I started using a Fitbit some time ago. I’m actually on Fitbit One #2 because Fitbit One the First fell off on a walk and was never seen again. It’s a helpful tool, but it has some pros and cons like everything else. The first obvious con being “it can fall off and get lost,” but Fitbit actually has some helpful recovery tips if this happens to you. (They didn’t save Fitbit the First for me, but most people don’t lose theirs in the wild like I did.)

The pros:

  1. Being able to measure what I really did for activity and what I really consumed helped me get a realistic picture of my habits. It didn’t take very many days of logging all my activity and all my food data to realize I had a large calorie deficit and needed to eat more to support my activity. I thought I was less active than I was; I thought I ate more than I did. Surprise! Having some measure of this showed me what I needed to change to reach my goals. The One only measures steps, but I used the Dashboard function to enter all the other stuff I did, from yard work to laundry to swimming. So the limitation of step-measuring has a pretty good work-around.
  2. I got a built-in reminder to drink more water. Very helpful for the person who tends to refill her coffee cup instead of her water glass, and the reminder alone helped me improve my habits.
  3. The badges earned and progress updates and general fitness cheering are motivating. I get notices telling me how many lifetime steps, flights of stairs, and so on I’ve logged. I get notified that I hit my daily goal, or am close to it, and often being just below the next level is motivating enough to get up and hit it just to win the achievement. “I’ve done 40 flights of stairs today, if I do 10 more I can get the 50 flights badge!”
  4. Fitbit has a social aspect, so you can team up with your friends. If you see your friend close to goal you can “cheer” them. If you see that they’re ahead of you, you can try to beat them. But either way it keeps you from feeling like you’re going it all alone. Even from a distance, you can work toward a fitness goal with a buddy. Having another person to be accountable to helps on those days when commitment is flagging.
  5. Privacy settings allow you to control what other people see. Yes, Fitbit still has all your data and doubtless is using it to target ads or whatever, but it’s only public if you make it that way. And you can make some things public, some private, and some visible only to friends.

The Cons:

  1. The Fitbit One really is very small and easy to lose or leave in clothes bound for the laundry.
  2. Even when I manually enter miles bicycled or time swimming, it doesn’t add those logged activities into the daily fitness goal of 10,000 steps. If I swim for an hour, do ten minutes of yoga, and walk 5,000 steps, I still show up as below goal instead of the extra activity counting as the equivalent of another 5,000 steps. Likewise, flights of stairs get logged but don’t count as more effort than regular steps. It would be nice if there was some mechanism that took all the logged activity and gave it a cumulative “goal”. Still, we’re basically dealing with a glorified step counter here so the limitation is sort of built in.
  3. Like most fitness devices, it doesn’t seem to know what to do with women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. I started wearing mine while breastfeeding and had to do a rough calculation of the calories that deducted from my day and plug it into my data to adjust for the difference but there was no setting whatsoever for this. Seems like quite an oversight when you consider how many women get pregnant and breastfeed and need to account for the caloric difference. (I still remember how the Wii Fit screamed at me when I was pregnant and kept gaining weight even though it was the textbook one pound per month, so I have the same beef with pretty much all fitness tech when it comes to this. Fitness tech needs more women in the design stage. Or at least men who recognize female biology as a thing. A setting for “pregnant” or “breastfeeding” isn’t too much to ask, really.)

Overall, I find it helpful so I keep using it. Plus I get to cheer and/or taunt Kate Rothwell and Sasha White while I work out, and I don’t think you can put a price on that.