Getting shamed by my fitbit

Why do I need to track that? titpic

I was not that person, no way was I going to walk around with a piece of plastic around my wrist and be held accountable to a little screen that would shame me about my “cheeks” being in my seat too long. Then I got my fitbit and it was love at first step, well really borderline obsession. I finally understood why every one was so excited to blurt out their latest badge or how may steps they accomplished. It was Thanksgiving weekend 2015 and I bit the bullet and purchased my first fitbit, an HR Charge-purple of course. It was on sale and I have to admit I was mildly curious about what all the hype was about. I figured I wouldn’t use it much but maybe there would be a few features that would make the purchase worthwhile, although I knew I wasn’t going to become one of those crazy people who can’t wait to tell you how may stairs they did. Fast forward a year late and I was that person.

Badges Trophies and Friends OH MY!

Is it wanting to be “fit” that made fitbit so popular? As wearable technology continues to move from fad, to trend, to mainstream, fitbit was king in the sales year 2014 accounting for 50% of the 3 million + wearable fitness devices. Most of us know in our heart of hearts that we could be a little more fit. America’s battle of the bulge is nothing new and we’d like to think that fitbit could be that tool to tip the scales in the right direction.

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What fitbit provides is so much more than a calorie counter and step tracker. We all know those people, (if you are one I apologize in advance), who bought into the fitbit hype. After purchasing a fitbit they either never took it out of the box or after a couple of weeks of deep shame for not hitting their goals moved the fitbit to the junk draw from whence it will never return. Studies show that keys to a successful longterm relationship with your fitbit lie in  engagement with fitbit’s website and Apps. Setting achievable realistic goals is the first step and fitbit does a great job at congratulating you on hitting your targets. Every time I feel that little vibration on my wrist letting me know I’ve met a goal my heart does a little flutter. Now those badges and trophies are fantastic little motivators for me too. Although thought by some to be childish I love how I can look back on past achievements and big milestones. My fitbit even gave me the confidence to run my first half marathon. I had been debating it for a while and after a day I went for a long trail run with no real goal in mind I looked back at my results and what I achieved and it inspired me that I could tackle a bigger challenge.myfitbitacc3

Along with badges and trophies a big engagement tool for fitbit is friends and challenges. I love being able to rank myself against my friends and see how my average steps stack up to theirs. The challenges during the week have allowed me to form relationships with people who I typically wouldn’t. Last year I was on a business trip in Texas and went out to dinner with a co-worker and her husband. Her husband had been bitten by the fitbit bug too and we spent dinner talking about our goals and achievements. The next week he became my fitbit friend and we engage in challenges every week with his group of friends who I’ve never met but cheer on as we progress through reaching our personal goals and of course competing with each other. I’ve never beaten my co-workers husband by the way but trying to catch him every week motivates me to push even further. I have another fitbit friend who prides himself on being able to crush me every week. Now it’s little unfair as I have a desk job and he is a delivery driver for UPS but one week I had been at the top of my game and he admitted later to watching my updates and getting up out of bed at 11pm to make sure I didn’t over take him. Fun fact if you really want to mess with your friends during a challenge hold off on syncing up your fitbit so they can’t see your progress. A little evil but all’s fair in love and fitbit challenges!

Challenges and competitions for fitbit

Challenges for fitbit are accuracy of the features and competition. Although most research has shown that the step tracker is fairly accurate some of the other features like heart rate, activity levels, and distance are a little more suspect. Even if some of those other features are not 100% accurate there is still value. One friend of mine claims fitbit saved her life. She is admittedly not the fitest person but wears her fitbit religiously and therefore knows what it normally registers as her heartbeat. After not feeling well for several days she went to the doctor and they determined she had a standard virus and to just rest. She challenged the doctor a little more by explaining that her fitbit normally registers in the high 60s for her resting heart rate but over the past few days she was noticing it in the low 100s. That prompted the doctor to do more tests and it was determined she had pneumonia which could have progressed more seriously without treatment.

Fitbit has many competitors in the wearable technology segment, Gamin, Jawbone, and Nike just to name a few. Also Apps like Map My Run solve for the distance tracking that fitbit lacks . Overall fitbit is really designed for the casual user and doesn’t provide the diagnostic needs of the more serious athletes.

 

So does fitbit make you more fit?

I can’t say I know the answer to this. The key lies in engagement but inherently someone who buys a fitbit and takes the time to set goals and track progress is already more motivated to live a more active and healthy lifestyle. So is it fitbit or the individual? Fitbit definitely fills the need for the average individual who wants to be a little healthier, and since America isn’t getting any skinnier anytime soon fitbit should have plenty of customers. Fitbit needs to keep focus on the initial digital engagement which is key to product adoption and satisfaction. Keeping the product simple and Apps easy to navigate are important to keep people interacting with the product. Ideally people what to see results so making individuals accountable to either a community or themselves will help ensure success. All and all a little shaming doesn’t hurt either: “It’s time to move” and feed my fitbit 250 steps!

