Which Fitbit Pedometer Will Fit You Best?

Growing Family of Pedometers and Wristband Activity Monitors

Fitbit Alta
Fitbit Alta. Fitbit

Fitbit is a family of full-featured pedometers and fitness band activity monitors that track steps, distance, and calories. Fitbits upload wirelessly to a web site or mobile app to enjoy graphs and charts of steps, active steps, distance, sleep quality and to track your diet and other health statistics.

Fitbits work with both PC, Mac, iOS, and Android apps, and have no additional subscription fee to track your activity with their full-featured web site or app.

You can allow your Fitbit to share its activity data with an increasing number of other apps and fitness tracking sites. All Fitbit models feed into the same personal profile web page and work with the Fitbit app.

I've worn a Fitbit since they debuted and it has been my go-to activity monitor for years. Here are the various models:

Fitness Band Fitbits

If you prefer to wear your Fitbit on your wrist, these models can work for you.

  • Fitbit Alta: This model just debuted. It is the first Fitbit band with Move Reminders and it has mini-step goals of 250 steps each hour (2-3 minutes of walking). It has automatic exercise and sleep recognition. It has great style with interchangeable bands, including sport, leather, and metal bangle bands to dress it up. You can read scrolling text, call and calendar notifications on the band. It has a 5-day battery life. Fitbit Alta Review
  • Fitbit Charge: This wristband model has a numerical display with the time of day (making it a pedometer watch), steps, distance, calories, floors. It also has workout tracking and caller ID for incoming calls. It automatically detects and tracks sleep. Review: Fitbit Charge
  • Fitbit Charge HR: This wristband model does everything the Charge does, and adds continuous strapless heart rate monitoring via PurePulse LED lights on the underside of the wristband. It will have simplified heart rate zones to gauge your exercise intensity. It has a 5-day battery life before recharge. Review: Fitbit Charge HR
  • Fitbit Flex: This model quickly became the most popular wristband activity monitor, made to be worn both day and night to track all-day steps and sleep quality. It has no display other than five small lights, so you are dependent on accessing the data on an app via Bluetooth or through the wireless USB connection and viewing your dashboard online. Review: Fitbit Flex
  • Buy Fitbit on Amazon.com

Superwatch Fitbits

  • Fitbit Surge: This is a superwatch that includes GPS for speed, distance, and route tracking. It has caller ID and music control. It also has the PurePulse LED lights for continuous strapless heart rate tracking with simplified heart rate zones. In exercise mode, you can see splits and other advanced workout tracking, and it will track other exercise activities. More: Fitbit Surge
  • Fitbit Blaze: This fashionable smart fitness watch debuts in March 2016. You can change to different straps to dress it up or down. It syncs with iOS, Android, and Windows. It has many of the features of the Surge but it uses your mobile phone's GPS rather than having it built-in. In addition to the usual Fitbit steps, distance, calories, floors, it automatically records workouts with heart rate and heart rate zones. You can also start FitStar workouts on your wrist, control your music and get smart notifications. It has a 5-day battery life before recharging.  Buy from Amazon.com

    Waistband/Pocket Fitbits

    These Fitbit models can be worn on your waistband, neckline or carried in a pocket, purse or pack. They aren't fussy about being worn at an angle and will sense your steps and activity in any position. They have a numerical display you can check anytime to see your steps, distance, all-day calories burned, and time of day. These Fitbits are small, silent and lightweight.

    • Fitbit One: The One also tracks floors climbed and can track your sleep and it has a stopwatch function. It needs to be recharged every 7-10 days. Review: Fitbit One
    • Fitbit Zip: The Zip is the least expensive. It has a long-lasting 9-month battery that doesn't require recharging. It lacks tracking for stairs, sleep quality or stopwatch. Review: Fitbit Zip

    Discontinued Fitbits: The original Fitbit Tracker and the Fitbit Ultra have been retired in favor of the Fitbit One. They did not have Bluetooth for syncing with mobile apps. The Fitbit Force wristband model was recalled in February 2014 because the exposed metal connector triggered allergic contact dermatitis in a small percentage of users.

    Fitbit Setup and Getting Started

    When you buy a Fitbit, it includes use of the web site and mobile app for no additional subscription fee. There is an optional fee per year for a Premium membership which includes more in-depth reports and personalized training. However, the basic reports seemed more than adequate for me.

