A question for fitness tracker owners

macchiatto
macchiatto Posts: 2,892 Member
edited May 2016 in Fitness and Exercise
DH and I are going to REI tomorrow to spend our annual rewards. I'd been tentatively planning to buy a fitness tracker and figured I probably want one with a heart rate monitor.

However, today a friend gave me her Fitbit Surge (she upgraded) [EDIT: OK, from looking at pics, I'm pretty sure it's actually a Blaze. She had included the Surge booklet which confused me], which was so kind of her! She said to feel free to pass it on to someone else if I decide I don't want it. How important/helpful is the heart rate feature? Surge owners, are you happy with it? We don't get up to REI very often since it's 80 miles away but I have a specialist appt near there tomorrow and will probably go shopping for other things while we're up there if I don't get a fitness tracker with HRM with my share of the rewards.

Sorry; I know you probably get way too many fitness tracker questions on here but since I'm trying to decide on short notice I thought I'd ask.

Replies

  • twinmom_112002
    twinmom_112002 Posts: 766 Member
    It totally depends on personal preference. I used a Jawbone for a year and just getting the steps was enough for me. It motivated me to move a little more through my work-day. That said I just upgraded to a garmin 235 with a wrist HR monitor because I am doing a HR based half marathon plan. During the day it just gives me the giggles when I know I am having an anxiety attack and my HR backs it up :-)
  • kmbrooks15
    kmbrooks15 Posts: 941 Member
    I have a Fitbit Blaze but am wishing now I'd gotten the Surge for the GPS since I just took up running. :(

    The answer to this really depends on what you want out of a tracker. I have found that my heart rate tends to be pretty true to what the tracker says when I take my actual pulse. And you definitely want your heartrate within a certain range depending on whether you're trying to burn fat or do cardio, and you definitely don't want it going too high. So it can be a useful tool depending on what you're trying to accomplish.
  • 2011rocket3touring
    2011rocket3touring Posts: 1,346 Member
    During my treadmill time my apple watch and software keep track of my heart rate and calculates calories burned using that data. Helps me make better food decisions.
  • MeanderingMammal
    MeanderingMammal Posts: 7,870 Member
    macchiatto wrote: »
    ..... I probably want one with a heart rate monitor.

    Pretty much a waste of time for most people.

    If HR is useful and meaningful in your training, then a FitBit based device isn't going to give you reliable enough data.
  • MeanderingMammal
    MeanderingMammal Posts: 7,870 Member
    kmbrooks15 wrote: »
    And you definitely want your heartrate within a certain range depending on whether you're trying to burn fat or do cardio, and you definitely don't want it going too high.

    That's a very outdated theory. If you're exercising to support weight loss, then working out as hard as is reasonable for the session your doing is most effective. If your HR goes abover your lactate threshold then there are different physiological effects, but a wrist based tracker is neither accurate or responsive enough to provide meaningful information in that circunmstance.
  • _Waffle_
    _Waffle_ Posts: 13,054 Member
    edited May 2016
    If someone gave you a FitBit Surge I would just roll with that unless you have a compelling need for something more specific. Those have GPS for running and function as an all day activity tracker. Spend your money on something else or save it for later.

    HR tracking is nice additional data but not totally necessary for general fitness tracking.
  • NorthCascades
    NorthCascades Posts: 10,767 Member
    edited May 2016
    macchiatto wrote: »
    However, today a friend gave me her Fitbit Surge (she upgraded), which was so kind of her! She said to feel free to pass it on to someone else if I decide I don't want it. How important/helpful is the heart rate feature?

    You have a pretty awesome friend.

    What do you want to do with your fitness tracker? What sorts of exercise?

