Within the last week, first at the annual RealNetworks alumni “reunion” and later in a Facebook message thread I’ve had multiple friends ask me the same question:
Steve, you’re a “gadget guy” and you workout. Is the Fitbit or Fuelband is better?
Instead of continuing to answer the same question the next time I’m out on the town, I thought I’d write up this little explanation.
My Quest, My Tools
I’m pretty open with the fact that I’m trying to get back into shape. After 40 it gets harder and harder, and honestly I’ve fought my bad eating habits all my life. In 2007 I lost 100 lbs working out regularly and tracking my calories with an online tool. After putting a lot of that weight back on I started after the move to Seattle in 2010 to be more active. A lot of travel in 2010 and 2011 made consistent exercise hard, so I’ve always looked for ways to enhance what limited workout time I have, and improve the feedback I’m giving myself.
Just running around, lifting weights or going on long hikes was great but the engineer in me wanted more information. I wanted to know how far, how much. I wanted to compete with myself. Having the data to say “just a 1/2 mile more” does a lot for my motivation, so I’ve always been interested in getting as much data as possible. For me lifting weights means I put on muscle mass pretty quickly, so the numbers on the scale is never a good progress bar, and if the scale wasn’t moving I wanted to see I was making progress somewhere.
Back in 2010 I bought my first Fitbit. Fitbit is a small pedometer you wear on your clothes (it’s shaped like a clip) or carry in a pocket. It tracks your steps, calories burned, etc. In 2011 Fitbit upgraded the device to count flights of stairs and be more accurate. The charging stand doubles as a wireless receiver and synchronizes your activity with your account on Fitbit.com. You can find my account on here.
This year Nike rolled out a new device called the Fuelband which I purchased earlier this spring. Like the Fitbit the Fuelband is a pedometer but instead of wearing it on your clothes the Fuelband is a bracelet that can be worn on either wrist. It counts your steps, can act as a watch (only, not a stopwatch). There’s also a unique activity measurement called “fuel” which allows you to set a daily goal. Your activity is shown via a gauge that goes from red to yellow to green. Fill the “fuel” gauge to hit your daily activity goal which gives the user a cute celebration display on the device.
Which is better, the Fitbit or Fuelband?
I use both devices every day, as well as their respective web sites for additional features. I’ve obviously had the Fitbit longer and seen them improve their web site a great deal over time. Nike just updated their site to include data from both the Fuelband and the Nike+ running system (smartphone apps and shoe sensors). Nike also just released a new Android app for doing GPS tracking of your runs and reporting that into the Nike+/Nike Fuelband dashboard.
The Nike Fuelband is a good pedometer and if you’re already using the Nike+ sensor with an iPhone or iPod, all the data is uploaded to the same place. But all it really does is track activity level. The display on the device is nice (the gauge going from red to green) and helps with motivation but that’s it.
The Fitbit is the better all around solution. Because you can carry it in your pocket all the time instead of wearing in place of a watch or jewelry you can use it at work on at play. It’s a good pedometer, counts going up/down stairs, will give you a calorie count on the device and a display of general activity level. Additionally the Fitbit lets you track your sleep patterns by wearing it at night, as well as input your body measurements for chest, waist, neck, etc. The real value for Fitbit is on the web site. In addition to the pedometer/activity data it integrates with a lot of other systems via their published APIs. I use the Fitbit site with a WiFi enabled scale for tracking weight, BMI and body fat and with an iPad compatible blood pressure cuffs. The Fitbit web site also has a food database so you can track calories and compare input (food) and output (exercise).
By being so broad and enabling me to do more than just count steps, the Fitbit system can be a one stop shop for getting in shape. It’s the better overall solution. If you’re a runner or already using the Nike+ system, go with the Fuelband, but you’ll need a separate service for tracking calories and body data. Everyone else should just go with the Fitbit.
Are you measuring your activity?
What do you count, and what metrics mean the most to you?
Does having more data help, or hurt, your motivation to get into shape?