Fitness Trackers - Are They Worth It?

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I am thinking of getting a fitness tracker to help me get a better sense of how many calories I burn throughout the day with my workouts and NEAT activities, etc.

To those of you that have one, what is your experience with them and would you recommend? Pros/Cons? Thank you!
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  • heybales
    heybales Posts: 18,842 Member
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    I knew my avg day outside of exercise was pretty sedentary.
    With correct setup of tracker and options discovered about minus 200-300 calories below sedentary. So that was good to know and apply.
    Tracker is not an inspiration to move more through day though, move when I can.

    I knew my exercise calories from anything was going to be replaced with known better estimates, so that part didn't matter as much outside curiosity.

    I've never gotten one with HR as all-day knowledge of that just isn't useful to me (or frankly for majority of people according to research) nor like wearing watch, and already had Garmin that did HR when it mattered to training in workouts. Not used for calorie burns though.

    It can be decent calorie burn estimate for average usage, especially if you make tweaks to improve the estimates, and replace workouts that are known bad estimates.

    I've seen others are inspired to move more, and some have reminders, so that's good.
    Some have admitted they got so into the step challenges and they stopped spending time on workouts they knew would have been more beneficial to them, so that's sad.

    Depends on how you plan to use it and what goals to be used with.

    Purely a fitness tracker though would be a Garmin or Polar, Wahoo now I think.
    I was speaking more of an activity tracker, all day type device, also by those and Fitbit, Apple, ect.
  • misslizzierod
    misslizzierod Posts: 57 Member
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    heybales wrote: »
    I knew my avg day outside of exercise was pretty sedentary.
    With correct setup of tracker and options discovered about minus 200-300 calories below sedentary. So that was good to know and apply.
    Tracker is not an inspiration to move more through day though, move when I can.

    I knew my exercise calories from anything was going to be replaced with known better estimates, so that part didn't matter as much outside curiosity.

    I've never gotten one with HR as all-day knowledge of that just isn't useful to me (or frankly for majority of people according to research) nor like wearing watch, and already had Garmin that did HR when it mattered to training in workouts. Not used for calorie burns though.

    It can be decent calorie burn estimate for average usage, especially if you make tweaks to improve the estimates, and replace workouts that are known bad estimates.

    I've seen others are inspired to move more, and some have reminders, so that's good.
    Some have admitted they got so into the step challenges and they stopped spending time on workouts they knew would have been more beneficial to them, so that's sad.

    Depends on how you plan to use it and what goals to be used with.

    Purely a fitness tracker though would be a Garmin or Polar, Wahoo now I think.
    I was speaking more of an activity tracker, all day type device, also by those and Fitbit, Apple, ect.
    Very useful information! Thank you!
  • Theo166
    Theo166 Posts: 2,564 Member
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    To those of you that have one, what is your experience with them and would you recommend? Pros/Cons? Thank you!
    I love my FitBit, but not for the reasons I expected. I'm not exercising much during the covid gym shutdowns, but I adore how my device tracks my sleep. It also helps we increase my daily walking. With the synch here, I also get a few more calories added to my budget.
  • misslizzierod
    misslizzierod Posts: 57 Member
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    Theo166 wrote: »
    To those of you that have one, what is your experience with them and would you recommend? Pros/Cons? Thank you!
    I love my FitBit, but not for the reasons I expected. I'm not exercising much during the covid gym shutdowns, but I adore how my device tracks my sleep. It also helps we increase my daily walking. With the synch here, I also get a few more calories added to my budget.

    Those are some intriguing things to consider. I would be interested in tracking my sleep as well. Glad you like it and thank you for sharing your experience!
  • Lietchi
    Lietchi Posts: 6,198 Member
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    I love using a fitness tracker.

    I started with a basic Polar one that I had bought years before but had never used, after using the Pacer app for a number of weeks (it annoyed me that I always had to have my phone in my pocket). The Polar tracked my heart rate and calories during exercise and also tracked my steps obviously. I ate back all the calories MFP gave me based on my exercise and steps, and I lost weight as foreseen.

    As a gift to myself when I went from obese to overweight, I bought a Garmin Vivoactive 4, a more advanced tracker. It estimates my TDEE quite accurately, judging from my weight loss rate. I really appreciate the tracking of my resting heart rate on top of the exercise and step tracking. Sleep tracking is not always reliable, but interesting. Not essential, but handy: tracking how many km I've run/hiked with my different pairs of shoes.