    I have a Garmin Fenix 3, and wear a chest strap HRM with it. I know my lactate threshold heart rate, so, most of the time when I run, I try to keep my HR below that point, which lets me avoid burning out too quickly and run longer. I don't wear the HRM on walks because there's really no point, walking isn't an intensive cardiovascular exercise. I also use mine for cycling; even though I don't really care when I'm on the bike what my HR is, I like being able to see the graphs later and evaluate the quality of the workout. But sitting at my desk at work, or driving home, there's just no use for that information.
    If HR is useful and meaningful in your training, then a FitBit based device isn't going to give you reliable enough data.

    This is 100 % consistent with my girlfriend's experience. She returned hers for this reason.
  • macchiatto
    macchiatto Posts: 2,892 Member
    @NorthCascades I realized it's actually a Blaze (she had included the Surge booklet but when I looked them up, it definitely looks like a Blaze), but either way, I agree she's an awesome friend to give it to me for free!

    I run, walk, strength train, hike and might do some HIIT and Zumba. Currently I'm in physical therapy 3x/wk doing the exercise bike and various strength exercises to build up my knee and core/back strength after a series of minor injuries. Last month I started on an MS med that can affect heart rate so I thought it might be useful to keep an eye on what my HR does once I start running again but I'm not sure how accurate they are anyway ... or if having a HRM makes the fitness tracker more accurate in terms of calorie burn. I confess I really hadn't researched them much yet.
  • NorthCascades
    NorthCascades Posts: 10,767 Member
    An HRM can make the calories burnt figure more accurate. These things are just computers, and the whole "garbage in garbage out" concept applies, having more information about you means it's possible to come up with better answers. Your heart rate gives the computer some idea of how hard you're working. BUT if you're taking a medicine that can affect your heart rate, that probably destroys the HR/intensity relationship programmed into these things. So probably the calories won't be right for you.

    Also it's worth saying: even with HR data, a fitness tracker is still estimating calories burnt. Different trackers use different formulas to get calories from heart data. So just having an HRM doesn't guarantee good accuracy.
  • MeanderingMammal
    MeanderingMammal Posts: 7,870 Member
    An HRM can make the calories burnt figure more accurate.

    Assuming steady state, aerobic range activity.
  • NorthCascades
    NorthCascades Posts: 10,767 Member
    edited May 2016
    No, not assuming steady state. Estimating calories from an HRM for an activity like this is going to be a lot more accurate than estimating them from a roll of the dice:

    25672764933_661da3f327_o_d.jpg

    Look at the HR graph. Nobody in their right mind would call it "steady."
  • trina1049
    trina1049 Posts: 593 Member
    I have a Fitbit Charge HR that I love. With a tracker I'm better able to guage my overall activity which includes walking every day along with weight lifting, and some cardio 4Xs per week. I've found it be pretty accurate for an overall calorie burn. I make sure to get 25,000 steps of activity every day. I've lost 51-52 lbs. and I'm on maintenance.

    All of these trackers are guesstimates of activity and calorie burns so just be realistic with your expectations. For an overall look at your daily activity, I think they work great and motivate you to keep moving.

    I do look at the heart rate information as I like to see what my resting heart rate is (which has lowered over time as I've lost weight). I love the sleep analysis feature since I've had sleep issues in the past before I lost weight and like to make sure that I get enough rest. It keeps me mindful that I have to get moving every single day and for that alone it's worth it.

  • MeanderingMammal
    MeanderingMammal Posts: 7,870 Member
    edited May 2016
    Look at the HR graph. Nobody in their right mind would call it "steady."

    And as your estimation is based on a power meter the HR data won't have a bearing on the calories. I'd also observe that the Fenix has a significantly more sophisticated algorithm than a consumer level FitBit, given that the Firstbeat elements of the algorithm go some way to mitigate the error induced by non-steady state activity.

    For what the originator described as her activities, the only real impact of HR data being a factor in the calorie estimation is a false sense of accuracy.
  • _Waffle_
    _Waffle_ Posts: 13,054 Member
    edited May 2016
    macchiatto wrote: »
    However, today a friend gave me her Fitbit Surge (she upgraded), which was so kind of her! She said to feel free to pass it on to someone else if I decide I don't want it. How important/helpful is the heart rate feature?

