For nearly a decade now, a fitness watch – be it a heart rate monitor, cyclocomputer or GPS – has been my constant companion on runs, rides and hikes. Post-exercise, I’ve probably spent as much time in front of a PC, uploading my workouts and analysing them, as I’ve actually spent working up a sweat. The electronic watchdog is as much a part of my exercise routine as my running shoes or bike. Yet once the workout is over, back into the drawer it goes.
It’s different with the Fitbit.
This little $99 gadget – currently US-only – is meant to spend much more time with you. According to its designers, the Fitbit keeps a record of all your daily activities to produce a record of calories burned, steps taken, distance travelled … and sleep quality.
Yes, sleep quality.
Thanks to its inbuilt 3D motion sensor, the Fitbit is able to track your motion in three dimensions. In this way, it can measure the length of time it took you to fall asleep, and how many times you woke up throughout the night.
Having recorded an activity’s intensity and duration, and the number of steps you took – it’s also a pedometer – the device uses previously uploaded details such as weight and gender to compute calories burned. Its blue OLED display shows steps, calories, distance and a picture showing overall activity level Optimised for walking, running and general daily activities, the MP3-player-sized Fitbit is small enough to clip on clothing, mount on its wristband, or slip into a pocket. It’s said to be able to store a week’s worth of minute-by-minute data, which uploads automatically to fitbit.com when you pass the Fitbit’s wireless base station.
Of course, all this useful data isn’t much use unless you’ve got something to compare it with. So, you’ll find energy values online at Fitbit’s database of 50 000 foods.
It may not have the credibility of the established fitness-industry players, but there’s no doubt the Fitbit’s sleek style and relatively fuss-free operation will please the iPod brigade. At the same time, its data analysis functions will help ensure exercise geeks don’t get bored too quickly.
And think of all the fun you could have, dreaming up interesting activities you’d like to keep track of…