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How to Use Fitbit Fitness and Activity Trackers

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In this excerpt from Apple Watch and iPhone Fitness Tips and Tricks, Jason Rich shows you the plethora of solutions Fitbit offers for fitness-minded people who want to use technology to track, manage, and analyze their activities.
From the book

Another industry leader in smartphone-compatible fitness and activity trackers is Fitbit (http://www.fitbit.com). As you can see in Figure 3.18, which shows the company’s website, Fitbit offers a plethora of solutions for fitness-minded people who want to use technology to track, manage, and analyze their activities.

Figure 3.18 The company’s website showcases a line-up of Fitbit fitness/activity trackers.

Along with the Fitbit Zip ($59.95), among the company’s other offerings are the Fitbit One ($99.95), Flex ($99.95), Charge ($129.95), Charge HR ($149.95), and the Surge (a $249.95 smartwatch). As you can see from the company’s website, the Zip and One are small, clip-on trackers, whereas the Flex, Charge, Charge HR, and top-of-the-line Surge are bracelets.

You can find Fitbit products at consumer electronics stores such as Best Buy, as well as mass-market retailers, including Target and Walmart.

All of these Fitbit devices track steps, calories burned, and distance throughout the wearer’s day (including when they’re involved in workouts or fitness-oriented activities). These devices can monitor “active minutes” versus time when the wearer is stationary.

Depending on the Fitbit model, some also display a clock, handle sleep tracking, track the number of floors climbed, and allow the user to set various types of alarms.

The Charge HD and Surge also include some of the broader functionality of a full-featured smartwatch. For example, the Surge offers GPS tracking, the ability to remotely control the iPhone’s Music app, the ability to display incoming text messages and Caller ID information from the iPhone, and it has a built-in heart rate monitor.

After purchasing one of the Fitbit tracker devices and/or the Aria scale, you need to download and install the free Fitbit app, which is available from the App Store. This proprietary app can handle a variety of tasks, including:

  • Tracking activity throughout the day—Depending on which Fitbit tracker the app is wirelessly linked with, the app tracks and maintains details about steps taken, floors climbed, active minutes, and calories burned. In addition to displaying data from a single day, the app makes it easy to view progress over time by enabling you to look at and compare data from the past.
  • Logging meals and caloric intake—Via a variety of food logging tools, the app makes it easy to track the foods you eat and what you drink, calculate your caloric intake, and determine other nutrition-related information with minimal manual data entry. For example, you can use the camera built in to your iPhone to scan a food or drink product’s barcode (shown in Figure 3.19).
  • Set and monitor personalized goals—The app allows you to set and work toward step, weight, and activity-related goals. Based on data collected, the app suggests ways to improve the results you’re achieving while working toward each goal.
  • Interact with friends to share achievements—Using communication tools built in to your iPhone, including email and Facebook connectivity, you can easily share your fitness-related achievements with your online friends, as well as the Fitbit online community (if you choose to).
  • Track a runner’s progress via the MobileRun feature—Instead of using a stand-alone app for runners, the Fitbit app has specific tools available for runners that allow you to track your pace, time, and distance, and differentiate between runs, walks, and hikes. The app can also utilize GPS data either from the iPhone or one of the higher-end Fitbit trackers to map routes.
  • Figure 3.19 One way to track food and drink consumption is to scan barcodes for food and drink products using the camera built in to your iPhone.

  • Maintain a sleep record—On an ongoing basis, the app (working with a Fitbit tracker) keeps tabs on how much sleep you get each night, allows you to set alarms, and lets you view your sleep patterns over time in the form of colorful charts.
  • Monitor weight—Whether you use the Aria scale, or manually enter data, the Fitbit app allows you to track your weight, BMI, lean muscle, and body fat percentage over time.
  • Stay highly motivated over time—Like with many fitness apps, when you achieve specific goals or milestones, the Fitbit app offers virtual awards that you can display, collect, and showcase online. The app can also display messages as reminders or motivators to keep you active.
  • Import data from Fitbit trackers and scales—Although you can manually enter data for any category that the Fitbit app can track, what makes the app truly useful is its ability to automatically obtain, analyze, store, and display data collected from one or more Fitbit trackers and/or the Aria Bluetooth scale. However, no tracker is required to use the free app.

After you set up a Fitbit account via the app, the Dashboard screen displays a graphic-based summary of all information tracked and stored by the app, including the app’s analysis of activity, fitness, sleep, and weight data, as well as the raw numbers.

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