If you’re the owner of a shiny new Fitbit – or you’re considering jumping into the world of fitness tracking – you might be wondering exactly where to get started.
The fact is that even when considering Fitbit, the biggest household name in fitness tracking, there’s a huge array of wearable devices which all do different things. There’s a shape and size to suit everyone, with features ranging from simple step tracking to insanely detailed biometrics.
So without further ado, let’s jump in to our complete guide to Fitbit.
What does a Fitbit do?
While the key features of a Fitbit will differ from device to device, they all have some key features:
- Step tracking (measured by movement of your arm)
- Sleep tracking (again measured by arm movement)
- Calorie burn estimation
And then specific trackers will offer even more:
- Automatic activity tracking
- Heart rate tracking (resting heart rate, live heart rate)
- Advanced sleep tracking (using heart rate)
- GPS tracking of outdoor workouts
- Connected GPS pairing to use a phone’s GPS for outdoor workouts
- Notifications and alarms
Whether you’re looking for a new tracker, or wondering which Fitbit you have, let us guide you.
|Device||Screen||GPS||Auto-detect exercise||Heart rate||Swim-proof|
|Fitbit Charge 3||Yes||No (Connected GPS only)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Fitbit Alta HR||Yes||No||No||Yes||No|
|Fitbit Flex 2||No||No||No||No||Yes|
|Fitbit Versa||Yes||No (Connected GPS only)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Fitbit Blaze||Yes||No (Connected GPS only)||Yes||Yes||No|
Fitbit fitness trackers
Fitbit Charge 3
This is Fitbit’s most advanced sports tracking fitness band, with its SpO2 heart rate sensor underneath tracking your bpm 24/7. You can track a range of workouts, but there’s no GPS – although take your phone out for a run/cycle and you can use the GPS on that. The big screen shows off stats from your day and progress towards those step and sleep goals, plus some cherry picked notifications from your smartphone too.
Fitbit Alta HR
£129.99, fitbit.com | Amazon
Our fitness tracker of the year in 2017, the Alta HR offers a really strong balance of features in a small, discreet design. You still get heart rate tracking and advanced sleep stats, and all the normal step tracking features – although the screen is too small for notifications and there’s no connected GPS for workouts.
Fitbit Flex 2
£69.99, fitbit.com | Amazon
The cheapest tracker in the line-up, the screenless Flex 2 just keeps tabs on your steps and sleep using basic arm movement tracking. You’ll also need to check into the Fitbit app to see detailed progress. It does have a hidden superpower, however – it’s swim-proof for basic tracking of pool sessions, which is only matched by the new Charge 3 and Versa smartwatch.
£79.99, fitbit.com | Amazon
Aimed at kids aged eight and up, the Ace will do basic fitness tracking, as even younger people can benefit from some motivation, especially from an adult-looking tracker. You can also set up challenges for your kids among other family members or friends. It doesn’t have the chore and reward systems that Garmin has put into the Vivofit Jr line, but it works.
£199.99, fitbit.com | Amazon
For those who want (almost) the full suite of Fitbit features in smartwatch form, the Versa is a top bet. Step and sleep tracking is enhanced by heart rate – and the company’s advanced SpO2 sensor is on board which will unlock health features in the future. You also get smartphone notifications plus Fitbit Pay, and it will piggyback GPS from a paired phone.
£279.99, fitbit.com | Amazon
Its aggressive sporty styling gives it away – the Fitbit Ionic is the only watch in the line-up to have GPS built in for outdoor run tracking without a phone. The company’s advanced heart rate sensor is also on board for accurate tracking of calories and sleep, as well as during the tracked workouts.
£159.99, fitbit.com | Amazon
The company’s first stab at a smartwatch wasn’t such a success, but the Blaze still has a place with people who want the features of a tracker (steps, sleep and heart rate) in the form of a wrist watch. It’s not a looker for our money, but has endured as an option, especially for men with larger wrists.
Heart rate tracking is a big part of modern fitness wearables, and most of Fitbit’s line-up now has a heart rate monitor built-in.
How does Fitbit’s heart rate tech work?
Fitbit uses its own in-house PurePulse technology to detect the amount of blood flowing through the wrist. These lights are then flashed hundreds of times per second in order to gain the most accurate BPM (beats per minute) data, by judging how much green light is being absorbed.
Naturally, while every company dabbling with this optical sensor technology is working from the same blueprint, how each company’s algorithms interpret the data affects how accurate the readings are.
Resting heart rate
Fitbits with heart rate sensors will keep tabs on resting heart rate – a key metric of your health. As you get fitter this should lower, and seeing spikes could be a sign that you’re run down, fatigued or getting ill. It’s a powerful metric and often under-used.
Active heart rate
Obviously you can check in on your heart rate at any time, and HR will be recorded during workouts too. If you track a session you can find a summary in your Fitbit app, and look at the performance of your heart throughout that session. Why is that useful? You should see yourself get faster or stronger at the same heart rate as you get fitter, and you can also check you were pushing yourself hard enough in intense sessions (or not over-reaching).
VO2 Max is also tracked within the app from outdoor workouts with heart rate-toting Fitbits. VO2 Max is an estimate of the amount of oxygen your body can process – the more that is, the fitter you are. If you’re working out regularly (and we mean proper, intense workouts) you should see this number improve quickly.
Heart rate zones
Your Fitbit can also assess how long you’re spending in each HR zone, which can help you ensure your sessions are meeting your goals. Intense sessions should be spent in a high zone, while long, slow runs, for example, shouldn’t break above zone 2 or 3. Using heart rate zones can help you prevent over training and get better value for your workouts.
While all the exciting shiny stuff is happening on the wrist, the really useful data lives in the Fitbit app, and accessing and understanding this will be key to achieving your goals. We have a full guide to the Fitbit app, but here’s everything it does in a nutshell.
Check your daily stats
The main Fitbit dashboard is where you’ll get stats on your day’s steps, calories, floors climbed and hours of sleep – all presented on the main screen of your smartphone app.
Set your step and sleep goals
You can adjust your goals within the Fitbit app too. While step goals default to 10,000, that’s not much use if you’re struggling to get 5,000 under your belt. Set your goal and change it – it’s the secret to success.
Check heart rate data
Heart rate data can be found within the tab on the dashboard – and for such important information, you’d be forgiven for missing it. This is where you can see a record of your resting heart rate and also your VO2 Max, which is renamed as Cardio Fitness Score (although is just a VO2 Max number).
Just hitting that step goal every day isn’t the best motivation, but Challenges let you get competitive with your fitness. You can set your own Challenges (to walk certain step distances for example) or you can compete in step competitions with friends, which you add via the app.
Check out your badges
You’ll also earn badges by doing challenges and just wearing your Fitbit and hitting milestones. It’s just another way to make the experience more motivating – check out our guide to Fitbit badges.
Fitbit tips and tricks
How to calibrate your Fitbit
If you don’t feel your Fitbit is accurately reporting your steps, you can calibrate it to your stride length, which should get things a little closer to reality.
How to sync Fitbit
To see your data in the app, you’ll need to sync it. Check out our guide to syncing your Fitbit – and what to do if it won’t work.
How to change Fitbit band
Most Fitbit wearables can be customised for a more personal look. Check out our guide to swapping bands and changing things up.
How to reset your Fitbit
If you’re letting someone else use your Fitbit, or you want to wipe your data and start again, then check out our guide on how to reset your Fitbit.
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