home and work and have taken measures to decrease this. However, I found Lumo to be intrusive, uncomfortable and not motivate me to do anything more than I normally did. I did like the data gathering, but don't miss it. Being tethered to the device was exhausting in itself.

Currently I'm looking to sell my Lumo and either getting this Fitbit Force or waiting for the inevitable Apple iTime. I would also like to point out that there's another device on Kickstarter that looks to be weight training based.

If I wasn't already negative about other Kickstarter projects such as Lumoback, I would probably choose this one. Mostly because you only wear it when your working out so it's made for people lift and train. Most of these other devices seem to be made for people who kinda want to maybe take a walk or something.
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My Jawbone UP really changed me. The most thing that made an impact is something I'm quite surprised isn't so commonly available in the other fitness trackers: the idle alarm. You can set your idle alarm for any time period (15 minute increments) and choose from what time to what time of the day the feature should be enabled for. I have it set to vibrate to notify me that if I haven't gotten up and moved from my seat for over 45 minutes.

The other thing that really affected me is having a steps goal. If I haven't reached my steps goal by the time I go to sleep, I try to go for a walk before sleeping, which also has the added effect of making me more tired, thus enjoying my sleep more.

The UP also shed some light on something I wasn't aware of, though it made very little difference. I was a very heavy and deep sleeper when I was younger, but it seems that's a thing of the past. After noticing my sleep tracking statistics, I paid a little more attention to some of the signs and noticed I wasn't as deep of a sleeper as I used to be.
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