    Generally speaking, having a tracker has pushed me to be more active, although, as someone had said, it easy to be a bit obsessed with the step count to the detriment of non step based exercise. I also find it a very useful tool to estimate how many calories I burn and how active I am from day to day. Before using a tracker, I had no idea how truly sedentary I was, especially on weekends (less than 3000 steps).
  • tbilly20
    tbilly20 Posts: 154 Member
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    I have a Garmin Fenix 5x Plus. I have enjoyed it for a number of years. With the Bluetooth capability, it can keep track of wattage, and heart rate. (It will also tell me how far I am from the pin on my local golf course.)

    I use HR now more than I ever did before. As I recover from heart surgery, it has been very helpful to use my zones and keep from going too hard. Normally I would not advocate for using heart rate. As a metric, it is less reliable and repeatable than wattage is, but it does provide a general idea of effort.

    I would warn you to be careful trusting caloric expenditure estimates from a fitness tracker. The results can be inaccurate, but again, they provide a general idea. In addition to heart rate and wattage. The Fenix will count laps in the pool, strokes on the rower, miles on a walk (with GPS), and you can setup the feedback any way you like. The Garmin Connect app is also decent to use a recap of activities for a day or week.

    To top it all off, I usually get about a week out of the battery!
  • cwolfman13
    cwolfman13 Posts: 41,874 Member
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    I am thinking of getting a fitness tracker to help me get a better sense of how many calories I burn throughout the day with my workouts and NEAT activities, etc.

    To those of you that have one, what is your experience with them and would you recommend? Pros/Cons? Thank you!

    Really depends on what you are using it for. In regards to calories, I take that with a grain of salt...I have a Garmin Instinct and sometimes my calories burned during a given day seem a reasonable estimate...other times they are way off. I went for my daily 2.8 mile walk yesterday and for whatever reason, my watch told me I burned 326 calories...no way...even if I had been aggressively walking it wouldn't be that high. As it was, I was just taking my daily leisure stroll with my coffee.

    The biggest benefit for myself is that it's gotten me to just move more during the day. I've exercised regularly for years, but outside of deliberate exercise I didn't move much having a desk job and whatnot. When I first got my watch I was a bit surprised to see that on many days I was only somewhere around 2500-3000 steps by the time it was time to go home. I typically get around 10K steps per day now in addition to my regular exercise.

    The Garmin also far more exercise tracking options than something like a FitBit (which was my original device) and everything I do just rolls up into my Garmin Connect. The GPS is accurate and I also like seeing the data from activities like hiking to view my elevation changes, etc. It also has a nice handy dandy compass and a crumb trail feature that I often use when hiking in the event that I get turned around and lose my way when I'm off in the wilderness.
  • AnnPT77
    AnnPT77 Posts: 32,541 Member
    edited January 2021
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    I love my tracker, but mainly because it gives me stats that are insightful and motivating to me for my particular activities. I've always worn a watch, so wearing it all day just makes sense for me. It's a Garmin, and I enjoy the analytics in the Connect app . . . but I take many/most of them with a grain of salt.

    I do use its estimates for exercise sessions when I don't have a better alternative, but its all-day calorie estimates are way off for me (compared with 5+ years of calorie logging experience), even though the same brand/model is accurate for others. (MFP also mis-estimates my calorie requirements by about the same proportion, so the problem IMO is me, not the device. Any of these estimates are based in some way on population norms, and some of us - maybe for unclear reasons - are simply further from average than others. 🤷‍♀️)

    Sleep tracking, from what I've read about research and from personal experience, is not very accurate on any of these standard general consumer tracker devices, for many people. (I once wore it during an overnight in-medical-facility sleep study, when I was all wired up with electrodes and other devices to monitor sleep. In the morning, the sleep tech - who'd been watching my monitors all night - and I laughed and laughed about what it thought had happened overnight. It routinely thinks I'm in REM when I'm lying lazily in bed in the morning texting or using social media or whatever, sometimes for hours, and I have the text timestamps to prove it.)

    For my taste, it has funny ideas about resting heart rate (something I've spot-checked for years now, via HR when being still after natural waking. I haven't quite figured out how it calculates this, because it isn't the lowest sitting/lying still HR it's seen that day (it may be a little higher or lower). It's close enough as an approximation for general use, though, IMO.

