Gear Review: FitBit Flex

Photo(2)Like most endurance sport junkies I know who train to improve their personal bests, I’m obsessed with analyzing stats and data: average pace, distance travelled, average stride rate, beats per minute, heart rate, number of reps, calories in, calories out. I don’t know if I could run a race now without my trusty Garmin keeping me on track. And while I love to pore over my Garmin stats after a run or bike and track my training progress, recent health issues prompted me to research other body monitoring devices. I researched a few that are on the market right now (the FitBit One, Jawbone UP, BodyMedia Fit and the Basis) and settled on the FitBit Flex, which only just came out about a month ago.

The selling points for me for the Flex were:

  • the price point ($99)
  • it’s a little bracelet that you can buy in other colours and swap out to match your outfit (unlike the others which are worn on your upper arm or quite obviously look like a fitness tracking device)
  • it’s waterproof, so you can swim with it or wear it in the shower
  • it tracks your sleep and wakes you up with a quiet vibration
  • snazzy looking dashboard and free iPhone app
  • Ryan Reynolds has one (Okay, not a selling point but I just saw this the other day. Twinsies!)

The Pluses

So far I’m loving it. When compared to my Garmin, it’s pretty darn accurate for not having a heart rate monitor or GPS system. That said, you can manually input all of your Garmin stats OR sync it via Bluetooth to any wireless devices you might use, including a heart rate or glucose monitor. The sleep tracker is also pretty cool: just as I suspected, I don’t sleep that well and am restless and flailing pretty much the entire night. Ugh.

I also love how it tracks your entire daily calorie burn and nutritional goals, not just your workouts and steps. You do, however, have to manually enter the food you eat for this to be accurate, which can be a pain in the butt. The Flex syncs with other fitness apps like MapMyRun and My Fitness Pal, so if you already use those, it makes tracking a bit easier. Since the Flex doesn’t come with a heart rate monitor, you have to manually enter your harder workouts from the time you start and the duration, so it knows to track that time as a harder workout. You can manually enter your calorie burn, although it does generate one for you based on this information, which is pretty accurate.

The "display" is just a few little lights that light up when you reach your goal steps/distance for the day.

The “display” is just a few little lights that light up when you reach your goal steps/distance for the day.

The Flex would definitely be a handy little weight loss tool (you can set up goals and it tells you how much to eat if you’re trying to lose, gain or maintain weight), but I think it’s pretty useful for endurance athletes as well, especially for tracking sleep, food, water intake and nutritional needs. At the end of the week, it sends you an email with a neat little break down of your week. According to my last email, I’m not getting enough potassium, I sleep on average five hours a night (yikes!), and I need to up my calorie intake by almost 1000 calories a week to maintain my weight/keep healthy during ultra training. Eat MORE food, you say? Well, alright then!

The Minuses

My only complaints–or things I would like to see–with the FitBit Flex are that it doesn’t have a heart rate monitor included and that it doesn’t have a display on the bracelet. It has these little lights that light up when you tap it to tell you how close you are to your goal step count for the day (and vibrates when you meet that goal), but that’s about it. A little watch display would be awesome, but I do like that it’s not big and obvious like the Garmin.

Verdict

The FitBit Flex is an awesome body monitoring tool for both people trying to lose weight and for athletes who love gadgets and tracking and understanding their health stats, which is something I think more people need to take charge of.