When I was younger, I was a bit on the portly side. I believe the politically correct term back then was ‘husky’. A term so embraced that even the fine designers at Sears and Roebuck offered their famous Toughskins Jeans for the Husky kid. Nothing puts a kid on the path to social mockery quicker than a pair of funky colored jeans, made by a nationally known tool store, with iron plated knees, and the word HUSKY clearly embossed on the patch on the back. Fortunately as I approached the end of my high school years, I began to lose the husky label and some of the pain that came along with it, and began to get into shape…and have pretty much remained on that mission of moderate fitness to this day.
I tell you this story, not to relive painful childhood memories, but to make it very clear that I am not an olympic athlete, and also to level set the type of ‘athlete’ that I am as I share my impression of the FitBit Flex. I’m an exercise enthusiast…running a couple times each week, cycling, weight training, and running the occasional 5K or 10K race.
The Flex is a wristband style activity tracker that sells for $99USD. FitBit places it in their “Everyday Fitness Products” category. I had some previous experience with basic pedometers in the past, and had never been extremely impressed with their accuracy. The Flex is leaps and bounds above those devices.
- Distance Traveled
- Calories Burned
- Active Minutes
- Hours Slept
- Quality of Sleep
- Silent Alarm
While the Flex does not have an actual display, it provides feedback towards your daily step goals with a series of 5 LED lights and syncs with your smart phone or computer to provide in-depth analysis of your daily activity.
With the Flex, in addition to a charger and a wireless sync dongle for your computer, you also get two different sizes of wrist bands. Mine is black, but it comes in nine other colors that you can choose from. Charge it up, place it in the wrist band, put it on and start tracking. Syncing with your smart phone is easy, and the app provides some great feedback throughout the day. If you don’t have your smart phone with you, just tap the Flex a couple times, and the LED lights will light up to show your progress. Each light represents 20% of your daily step goal.
For sleep tracking, quickly tap the Flex about five times, and it will vibrate, the lights will blink, and it will go into ‘sleep tracking’ mode. This mode is actually quite fascinating. It does its best to determine if you are asleep, awake, or restless. Another great feature is the silent alarm. Simply set the alarm time via the FitBit app on your phone and the wrist band will vibrate at the alarm time…without waking up the rest of the household.
I do quite a bit of walking and running, and I find the steps and distance to be very accurate. When running on the treadmill, the Flex is giving me the same distance readings as the treadmill does.
The Flex is water resistant and seems pretty durable. I’ve worn mine for all sorts of activities and it has held up well to all the abuse I’ve given it. Battery life is about 5 days and recharge time only a couple hours. I tend to put it on the charger at night to not lose any activity tracking.
I’ve used my FitBit with both the iPhone and the Android App. Both have performed very well. The feedback provided is great, and there are even features to track other forms of exercise and food intake.
I have not tried other fitness trackers, so I can’t really say how the Flex compares to other products on the market. If I were to buy all over again, I might upgrade to the FitBit Charge to get the Time display and some of the caller ID capabilities. I do find it useful and fun to monitor my daily activity. Given my typical level of exercise, I don’t necessarily find that I need the Flex to motivate me to remain active, but I enjoy tracking the trends. Some of the more hardcore athletes that I know, specifically marathoners and triatheletes, seem less interested and see less value in a product like this. But, for the greater population, especially those looking to increase their level of daily activity or are trying to avoid a trip back to the huskier days of their youth, the Flex is a great tool to get you moving and taking steps, or should I say making strides, to a healthier lifestyle.