    You have a pretty awesome friend.

    What do you want to do with your fitness tracker? What sorts of exercise?

    I have a Garmin Fenix 3, and wear a chest strap HRM with it. I know my lactate threshold heart rate, so, most of the time when I run, I try to keep my HR below that point, which lets me avoid burning out too quickly and run longer. I don't wear the HRM on walks because there's really no point, walking isn't an intensive cardiovascular exercise. I also use mine for cycling; even though I don't really care when I'm on the bike what my HR is, I like being able to see the graphs later and evaluate the quality of the workout. But sitting at my desk at work, or driving home, there's just no use for that information.
    If HR is useful and meaningful in your training, then a FitBit based device isn't going to give you reliable enough data.

    This is 100 % consistent with my girlfriend's experience. She returned hers for this reason.

    I have a Fenix 3 HR and even though it can track my HR during the day there's no advantage to that over simply counting steps. I just like it because I can get a pretty good estimate of effort during a workout without wearing the chest strap all the time. That thing rubs me raw in the summer on longer runs no matter how much body glide I use.

    I have noticed in the past that when I use a HR with my Forerunner 220 I'd get a lower estimated burn if I wore The HRM strap. It's 80 - 100 calories lower on a 6 mile run with the HRM so it can make a difference in your workout estimate.
  • NorthCascades
    NorthCascades Posts: 10,767 Member
    edited May 2016
    Look at the HR graph. Nobody in their right mind would call it "steady."

    And as your estimation is based on a power meter the HR data won't have a bearing on the calories. I'd also observe that the Fenix has a significantly more sophisticated algorithm than a consumer level FitBit, given that the Firstbeat elements of the algorithm go some way to mitigate the error induced by non-steady state activity.

    For what the originator described as her activities, the only real impact of HR data being a factor in the calorie estimation is a false sense of accuracy.

    For the OP, we've ruled out an HRM already because she's taking medicine that affects her heart rate.

    While it's true that I have a power meter which takes precedence over HR for calories, that doesn't say anything about what "steady state" cardio is or isn't. I posted an example of an activity that is NOT "steady" by any definition, and you'll get a better calorie estimate for an activity like this by using an HRM than you will by using NOT using an HRM. That's the only point I'm contesting; if you don't have a power meter, or use an activity tracker that can't talk to one, having heart data will get you closer to the truth than not having it. Even though it isn't "steady state cardio" whatever that's supposed to mean.

    Yes, this ride got its calorie estimate from power. Last week the battery in the PM died and I rode for a few days without its use. When I rent a mountain bike, I don't move my PM over.

    Yes, a Fenix 3 has a better algorithm than a Fitbit, which proves that you can't treat all HRMs as if they were the same, which is what I've been saying.
  • MeanderingMammal
    MeanderingMammal Posts: 7,870 Member
    edited May 2016
    Yes, a Fenix 3 has a better algorithm than a Fitbit, which proves that you can't treat all HRMs as if they were the same, which is what I've been saying.

    So as long as you accept a wide range of caveats an HRM may, or may not, provide a vaguely meaningful estimation of potential calorie expenditure when used in a way that they're not designed for it's a bit better than a wild ar**d guess. Possibly...

    Got it

    So what you've demonstrated is that hill repeats aren't steady state...
  • chrisfwood
    chrisfwood Posts: 37 Member
    If you are after a toy then Fitbit, if you are after true sports tracker Garmin forerunner and the like are the way to go even if they have an optical HRM they also pair with chest straps for better data. I would also not bother with idea HR give better calorie estimate, simple physics moving a mass (you) at a speed (step rate / GPS) requires an amount of energy. What HR tells you is how hard you're training and if you're improving assuming the same conditions.
  • ASKyle
    ASKyle Posts: 1,475 Member
    Take what you got for free and see if you like it first! If it's something you end up utilizing, maybe you can look into a different one. I love my Charge HR, but a lot of people buy a tracker and it ends up in a drawer two months later.