    You can do all of the setup with the Fitbit app for iOS or Android on a Bluetooth mobile phone or device. But you can also set it up and sync with a computer.

    The Fitbit comes with a USB stick which uploads data wirelessly. On first use, you install the Fitbit Service Manager software and register for the Fitbit web site, and set a few basic bits of information about yourself. Weight is needed to calculate your calories burned. The set-up was easy. The data automatically uploads any time you are within about 15 feet computer, you never have to remember to do it.

    To upload away from home you can use the mobile app or you will need to use a computer on which you can install the software and which has a USB port.

    Fitbit Apps

    If you don't have a computer at all, you can simply use the free iPhone/iOS app or Android app to set up your Fitbit and sync your data via Bluetooth.  With the app, you can also add food tracking and track non-pedometer activities. You can choose all-day sync or to sync on demand.

    Is a Fitbit Waterproof?

    Fitbits are water-resistant so you can wear them in the rain or while washing the dishes or your dog, but they are not waterproof for swimming and may not survive a trip through the washing machine. The Surge and the Charge HR can survive immersion if you happen to drop them into the pool (or, shudder, the toilet). But they don't guarantee them for the pressures they would encounter swimming (or in the laundry).

    Your Fitbit Dashboard

    The dashboard tiles are a quick view of your activity, and you can select to see more details, including graphs of the past week, month, or year for each item.

    Steps, Distance and Active Minutes: A pie chart and a graph of steps and activity every five minutes are displayed. It totals steps taken, distance, all-day calories burned and active minutes. You can review the current day, past 7 days, and past 28 days on the chart, and review each day in detail.

    Calories, Food Logging, and Weight: The calories displayed are all-day calories rather than just exercise calories. If you choose to use their food-tracking capability, you can balance the calories you eat with those your body burns all day. You can set a daily calorie goal and see how you are progressing throughout the day. You can track your weight, and if you buy their Aria wireless scale your weight can be automatically logged.

    Sleep: Most Fitbit models include sleep tracking (the Zip doesn't). Wear the Fitbit to bed and depending on the model it will either detect sleep or need to be put into the sleep-tracking mode. You can also manually enter your sleep data on the web site or app. It displays time in bed, times awakened, and time restless. Switch to the Log view and sleep tab and see your sleep stats in more depth, including sleep efficiency score, time to fall asleep, and stats for the past 30 days.

    Friends: If you have friends who use a Fitbit, you can see how you compare with them for steps, distance, active points and very active time. You can also join groups and compare yourself to the group.

    Fitbit Logs

    In addition to the data from the Fitbit, you can manually enter other exercise activities, weight, and sleep.

    Food Log: The food log is easy to use as a food diary. Once you enter a food, it adds it to a quick pick list. It also allows you to create your own "food" if it isn't already on the list of 50,000 different foods, so you will have it available to choose from for future meals. You can create meals so you can easily add them to your daily log rather than adding one food at a time. While I found their list less comprehensive than I would like, users can always use our free Calorie Count site to get calories for a recipe and then use that in the Fitbit food log. You can use the iPhone app to add food and activities to your log throughout the day.

    Activities: You can add other physical activities you did and you can edit your walking step record for those times you forgot to wear your Fitbit. You can save your favorite workouts to quickly add from a pick list.

    Weight: You can track your weight and body fat. If you use their Fitbit Aria wireless scale, these can be added automatically.

    Discontinued: Fitbit discontinued manual entry of blood pressure, heart rate, body measurements, glucose, journal and custom trackers as of August 27, 2015.

    Apps and Integration with Other Programs: The iPhone app and Android app let you update the food and water you have throughout the day and log exercise and activity that Fitbit doesn't track (such as cycling or swimming). Fitbit can integrate data with Microsoft HealthVault, Endomondo, and Nike+ as well as several other tracking systems. Fitbit Apps

    Bottom Line

    Fitbit has become synonymous with activity tracking. The models are easy to wear and super easy to use. The web site has no additional fees.They work both with PC and Mac and Bluetooth-capable mobile devices. The Zip is less expensive, but doesn't include sleep tracking or stair climbing.

    Buy Fitbit on Amazon.com

    Continue Reading