Tracking Progress with the Fitbit Flex 2
Goodbye One, Hello 2
Several years ago I bought a Fitbit One and clipped it on my bra. I became pleasantly addicted to the step counter feature; it didn’t take long for the One to become as much a part of me as my shadow. Every day I waited eagerly for the little flower grow to full size, indicating I had reached my daily activity goal. That Fitbit One got stepped on, dropped in pasta sauce, dragged through muddy trails and chewed on by ferrets. I had to replace the rubbery-clip holder three times (that was the ferrets), but the One never waivered. So I was pretty sad when I discovered there was a statute of limitations for how many times the One could survive the washer and dryer (four). The little flower on my One was gone forever.
By that time daily activity was as normal for me as seeing my shadow, so I decided to go it alone, without technology. I was confident I could keep up with my activity goals without the use of a gadget. I was wrong. I don’t have the data, but I’m pretty sure many days went by when I didn’t hit that magic 10,000 steps a day. I’d find convenient excuses for working through breaks and lunch hours instead of walking, opt for the car over walking, and park closer to doors when shopping.
Research reflects my experience
In a study looking at the use of high-tech tools for exercise motivation, researchers explain that when goals align with a behavior (example: walk 10,000 steps a day) and we set up a system for monitoring our behavior (recording our daily step count), we are more successful at achieving our goals. In their meta-analysis of Type 2 diabetes patients, the same researchers found that “using pedometers was associated with a significant increase in steps of ~1,822 steps/day on average.” The article goes on to say,
“These promising data suggest that patients with type 2 diabetes who have access to simple pedometers or more complex monitoring devices such as Fitbit activity trackers, Jawbone UP, or apps for their smartphone that use GPS such as RunKeeper can benefit from the self-monitoring and feedback functions such technologies provide.”
“Findings from this study suggest that successful weight loss maintainers frequently use digital health technology for self‐monitoring, and they use self‐monitoring technology more often than the national US population, indicating that these individuals continue engaging in active self‐monitoring (one of the cornerstones of behavioural weight loss) even after achieving significant weight loss.”
Another study focusing on weight loss analyzed data from thousands of people in online groups using digital trackers. They discovered,
“... users who track activities more frequently on average tend to lose more weight than their peers who track activities less frequently. We also show that the claim still holds when considered longitudinally: when an individual increases their adherence to tracking they are more likely to lose or maintain their weight.”
For me, feeling good about reaching my daily step goal is a lot better than feeling guilty because I didn’t, and here’s the research telling me the feedback I get from technology can help me be successful. So off I went in search of a new tracker.
I'm happy to report the market has greatly expanded and I had plenty of options. I chose to stay with Fitbit since I’d had such a good experience with the One. I spent a good bit of time comparing features for these six Fitbit trackers and watches:
The higher-end models were feature-rich and enticing but I already have a heart-rate monitor, interval timer, mp3, and a Pathfinder watch, so all I really wanted was a simple, inexpensive step-counter. Something that I could wear from morning to night without it getting in the way (like my shadow!). I ultimately chose the Flex 2 because it had the added feature of counting how many yards I swim, and because it’s inexpensive (under $60).
The Flex 2 is so lightweight I can put it on and forget about it all day long. Because it’s waterproof I don’t have to worry about it when I’m showering or running in the rain (bonus!). It uses bluetooth LE (low energy) wireless technology so I can sync it using the app on my smartphone rather than a dongle tied to my computer.
The Flex 2 is tiny - really tiny - about the size of a large cashew. The tiny size is made possible because it communicates using patterns of five flashing lights (four white and one with various colors) and vibrations, rather than text. About the only learning curve with the Flex 2 is getting to know what the various signals mean; it reminded me of the first time I saw the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” The lights are off until triggered by an event, such as reaching a goal. It didn’t take long to get accustomed to the patterns for the features I use most:
Daily activity goal. The Flex 2 is set up to track 10,000 steps a day right out of the box, but that can be changed to calories, distance, or active minutes, as well as any number of steps over 10,000. You start the day with one flashing light that turns solid when you reach 25% of your goal. Each time you hit another 25% you get another light. When you hit 10,000 steps four white lights and a green light flash and the Flex vibrates. I’ll admit I get a giggle every time it happens.
Reminder to move. Just what it says and pretty effective. I’ve set up the Flex 2 to remind me to move every hour between 8 am and 9 pm. Go an hour with moving more than 250 steps and I get two flashing white lights and a magenta light; once I move around 250 steps (about the distance from my office to the water fountain) the Flex 2 high fives me with flashing lights and a vibration.
Smart activity tracking. Other than steps (walking and running), the only activity I’m currently tracking is swim laps. I added the length of the pool in the app and it automatically recognizes when I’m swimming and counts my time, yards, and time per yards. Sweet!
Other features in the Flex 2 include sleep tracking and silent alarm, as well as call, text, and smartphone app notifications.
Track your daily activities, align your data tracking with realistic SoSMART goals and you’re on your way to making positive lifelong healthy behavior changes. Soon, the tracker and tracking will be as normal as seeing your shadow.