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A new fitness toy

Saturday, May 9, 2015
Dirt Under the Nails
Three varieties of the Fitbit Charge HR.

My latest fitness obsession is the Fitbit Charge HR activity monitor. Activity monitors do exactly what they say; they are small pieces of impressive technology that attach to your person, usually your wrist like a watch, and can calculate, monitor and record activity indicators like your heart rate, the number of steps taken per day, sleeping habits and even the number of floors climbed each day. 

As with every kind of tech toy, there are numerous levels of activity monitors, among the many brands. From Jawbone to Fitbit, to Garmin, to Misfit Shine and Nike, the choices are quite varied, with each brand offering something a little different. Choosing the best activity monitor is a highly individual process, based upon one’s level of physical activity and goals. 

I wanted to “nerdify” (as my dear colleagues at Total Rehab call it) my activity monitor, and was interested in monitoring my heart rate throughout the day, with special attention to my resting heart rate, which gives an idea of one’s fitness level. I was also interested in monitoring my sleep patterns. However, I was not keen on having GPS capability, and as all phones these days have that feature, I thought it would be redundant, not to mention, too pricey. So after tons of research on the different brands, I finally settled on the Fitbit Charge HR. Consider this column a basic review of this activity monitor.

The Fitbit Charge HR can monitor one’s heart rate throughout the day, count and record the number of steps taken and the number of floors climbed during the day, calculate daily calories expended and monitor one’s sleep patterns. The monitor syncs automatically via Bluetooth to apps on the computer and mobile devices. This is a great feature, as no physical connection to the devices is required. When the apps are opened, one’s latest activity information is already there in numbers and graphs on a very user-friendly interface.

My favourite feature is the step counter. I am obsessed! The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that one should take 10,000 steps per day. This goal is automatically set into the Fitbit. I can be seen throughout the day diligently checking my step count. I admit that at night, if I have not met the goal of 10,000 steps, but am close to it, I briskly walk around the house until that glorious buzzing sounds, indicating I have met the physical activity goal for the day. Neurotic, isn’t it? LOL!

Before getting the Fitbit, I thought that I easily made 10,000 steps per day, as my job is quite an active one. However, there was a rude awakening when I discovered that upon completion of the workday, I would average only about 6,000-7,000 steps, and would have to make up the remainder after work. Much to my dismay, it’s quite hard to make those 10,000 steps by just working a reasonably active job! I guess I walk less than I think at work!

However, it is quite easy to complete that daily goal if one purposely sets out to exercise. Within half an hour of walking my dog after work, I complete 10,000 steps, and on these days, I usually can easily make 15,000 steps. 

The Fitbit is highly personalised, and quite accurate. It actually can estimate the distance walked as one can measure one’s stride and enter it into the Fitbit. It uses this to calculate distance based on the number of steps walked that day. On the days I make 10,000 or more steps, the distance walked is upwards of seven miles.

The Fitbit is also fairly accurate regarding heart rate. In fact, I compared it to a heart rate monitor I use for more intense physical activity, and there were only a few beats difference between the two. 

The other interesting feature is the sleep monitor. It records the number of hours slept, awake time and restless time during the night, and displays them in graphical form in the app. The app also shows one’s sleep patterns over the last 30 days and is a fabulous tool for noting trends. When I feel rested or tired, it is helpful to look back to the patterns of the previous days to help understand the reasons for such. As expected, tiredness is usually associated with fewer hours slept and restlessness at night. I can look back at my activities on those days and try to adjust so that I can get better sleep, an important factor in good health.

An activity monitor is a very useful tool for understanding one’s daily patterns of activity and/or inactivity. A better understanding of such can help in improving one’s health and ability to live an active lifestyle. I would recommend it to almost anyone!

Carla Rauseo, DPT, CSCS, ATRIC is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and a Certified Aquatic Therapy Rehabilitation Instructor at Total Rehabilitation Centre in San Juan.



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