Jesse Kornbluth reviews fitness’s hottest item—a wireless activity and sleep wristband.
I first heard about the Fitbit in a New Yorker piece by David Sedaris. It’s a one-joke story. Sedaris buys a Fitbit, aims to walk 4 miles a day, and, thanks to the electronic bracelet on his arm, he makes that target easily. “During the first few weeks that I had it,” he reports, “I’d return to my hotel at the end of the day, and when I discovered that I’d taken a total of, say, twelve thousand steps, I’d go out for another three thousand.” Soon he hits 35,000 steps a day. 40,000. 45,000. “Now I’m up to sixty thousand, which is twenty-five and a half miles. Walking that distance at the age of fifty-seven, with completely flat feet while lugging a heavy bag of garbage, takes close to nine hours.”
An obsessive finds a new obsession. Not a breakthrough notion for Sedaris, not that amusing, and not helpful in the decision to click-to-buy.
Then my friend Don Schlitz came to town. Don wrote “The Gambler,” which will keep Kenny Rogers in beach houses to the end of time. He co-wrote “Forever and Ever, Amen” and “When You Say Nothing At All” and half of Mary Chapin Carpenter’s early hits — he could get plenty of exercise just by lifting his awards. But he was wearing a Fitbit. And for a guy who mostly burns calories moving his fingers over guitar strings, he looked terrific. More, he assured me that I could reach my goal — become an International Sex Symbol before my book is published — if I’d just strap one on.
The idea behind the Fitbit is simple: If you see how little you walk, you’ll walk more. You’ll take the long way to your car. You’ll find the stairs. And as you pursue easy, attainable goals, health will become a lifestyle. I bristle when I hear that last word — you don’t have a lifestyle, you have a life! — but this is not the moment for a grammar lesson. I bought a black Fitbit Flex. (It also comes in blue, slate, and tangerine. ]
I plugged in my vital stats and modest goals, and set off. Results? Too soon to tell. So I asked for your experience with the Fitbit. In came a batch of mail. It was immediately clear that 1) you have been using the Fitbit before it was even a gleam in David Sedaris’ eye and 2) you have charted your results. Which proves the wise saying about the Internet: A smart community is smarter than the smartest individuals in it. Many thanks to all who…uh… weighed in.
Your experience tells me that this gadget is worthy. It not only tracks your daily steps, it monitors your sleep and acts as an alarm that silently brings you into a new day — it’s what a reader calls a “technonag.” Which, it seems, many of us need to get out of our chairs. Which really makes it a “technonanny,” yes? (To buy the Fitbit Flex from Amazon, click here. There is also the Fitbit One, a model that clips onto your belt or clothes. To buy the Fitbit One, click here.]
At first it shocked me to see how little I was moving.
I’ve been wearing a Fitbit for the past year. At first it shocked me to see how little I was moving each day. While I still spend most of my day anchored to a desk/computer, I now have a way to set and (most times) meet a daily goal.
It’s a problem if you live in Nashville, go to concerts and clap a lot.
It’s a godsend for anyone who sits in front of a computer as much as I do. It reminds me that I need to move. I’ve lost 10 pounds and have a ton of energy. I’m using it in my quest to be a healthy old person like my grandmother, who was always moving and died at 97. (Funny, she didn’t need a device to keep her accountable.) One thing that’s a bit of a pain: I’m in Nashville and attend a ton of concerts. Clapping either makes the Fitbit think I’m walking or it puts it in sleep mode.
I have Multiple Sclerosis, so I tended to give up after my morning walk.
With the Fiitbit, I’m encouraged to make my daily goals, so much so that I sometimes run through the house at night to get those pesky last few hundred steps.
A gentle nag but a valuable reminder.
It reminds me to get enough sleep, it allows me to plot my weight, and it buzzes congratulations on the fairly rare occasions when I actually meet its 10K steps per day goal for me. It’s a very gentle nag but a valuable reminder to take care of the only body I have.
It makes me more accountable.
It’s a great tool. It makes me accountable and more aware of my calorie intake. I park further away than I need to so that I take more steps.
My Fitbit helped me get my life back after 4 years of surgeries.
I had 4 hip surgeries in 4 years, so last spring I was trying to get back into some kind of exercise plan. I had to start slow. But the Fitbit helped me feel that I was making progress, even if it was just an extra 100 steps a week. I also love that it counts how many flights of stairs I go up. So if at the end of the day I haven’t gone up at least 10 flights, I will walk upstairs and downstairs in my own home to get up to 10 before going to bed. !
I love having the ability to compete against my friends in other states.
I love having something to tell me that yes, my crazy sedentary day at work means I haven’t moved, and I need to get up and get going until that addictive buzzing on my wrist tells me I’ve hit my step goal. And I love having the ability to compete against my friends in other states — we may not be able to exercise together, but we can still motivate each other. Most impressive was the service from the company: My wristband broke, and so did my husband’s. I emailed them. Within a week we had replacement wristbands shipped to us free of charge from the US — I can’t even get mail to travel within Melbourne, Australia that quickly!
Another layer of competition that we don’t need in our society.
Although it has definitely made people more aware of their activity/non-activity level, it has also brought in a fair amount to stress with it. (I don’t know if you saw the episode of “The Good Wife” when Elsbeth Tascioni was wearing one). The comparing of steps via social media creates peer pressure — and another layer of competition that we don’t need in our society. Why don’t we all get more in tune with our own bodies rather than relying on something to tell us what we have to do — and making us feel bad if we don’t reach our daily goals?
I trashed it.
If you have a propensity for obsession, watch out! The Fidbit will control your life. I didn’t want that — so I threw it in the trash after a couple months.
My husband and I lost 80 pounds.
A more important factor in my case of improved health and fitness came into play when we started using MyFitnessPal, an app for our iPhones, to post and monitor our exercise and calories. Using both the Fitbit and MyFitnessPal led to a 30 pound loss for me and a 50 pound loss for my husband, maintained now for over three years.
It’s not a godsend.
Unless you’re obsessed with keeping meticulous records, it is no better, IMHO, than a decent pedometer (and many times the cost). I think a lot of folks agree with me, as the many 1- and 2-star Amazon reviews attest. If they manage to work out the numerous bugs, version 3 or 4 might change my mind — but by then there will probably be something way more advanced, such as the son or grandson of Google Watch.
Don’t leave home without it.
I’ve been using a Fitbit for two years; I never leave home without it. It has become a way of life to get in my 10,000 steps a day and 20 flights of stairs.
I look better than I ever have.
My bracelet lets me know how active/inactive I am on a daily basis. As I tend to be inactive, it prompts me to get moving. In the 2.5 years I have been wearing the bracelet I’ve lost most of the excess weight I carried with me through much of adulthood. People say I look better than I ever have. I am 68 years old — I wish I had been able to make this change earlier. But if not now, when?
At an age when I might be getting weaker, I’m getting stronger.
I’ve used the Fitbit for years to track my steps, stairs and sleep. As 68 has slipped into 71, I’ve increased my mileage to 6 miles a day and I zealously guard my 7-8 hours rest. At an age when I might be getting weaker, I am getting stronger. I have Fitbit to thank!
This article originally appeared on The Head Butler.
Photo credit: Brian Carson/flickr