References:

http://berkeleysciencereview.com/fit-fitbit/

11 comments

  1. Really cool post! I have the Fitbit Flex 2 which is an interesting model because it does not come with a screen. The only way I can set goals and keep up with my progress is through the app on my phone, and the device itself only alerts me through lights and vibrations. Although it is by no means a life changer at first use, it affects the user’s daily cycle increasingly so. And like you said, it’s not good enough for expert diagnostics, but definitely has the capacity of adding onto the productivity and motivation, building on the idea that consumers understand even before buying the product that it’s up to them to make the most out of it.

  2. Awesome post! I too was someone who didn’t think having a Fitbit would make much of a difference: if I wanted to walk more, I’d simply walk more! But once I got my Fitbit and realized just how little I was actually walking during the work day, it provided extra motivation to take the stairs rather than the elevator and go for walks in the middle of the day rather than take a lunch at my desk. But I’d say one of the biggest factors was seeing how I matched up with my friends. The first year I got it I was actually comparing myself to my friends, but a few of the more casual Fitbit friends have fallen off the wagon and admittedly I’ve been less intense about hitting my goal everyday. It’s interesting to see that social and technology interaction take place on something so innocuous as how many times am I moving my feet a day!

  3. So i unfortunately was one of the people who bought into the fitbit hype. While I was constantly hitting my step goal and acknowledge that I am a very competitive person who enjoyed matching up with friends, i couldn’t get myself to buy into the phenomenon for more than 2 weeks. I felt like it was giving me the same knowledge day after day and that on days I was walking more, I now had an app to tell me that that was indeed the case. You make a very good case as to why people are engaged with this product, especially so much as to inspire you to run a half marathon! I just wonder how much long they will be successful if they 1. cannot engage with all of their target audience members as it can become boring or 2. their competition i.e. apple watch, jawbone etc. will beat them out. Will this be a fad and die out in a few years, or is this just the beginning of the future for fitness trackers? Thanks for a great post!

  4. Good post- I LOVE my Fitbit. Another benefit of Fitbit that I don’t think you touched on is the sleep tracking. The sleep tracking details when you fall asleep and how deep your sleep was over the course of the night. Tracking my sleep showed me how little “deep sleep” I was actually getting, which explained some fatigue issues I was having. This is another way that Fitbit helps our health. Here’s an example of the sleep tracking data: http://www.andherlittledogtoo.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Sleep-Pattern.jpg

  5. I really enjoyed reading this post! Similar to Alexis, I was also someone who bought into the Fitbit hype but subsequently stopped using it months later. I believe Fitbit has really benefited from the health awareness trend taking our country by storm, but I have started to wonder how sustainable their position is. I developed this concern from the realization that many of my friends have stopped using their Fitbit devices as well as the reports of Fitbit holiday sales this year.

    http://fortune.com/2017/01/30/fitbit-fourth-quarter-results-layoffs/

  6. Great post and it makes me wonder how they will continue to grow. I think the future ill be difficult for them if they do not find upper level management that is willing to bet big on the future of health/fitness. What that currently is, is unclear. However, what seems to be very clear is fittest loss of sales and their struggle to maintain growth. How much more money can Fitbit really get out of their existing consumer base before they need to innovate again.

  7. Really liked this post Caroline! I found it really interesting that your friend used to FitBit data to help the doctor make the right diagnosis. I wonder if all physicians as open-minded to using data from consumer products; it sounds like it was very helpful in this case. I noticed recently that FitBit now have a device with GPS tracking – I guess they are trying to eat into that the run tracking segment. It seems to be a great device to promote health and wellness.

  8. NIce post. I’m an Apple watch user, and it has definitely had a big impact on my fitness level. I was a) surprised at how little was required to count as the requisite exercise for a given day and b) how little I actually got if I didn’t intentionally go out to do it. It has certainly made sure I get at least moderate exercise almost every day.

  9. I LOVED this post (caps necessary). I think the impact technology is having on fitness is a great subject to consider. I do not have a fitbit (currently debating getting one which is why I was interested in this piece at first) but I use my phone’s step calculator and I think it is a great way to inspire/motivate me to get my steps in. I am unsure if it is just me because I am interested in fitness/health, but I think that technology such as the fitbit is great for any kind of person– everyone from a marathoner to my grandmother (who was an early adopter in the fitbit world) can be motivated by this technology. I wonder, however, if health technologies have impacted Americans health. This is definitely something I would love to look into further, thanks for bringing it up!

    PS what do you think about how fitbit has released more fashionable wristbands? Are they just going off of what Apple does with the gold wristband? Kind of unrelated to your post but I think the intersection of fashion, athletics, and technology is something to consider!

    1. It is totally in response to Apple for sure.

  10. I have to admit I have never owned a Fitbit (I didn’t like the design), but I had a Jawbone instead. Everything you mentioned about engaging and competing is absolutely true – I think the social and “competition” factor is what makes fitness trackers so popular. However, when my Jawbone broke and I didn’t care enough to replace it after a few weeks. My iPhone does a good job tracking steps if I want to track them (disclaimer: I usually don’t anymore), there are smart alarm apps, there is MapMyRun for exercising, and heart rate monitoring apps as well, all of which I was still using while using the fitness tracker. Without the competition element, the need for a fitness tracker for me personally waned off.

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