    What I have is a Garmin Vivoactive 3, I believe currently supplanted in the new market by Vivoactive 4. I appreciate that it gives me rowing-specific estimates (like strokes per minute) and measurements (like speed and distance on water, or for biking, walking, etc.), and that I don't need to take my phone with me all the time. It will pair with some gym machines to display heart rate or capture data. It will pair with an optional compatible chest belt (which I need for rowing because there's too much arm flexion and the wrist heart rate monitor loses contact fairly often). I appreciate that it lets me set a personal HRmax (mine is pretty far from the usual age estimates). For activities of the sort for which heart rate is a decent correlate of calorie burn, the exercise estimates are in the ballpark, where I've been able to compare with something usually considered a well power-metered activity (Concept 2 rower).

    I suspect that the good brands/models will provide pretty good all-day estimates for most people, but it would be smart to track against food/scale-weight results for a couple of months to see how it works for an individu.al. Even if it's not numerically spot-on, it may be off by a predictable percentage, so still useful for approximately scaling calorie expenditure on higher-activity days vs. lower activity ones.

    ETA: One thing I wasn't looking for in a tracker, but got, was notifications on the watch when I get a call or text, if my phone is in Bluetooth range. I now love this. I can politely put my phone away when I'm (say) talking in person with a friend, but if I'm expecting an important call or text, still know that it's arrived, because my watch vibrates, and displays the caller ID (if available) for voice calls, or the text itself.
  • callsitlikeiseeit
    callsitlikeiseeit Posts: 8,627 Member
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    i have a fitbit and have had various ones over the years.

    for calorie burn, FOR ME, its pretty accurate, though I don't typically eat back many calories to begin with.

    the sleep analytics i do not believe to be accurate, as far as time asleep goes. I can lie perfectly still in bed for an hour or more before I fall asleep or get up, and it counts it as asleep. so... I take that bit with a grain of salt.
  • alexmose2
    alexmose2 Posts: 208 Member
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    I am thinking of getting a fitness tracker to help me get a better sense of how many calories I burn throughout the day with my workouts and NEAT activities, etc.

    To those of you that have one, what is your experience with them and would you recommend? Pros/Cons? Thank you!

    For NEAT purposes, a simple $15 pedometer is another option. Everything else, sleep, calories, etc., must be taken with a grain of salt. Some are pretty inaccurate...others can be accurate...but most importantly, does tracking these things motivate you more? For me, answer is yes.
  • NorthCascades
    NorthCascades Posts: 10,968 Member
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    You can track walking distance and sleep with a phone. It's less convenient and a lot of people are willing to pay more for the convenience of something they wear (letting them put the phone down) and whose battery lasts days.

    As a general rule:

    Worth it is a subjective question, everybody has a different answer for a different reason and nobody is wrong even if they aren't useful.

    It depends what you get out of it if it's going to be worth it. If you're a numbers person you're likely to enjoy having one. If you're competitive the walking challenges can be neat.
  • AsthmaticHippo
    AsthmaticHippo Posts: 62 Member
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    I’ve used loads both with and without HR monitoring.

    A lot depends on your phone and the level of insight you want. By far the best integrated watch I used was the Apple Watch. It’s pricey but it’s also very good. However it does not play with external monitors (or at least didn’t) and its insights Are not very expansive. My battery life just was not good enough though

    Basic tracking I really like my Fitbit. I found it lacking as a smart watch and only limited insights

    I now use Garmin Forerunner. Which gives good activity info but is a little clunky as a smart watch. Great battery which is a key winner for me as I travel and don’t want to carry the charger

    I would now always go with HR versions. Being able to track your resting HR and variability and now even oxygen are great features to see when you are over doing it. I can also see when I am coming down with a bug and can preemptively back off

  • springlering62
    springlering62 Posts: 7,683 Member
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    I’ve got an Apple Watch. I find it very informative. Tons of information, I feel like the calories and steps it records are pretty accurate.

    Also convenient because I can leave phone at home if I feel like it, and still get calls and texts.

    But the most important thing to me is how motivating it’s been. Turning activity and standing hours into visible, measurable rings has been a game changer for me. I like the reminders to get up and move every hour.

