Garmin vivofit - Fitness Band Review

Garmin vivofit and vivofit 2

Garmin vivofit 2
Garmin vivofit 2. Garmin

The Garmin vivofit and vivofit 2 fitness bands have a big advantage over many other wristband activity monitors - you don't need to keep recharging them. It has a battery life of months (up to a full year) rather than days (or hours), and a 30-day memory if you want to use it offline.

The other huge advantage is that you can wear a Garmin vivofit as a pedometer watch. The time (or other chosen data screen) is always visible so you can check it at a glance rather than having to activate the display or having no display at all such as the Fitbit Flex.

In addition to tracking your total daily steps, distance, and calories, the Garmin vivofit tracks sleep and inactivity to prompt you not to sit too much. It pairs with any ANT+ heart rate monitor chest strap to track your heart rate during workouts.

You can sync your data wirelessly either to a PC or Mac computer via a USB receiver or via Bluetooth to an iOS or Android app. The app and online dashboard provide details about each measurement and you can earn badges and share accomplishments via social media. They also have a link to the  MyFitnessPal's food diary.

Garmin vivofit on the Wrist

The LED display is always visible, with numbers big enough for my aging eyes. The vivofit 2 adds a backlight that is not included in the original vivofit. You use the single button to scroll through screens (you can choose which ones appear) including steps, steps remaining to your daily goal, time, date, all-day calories burned, distance, and heart rate and zone.

You will also see a red Move Bar appear on each screen when you have been inactive for an hour or more.

The flexible band is comfortable to wear and you can buy packs of bands in different colors to easily swap it out to match your outfit, or even buy a metal band to dress it up. The vivofit 2 band includes a locking mechanism for security, while the original vivofit band has a "keeper" loop to help prevent loss.

I found the wristband to be very comfortable to wear and much more flexible than those of the Nike+ Fuelband, Jawbone UP, and Polar Loop.

Is the Garmin vivofit Waterproof? It is waterproof to 5 ATM, good enough for surface swimming and bathing.

Setting Up the Garmin vivofit

A USB ANT dongle for your computer (PC or Mac) is included, but you can also set up the device with the iOS or Android app. If you use a computer, you must install the Garmin Connect software to sync the data and you leave the USB dongle attached. With either the app or USB dongle, you activate the sync function on the vivofit band when you want to sync data. Syncing with the app requires Bluetooth 4.0, so it may not work with older mobile devices.

What the Garmin vivofit Tracks

Steps: The vivofit tracks all-day steps. You can either set a specific step goal, such as 10,000 steps or let it determine the best step goal for you. It started with 7500 steps for me and within a week my goal was up to 10,000 as I exceeded that each day.

On the band, you see your all-day steps plus a countdown to your step goal for the day.

Activity Timer: The vivofit 2 adds an activity timer that the original vivofit does not have. If you want to track a specific walk or workout, press the button until Start appears and the timer starts. You can scroll to see other screens while it is active. When you are done, you press it again until you reach the Stop screen and then end your workout. Your workout stats appear on the band. When you sync your data, you will have the workout stats available under "Activities." This includes time, average pace, distance, calories, lap times.

The original vivofit doesn't have an activity timer, but will automatically log an activity session if you wear a heart rate monitor chest strap, once it detects the monitor it starts logging an activity, which you can end by pressing the Heart function. With either model, if you wear a heart rate monitor you will also see a graph of your heart rate throughout your workout included in the Activity screen.

Calories: vivofit tracks all-day calorie burn on the calorie screen on the band, which includes the calories you burn at rest. You can balance this with the calories you eat via the link to the MyFitnessPal app.

Distance: This is estimated from your step count. You can adjust your step length if the figure is too high or too low, under Device Settings, Personal Information. I input my usual steps per mile to get better accuracy.

Sleep: To monitor your sleep, you press the button on the band until Sleep appears. When you get up in the morning, you press it again to end the sleep recording. On the app or dashboard you can view your total sleep period time and a sleep graph with low to high movement.

Move Bar: To reduce the health risks of sitting too much, a red Move Bar appears on the band after you have been inactive for an hour. It grows in segments every 15 minutes if you don't get up. Getting up and moving about for a minute or two makes it disappear. With the vivofit 2, you can also set an audible alert to arouse you when you've been inactive for an hour or more.

Heart Rate and Zones:  The vivofit doesn't have a built-in heart rate sensor, but it supports ANT heart rate monitor straps and you can view readings from them on the vivofit. The band displays your choice of bpm or percentage of maximum heart rate. You can also see which heart rate zone you are in. This is set at 0 for under 50%, then 1-5 for each 10 percent range starting at 50-60 as zone 1. You can look at the details on heart rate for each workout in the app or dashboard display, including a graph, average heart rate and highest heart rate.

