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Staying on track

Zephyr Brown investigates if a fitness band can help keep things in check 

Words Zephyr Brown. Illustration Angela Keoghan

As my new year’s resolution I decided that this year would be “my year to get fit”. Last year had been “my year to lose weight”. After losing 21kg I figured it’ll be easier to maintain my new weight if I exercise. Being middle aged I find it all too easy to fall back into old habits (“hmm that pie looks good”) and worried that all my hard work would gradually unravel if I wasn’t mindful.

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Fortunately there is a whole slew of new technologies that promise to assist me with the task. Wearables are the new big thing in consumer electronics. Ever since Apple announced it was doing a smart watch its competitors have been racing to beat them to market. Walking into my local Noel Leeming I found a whole display dedicated to smart watches and fitness trackers. Many of these devices have been on the market for a while but they all seem to have upped their game this year. The watches seem more refined, while the trackers have new features. But I don’t need to be notified for every txt, call, tweet, Facebook or Instagram post, and I didn’t want anything too bulky if I was going to wear it 24/7.

I quickly decided on a Fitbit Charge HR. Along with the standard features of steps, distance, calories and sleep monitoring (hours and restlessness), it also has a new heart rate monitor – and it tells the time. 

I also prefer an old school watch strap; its adjustment and fit is very good. Last year they recalled the product after complaints about the rubber strap, and have spent time and money perfecting it. 

Unlike the not-so-smart watches its battery last five days, so you don’t have to charge it every night. That’s handy if you want to track your sleep. My choice of a Fitbit was immediately reinforced when I got to work because I found half a dozen people wearing them, although I was the only guy. (Apparently you don’t need a slim, lightweight fitness tracker to do weights like a real bloke…) 

Getting the weekly/monthly progress emails with your achievements certainly helps keep the motivation up.

Tracking your numbers on the Fitbit is done via the tracker and the phone app. The tracker reports the steps, distance, calories burnt, sleep and heart rate info and you enter calories and water consumption and exercise times and type. 

Like any regime, keeping up with logging all your details can be tedious or addictive, depending on your mindset, but I only spend a few minutes doing this each day. Getting the weekly/monthly progress emails with your achievements certainly helps keep the motivation up. 

Other users in the office have been doing the competitions with their friends. No office competition has been started… It does get very competitive by the sounds of it, with one colleague taking a quick and unnecessary walk to the shops just to get the most steps in a day. 

After two months of using the tracker I can say it’s been a good experience. I do feel a bit naked without it on now. I also feel guilty when I fail to log my details..(arrgh, is it really time for another glass of water?!), and I’ve stopped wearing it in bed because the little green light annoys my partner. 

But for the princely sum of $199 it’s a worthwhile investment that is really helping me keep to my health targets. 

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