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Over the last few years I have become much more sedentary than I used to be. When my kids were younger I spent all day chasing them around the house, taking them to the park, and popping them in the stroller for a walk just so they would stop touching things they weren’t supposed to be touching! Now that the kids are older, they don’t require quite so much chasing any more and I have become way too familiar with my couch. Sure, we might go hiking on the weekend or I might strap on the running shoes for a Saturday morning run but my day to day activity level has dropped and it shows in how few of my pants still fit.
I was recently asked to try out a handy little fitness gadget called the Fitbit Ultra. This is a very small, very high tech version of a pedometer with the added bonus of being able to record elevation changes, sleep patterns, calories burned, energy level and several other factors. In addition to that, the Fitbit website is also a very useful tool for keeping track of the foods you eat, your weight, blood pressure, and several other factors that are important for overall health. There is an online community of Fitbit users for you to interact with for support, guidance and information. If you have a smartphone, you can also download an app that will help you keep track of your activities when you are away from home.
If you have not heard of Fitbit before, here is a little bit about them in their own words:
Fitbit is dedicated to helping people lead healthier, more active lives. We take a common sense approach to fitness, and believe that the key is to make it easier for consumers to be more active, eat smarter, and get enough sleep — in short, that small changes to your daily routine can add up to big results. To that end, we aim to create innovative, inspiring products and online services that harness the power of new technologies to make people more aware of their everyday activities and motivate them to do more.
The goal of the Fitbit Ultra is not really to get you to run marathons, although that is certainly great if you choose to do it! By showing you how many (or how few!) steps you take on a day to day basis, Fitbit wants to help you improve your health by taking MORE steps every day! The goal is to get you moving, burn calories, and offer an online site for you to keep track of your results, as well as record other factors that influence your overall health. The goal for optimum health is 10,000 steps per day. It has really helped raise my awareness of the things I need to do to improve my activity level. (more on this below!)
How does it work?
Honestly, I had no idea how this little gadget could possibly record all of the data it does so I did a little bit of research and experimentation with it! According to Fitbit, it contains both an accelerometer and an altimeter to help it measure speed and elevation changes. I tried it out…I climbed the flight of stairs in my house 6 times (and yes, I was tired!). It recorded every one of my flights and every single step I took! I was very impressed with the accuracy!
You can choose from two colors, blue or plum. The unit is incredibly small…about the size of my pinkie finger. This can easily be tucked into a pocket or clipped to a bra so you can where it with just about everything. I stuck it on my pocket and it clipped on nice and firmly and never once came off unless I took it off. I wore it jogging, doing yoga, and everywhere else I went and it stayed put. Here are the exact measurements of the unit:
Height 5.5 cm
Width 0.75 inches
Depth .5625 inches
Weight 0.4 ounces
Controls and display: There is one very simple to use control button. Just push to scroll through the options…steps, distance, floors climbed, calories burned, flower (overall activity level) and a clock. You can also customize it with your name and some cute greetings to get you motivated in the morning. Having the Fitbit read ‘walk me’ or ‘lets go’ is cute and it encourages me to put it on my pocket and not just set it back down on the counter.
Uploading Data: The thing I really love about the Fitbit Ultra is that the data upload is actually done WIRELESSLY! Yep, that is correct…you do not have to input any of the recorded data onto the website. Your activity is uploaded wirelessly whenever you are within 15 feet of the base station that you plug into the computer. I did keep forgetting to plug the base station into my computer, which meant that I would go a couple of days without uploading. However, I discovered that the Fitbit actually keeps track of several days worth of activity and will upload it all once the wireless signal and base station are both active again. I was really impressed with this! That means you can actually go on vacation and come back to upload your data. The base station also acts as the charging station. Even after using it for several days in a row, the battery was barely used so you wouldn’t need to charge it very often.
The Forums, Community, and Dashboard: The Fitbit is not just a gadget you stick on your pocket, it is SO much more than that! The Fitbit community website offers tons of information and questions from both people using the product and the support team from Fitbit. I was curious as to whether you could buy a second base station and low and behold that topic has a discussion going on. (you can’t buy a separate base station as of this time…which I was sortof bummed about since I would one on both computers.) You can make suggestions as to foods they should include in their database or new features you would like added. I would actually like to see a charging station that I could plug into my wall right next to my coffee pot. There are mornings that I forget to put it on if I don’t head right to the computer first thing. If it was on a charger next to the coffee or near my toothbrush, I wouldn’t be so absent minded!
I admit, I am not one for counting calories, measuring cereal, or weighing out my strawberries so the food log was hard for me to maintain. While I know LOTS of people who lose tons of weight by counting calories, I just don’t know if this is going to be a function I use, only because I am lazy. And I probably don’t want proof of just how much junk I really eat. I am going to try getting into this more after the holidays are over and I don’t have to admit to myself that I ate all those Christmas cookies!
Sleep Monitoring: The Fitbit comes with a light wristband. Just put the wristband on and slip the tracker on it right before bed. It will tell you not only how long you sleep, but how well you sleep. The Tracker monitors how many times and how long you wake up during the night.
Come back next week for my next Fitness Friday post to learn more about the effects of sleep on our health and see how the Fitbit can help you understand your sleep cycles!
My opinion: Overall, I was very pleased with the Fitbit Ultra! Here are a few things that I discovered:
A day of blogging and doing very little else will only get me about 4000 steps…very far from my 10,000 steps goal!
An insane day of housework in preparation for company got me 12,000 steps! WOO-HOO! Vacuuming, mopping, dusting, laundry, and sweeping off the patio may not be tons of fun but it does burn lots of calories!
A moderate day of blogging that also includes light housework and a walk with the dog for 30 minutes gave me just about 10,000 steps. I need to walk the dog more and blog less…the dog agrees!
Going running with my husband on a Saturday morning gives me a whole BUNCH of steps but that achievement can then be lost by taking a 3 hour nap Saturday afternoon and watching a movie with the kids that night.
Overall, I found the Fitbit Ultra to be quite an eye opener in terms of understanding how much (or how little) exercise I was really getting. While it can’t measure activities like yoga or weight training since those are stationary, it will really go a long way towards getting you in better shape if you pay attention to it. If you have only gotten 3000 steps by dinner time, take the dog for a walk. And maybe tomorrow when you go out to the grocery store you can park a little farther away, just to get a few more steps in!
If you would like to learn more about Fitbit you can follow them on Facebook and Twitter. If you would like to purchase the Fitbit Ultra, you can shop in their online store or on Amazon at the link below!
Disclaimer: As per FTC guidelines, I received one Fitbit Ultra in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone.
Diane is a professional blogger and nationally certified pharmacy technician at Good Pill Pharmacy. She earned her BS in Microbiology at the University of New Hampshire and has worked in cancer research, academics, and biotechnology. Concern over the growing incidence of human disease and the birth of her children led her to begin living a more natural life. She quickly realized that the information she was learning along the way could be beneficial to many others and started blogging and freelance writing to share this knowledge with others. Learn more about her HERE.