    I’ve found the group challenges to be motivating (but frustrating if you’re on a random team), and this month I’m doing the solo challenge, which I love. No glaring at the watch because my teammates won’t get off their *kitten*. It’s all on me.

    If you respond well to digital carrots, it’s a winner.

  • 4Phoenix
    4Phoenix Posts: 236 Member
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    My Phoenix Garmin is a game changer!
  • misslizzierod
    misslizzierod Posts: 57 Member
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    AnnPT77 wrote: »

    Sleep tracking, from what I've read about research and from personal experience, is not very accurate on any of these standard general consumer tracker devices, for many people. (I once wore it during an overnight in-medical-facility sleep study, when I was all wired up with electrodes and other devices to monitor sleep. In the morning, the sleep tech - who'd been watching my monitors all night - and I laughed and laughed about what it thought had happened overnight. It routinely thinks I'm in REM when I'm lying lazily in bed in the morning texting or using social media or whatever, sometimes for hours, and I have the text timestamps to prove it.)

    Thank you for this great information. So funny your tracker thinks your in REM when you're not. Pictured this in my head and laughed a little as well. Thanks again!
  • misslizzierod
    misslizzierod Posts: 57 Member
    edited January 2021
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    Thank you everyone for sharing your detailed experiences. Very helpful!
  • ninerbuff
    ninerbuff Posts: 48,617 Member
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    I use my Charge 3 to track my steps. That way I can see if I'm just being active or not. As of June last year, I average about 20,000 steps a day.

    A.C.E. Certified Personal and Group Fitness Trainer
    IDEA Fitness member
    Kickboxing Certified Instructor
    Been in fitness for 30 years and have studied kinesiology and nutrition

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  • Theo166
    Theo166 Posts: 2,564 Member
    edited January 2021
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    AnnPT77 wrote: »
    Sleep tracking, from what I've read about research and from personal experience, is not very accurate on any of these standard general consumer tracker devices, for many people. (I once wore it during an overnight in-medical-facility sleep study, when I was all wired up with electrodes and other devices to monitor sleep. In the morning, the sleep tech - who'd been watching my monitors all night - and I laughed and laughed about what it thought had happened overnight. It routinely thinks I'm in REM when I'm lying lazily in bed in the morning texting or using social media or whatever, sometimes for hours, and I have the text timestamps to prove it.)

    Yea the sleep tracking doesn't compare to clinical measurement, but it's accurate in logging how much sleep I actually got and logs when I woke up or was being restless. I also find it generally accurate in rating the quality of my sleep; when I score high I also feel well rested. For me it only occasionally logs I was sleeping for an hr during the day when I know I wasn't. I could probably track the quality/length of my sleep with a pad of paper, but I'm too lazy to be candid.

    I'd say the HR monitoring of a FitBit is also of lower quality than my old Polar chest band. If I were to start seriously training, I wouldn't rely on wrist measurement. For my current ordinary activity level, a FitBit is good enough and the historical data is more accessible.
  • bcalvanese
    bcalvanese Posts: 32 Member
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    I am thinking of getting a fitness tracker to help me get a better sense of how many calories I burn throughout the day with my workouts and NEAT activities, etc.

    To those of you that have one, what is your experience with them and would you recommend? Pros/Cons? Thank you!

    I am compulsive when it comes to fitness trackers, and have been using them for about 6 years now. Brands I have used are...

    garmin
    fitbit
    suunto
    tomtom
    microsoft
    galaxy
    apple watch
    polar

    my current tracker is a Garmin fenix 6X Pro Sapphire.

    I have used mostly Garmin for the past 6 years and no other company can beat them as far as accuracy and features as it stands right now anyway...lol

    For me they have always been a tool to monitor my activity, calories, heart rate, sleep, stress, and fitness. All these things are important for good health, so why not have a device to track everything for you?

    If you tell me what your goals are I can help you select the right tracker for you. And if you decide on Garmin you can friend me in the garmin app, and you can join my weekly step challenges... :)
  • stephnstars
    stephnstars Posts: 47 Member
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    I have had a fotbit for years! Recently upgraded to a newer model and paid for premium. I love it! I really find it motivates me to move more. I love that when I'm exercising I can track my heart rate and make sure I'm pushing myself to the level I want to be. I love the premium feature as I can use the workouts, get wellbeing reports and they have helped me loose 40lbs since April!!!! I know trackers aren't for everyone but mine keeps me on track and thats the best of all.