Garmin Connect App and Dashboard

  • The first screen includes daily step total, distance, and calories. Drill down to see more, including steps each hour and see summaries by the week, month and year.
  • Calories and Food Tracking: The tracking is provided by linking to the MyFitnessPal app and using its food logging capability.
  • Weight: Track your weight by entering it.
  • Badges: Get motivated by earning badges based on daily achievements and reaching new milestone records.
  • Activities: Use this screen to see details of your workouts that you timed with the vivofit 2 or by the heart rate function on the original vivofit or with other Garmin devices.
  • Community: If you have friends who use Garmin, you can add them as a Connection and form or join a group. You can be further motivated by joining in a Challenge. You can share Activity session summaries via social media or email.
  • Third-Party Apps: Garmin Connect can be allowed to share data with Apple Health as well as MyFinessPal.

Expert Review of the Garmin vivofit

Pluses:

  • Freedom! The year-long battery life means you are freed from charging cables, and it has a 30-day memory (12 if using heart rate monitor) so you don't even have to sync it daily. You can only view today's data on the Garmin vivofit itself. For detailed stats, you use the device and mobile app without needing a computer or use it with a computer without needing a smartphone.
  • Comfort and Style : The band is flexible and comfortable and you can quickly change the band to a different color. The vivofit 2 bands are also available in patterns and metal bands are available for a dressier style. I might even slip the vivofit out of the band to carry in a pocket or purse when a band didn't match my style for an evening out. The locking mechanism on the vivofit 2 band ensures you won't lose it.
  • Display: The display is big enough for my aging eyes and it is always on, so I can check it with a glance rather than having to activate the display. I would choose the vivofit 2 as it has a backlight for night viewing.
  • Activity Tracking and Heart Rate Monitor Integration: I loved how easy it was to pair with a heart rate monitor strap and get no-fuss heart rate zone stats during my walking workouts. The vivofit 2's activity timing function is very welcome to track exercise sessions, so I would choose it over the original vivofit.
  • Diet Tracking: The linking to the MyFitnessPal food-tracking app makes this easy. It earns a spot on my list for best pedometers for dieters.
  • Inactivity Alerts: I think a big flaw of Fitbits are that they don't have inactivity alerts. I love the vivofit's Move Bar and I would choose the vivofit 2 over the original in order to have the audible alert as well as the visual alert.
  • Garmin Connect Links Multiple Devices: You can use multiple Garmin devices such as their popular GPS devices, linking them all to the same app and dashboard.

Minuses

  • The vivofit is not designed for tracking athletic performance, but instead it's for those who want to track general health and fitness activity. A Garmin's GPS watches such as the Garmin Forerunner 10 would give more details on workouts.
  • It's not a smartband. It doesn't give you call or text alerts as the Garmin vivosmart and the Fitbit Charge do.
  • You have to use a separate chest strap heart rate monitor to get heart rate data. While a chest strap heart rate monitor is more accurate than wrist sensors, it means having to use another device.
  • It can be lonely you don't know other Garmin users.
  • The sleep tracking function requires you to start and stop it, which I often forget to do. The data you get about sleep isn't very detailed.

Garmin vivofit or Fitbit?

If I were new to wearing a fitness band or pedometer, I might choose the Garmin vivofit 2 over the Fitbit Flex or Fitbit Charge.

  • Garmin vivofit display is always visible. With the Fitbit Flex you only have five dots and no numbers. With the Fitbit Charge and Charge HR, you have to press a button to activate the display or it is not visible.
  • The Garmin vivofit works just as well as the Fitbits for tracking steps, distance, calories burned/eaten, and activities.
  • Fitbit sleep data includes more than just the total time in bed, with additional helpful stats on when you were awake and times you were restless.
  • Fitbit is extremely popular, so it's more likely that you have friends with Fitbit to compete with on their app.

Garmin vivofit or vivofit 2?

The two versions are the same price from Garmin, although you may see a better deal on one or the other. I prefer the updated vivofit 2 for the activity timer function to track workouts and the audible alert when the Move Bar appears. You will also have a bigger choice of fashion bands for the vivofit 2.

Bottom Line on the Garmin vivofit

The vivofit is an excellent fitness band, especially for fitness walkers. It can keep you moving all day long with its Move Bar alerts as well as being able to track exercise sessions. I like being able to interchange bands with ease as well as use it as a watch. It's great to see heart rate displayed on the band when I use a chest strap, along with workout details on the app.

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