Fitbit Flex Provides Useful Tools for Health and Wellness

A couple of years ago, I put on a little weight. Okay, a lot of weight. Over the last year or so, I’ve become much more health-conscious. I’m not a fitness nut, or even a health nut. I’ve just started trying. Instead of eating whatever sounded like delicious, I have been making a point to eat things that I like that aren’t fast food. It has gone a long way, but after losing around 40 pounds, I hit a plateau. I am pretty much hungry all the time, and I’m just not losing the weight any more. I had to resort to more pro-active measures.

Image: Fitbit
Image: Fitbit

I turned to the Fitbit Flex, a small electronic bracelet, which is a pedometer, alarm clock, and sleep monitor all in one. I didn’t have terribly high hopes, mostly because diet wasn’t making much of a difference. I decided it was worth a shot, though, and latched it onto my wrist, in the desperate hope that it might help. Just under $100 means that it doesn’t break the bank, and pays for itself in feedback.

I did not know what I was in for. The Flex is a discreet bracelet with a small electronic set into the band. I never take it off, except to charge it once a week. I sleep, work, and shower with it on. I usually plug it in while I’m writing, because not much walking happens in front of my desk.

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fitbit display
Image: FitBit

I downloaded the app and set up several features. One of the most useful features is the ability to set your “goal” number of steps. The band has the ability to tell you how many steps you’ve taken, in the form of five tiny lights. The more steps you’ve taken, the more lights blink on. When you’ve reached your goal, all five lights shine. To save power, you have to prompt the Flex to display the information—a feature I adore.

My personal favorite feature? The silent alarms. Set your alarm via the app, and the Fitbit will vibrate on your wrist to get your attention. This has been a great tool in my house, because it lets me set earlier alarms without waking up Jenny. It also allows me to set alarms at work, without having my phone set off in the middle of my shift. It even has a snooze feature—just in case.

Each night, I rapidly tap on my bracelet to tell it I’m going to bed. In the morning, I do so again, letting it know I’m up for the day. I can then check the app to see how I rested. The app shows how long I slept, how many minutes I was awake in the middle of the night, and how many minutes I was restless. Surprisingly, the data was accurate enough for me to adjust my bedtime habits until I reduced my restless time, which allows me to sleep better.

The app has other useful tools, such as a calorie counter and fluid intake charts. You can also edit your activity levels in case the Fitbit didn’t catch some of your activity, such as recumbent bicycle time. You can also add your friends, and have a little friendly back-and-forth. You can see how many steps your friends took, and even send them messages of encouragement.

Thanks to a Bluetooth dongle, the Flex automatically updates my information any time I come close enough to the computer. This, combined with my Fitbit Aria, allows me to track my weight, steps per day, sleep, etc., to get a complete picture of my daily fitness goals.

I still haven’t lost much weight, but I attribute that mostly to the fact that I’ve joined a gym, and I work out much more often. The Aria tells me that I’m losing fat, via its internal BMI monitor, and my pants definitely fit better, so I think I’m doing it right.

Pros: I wear it all the time, so I don’t have to remember to set it up, or put it on every day. Being part of my home network means that Jenny and I are linked to each other, and our Aria, so we never have to go out of our way to update our information.

Cons: I wear it all the time, so it is sometimes uncomfortable—especially while working out or showering. I do not like having the moisture on my skin. More than a few people have reported rashes or irritation from wearing the band, but I haven’t ever dealt with more than a slight irritation as my skin dries under the band.

Worth it? Totally. I work out more, sleep better, and have a better grasp of my daily health. Just remember that it doesn’t fix your problems for you, it merely gives you tools. The initiative has to be all yours, or you will never make it very far.

Note: The author received a Fitbit Flex for review purposes.

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Rory is a newly appointed stepparent to two awesome geeklings. He also writes for mental health awareness at Terminally Intelligent.