The Wonder of Tech is honored to welcome Ashley Faulkes as the author of today’s article on FitBit Zip, part of the Tech + Fitness series. Find out how the FitBit Zip can inspire you to get off your couch and get fit!
Technology is slowly creeping into every part of our lives.
Our phones are now “smart” and can entertain us, as well as help us accomplish things quickly and more easily.
Our cars can connect with our phones and other devices, and whisk us to our destinations “almost” unguided. Google will soon take care of the rest with – the driverless car!
And now technology is taking on new forms to help us maintain our health and keep us fit. In the future, with even more advanced technology, medicine will become preventative instead of just reactive.
However, before we reach such amazing heights, we have cool little devices to help us keep fit like…the FitBit Zip.
What is this little FitBit Zip?
FitBit Zip is one of a range of products from the FitBit family of wearable technology. Here is what this amazing little thing looks like:
It is a tiny device that you wear all day long to record your daily activity.
So what exactly does the Zip do? To quote from the FitBit website:
“It tracks your steps, distance, and calories burned – and syncs those stats to your computer and select smartphones.”
The basic idea is to track your activity (i.e., steps) each day and to try to maintain it or improve upon it. It really keeps you in check.
Been a bit lazy today? You can’t hide it from the FitBit. It’s tracking your every step. Literally.
You can earn cool badges, giving you both extra motivation and bragging rights.
So in essence, it is a motivator to get up and get moving. But the FitBit Zip is more than a pedometer. You can set yourself goals each day, week or month. Compete against other people. And then monitor your progress and see how well you are doing!
The FitBit Zip design
Right. So the FitBit is tracking you like a private detective. It knows you every move. At least, as long as you are wearing it.
But how wearable is it?
Actually the FitBit Zip is a great little gadget that you can attach almost anywhere on your person. From your waistband to your bra band (yes, that is recommended), or simply in your pocket without the clip.
Carry it everywhere. All day. Every day. That is the idea after all.
It is small, light, comfortable and unobtrusive, so you will hardly notice it as you go about your day. But maybe you are wondering how big it is? Here are the size specs from FitBit:
Yep, it is pretty darn small. Of course you need to bear in mind that the above sizes are without the attachment clip, but that really does not add much bulk to this slim device. It’s just a silicone cover after all.
It also comes in a range of colors, in case you were worried that it only comes in black! Here they are:
Maybe pink or bright green are not everyone’s tastes! I chose the blue one. And my girlfriend the functional black.
The clip is a little less “bright” due to the material (silicone), so in the end it dulls the whole thing down a little, even if you do choose the brightest color.
How does the FitBit Zip work?
Let’s go over this in two parts, because it will help to break it down.
The device itself
The device measures your steps as you move around all day. So you don’t have to be doing exercise, just moving. Whether it’s walking to lunch, or simply doing some chores. The FitBit is always counting your steps. It even counts when you are riding a bike (but not a stationary one). So if you use one in any way, don’t worry that the movements won’t count.
Using a simple algorithm, taking into account your step size (from your height), age and weight, it also estimates how far you walk and how many calories you burn as well.
These are all displayed on the device, and you can cycle through each measurement one by one, by tapping on the screen. The following image shows all the different modes:
- The first one is the steps (hence the little feet)
- The next one is the FitBit happy because you are moving
- The next is distance you have walked
- The one with the fire is the calories burned
- Another smile from FitBit
- The current time.
Which ones are displayed (or not displayed) can also be configured via a computer.
Connecting with your phone or computer
The FitBit Zip will also sync all the latest data with your computer or phone, when it is within bluetooth range (so reasonably close).
The computer sync requires that you attach a small dongle (like with a cordless mouse) to your USB port. Here is an image from FitBit of how it all works:
I use the computer method and it is pretty seamless. Once you have downloaded the app required to connect to the device, and set up your account on FitBit.com (to record the data, etc) there is nothing else to do.
I set mine up months ago, and have not really changed anything since.
The same can be done with certain smartphones, if they have Bluetooth 4.0. So if you are not into attaching things to USB ports on your computer, it might be enough to use your phone. Check on the FitBit website first to make sure your phone is supported.
Monitoring your progress
Once you have this all set up (it took me about 15 minutes to do mine and my girlfriend’s) you can either monitor your progress on the FitBit website or get the weekly reports in your email. Here is my email report from last week:
It shows you all the details of your week such as:
- Steps, Calories, Distance – both average daily and total for the week
- Any awards you get (they keep you motivated by awarding you badges)
- If you are in a competition, who is doing the best
This last point is interesting. FitBit is also setup in such a way that you can enter into a kind of fitness competition with friends, family or colleagues.
I know a girl who works for a big company here in Switzerland and they were doing a “walk across Switzerland” competition, virtually of course. They had to try to do the distance that walking across Switzerland would be over a long period of time. They did it as a group, and had to monitor their progress against each other and between teams. FitBit was the device, and the software online was the tool for tracking the teams.
So FitBit is not only a way to motivate yourself by seeing your own stats, it is also a great way to motivate each other. My girlfriend and I are always reporting our days stats to each other, and driving each other to do better!
Other FitBit options
So far I have only really been talking about the features of the FitBit Zip. The FitBit family also features other wearable devices you might be interested in such as the
These other devices are quite similar in many ways, but have some more features (like weight and sleep tracking).
The FitBit devices will also connect with many existing fitness apps (to allow data transfer) like:
- Lose It!
So if you are using any of these, there is perhaps even more motivation to get such a device!
My experience with the FitBit Zip
The FitBit Zip is attached to my belt loop as I am writing this. I wear it every day, from when I get up to when I go to bed.
The only minor issues I have are when you change clothes (for sport, or to go out) you have to remember to move your FitBit. For the rest, it is my ever constant companion, who I never notice is there!
Sometimes I even have to use my FitBit to check the time (if I don’t have a watch on, or my phone). So it comes in handy for more than just step counting!
Syncing with my PC is a breeze too. I actually don’t do anything. And the FitBit just sends the data. Then, once a week I get an email with my stats.
You can of course keep a closer watch on your stats online via their website, but it is not something I currently need.
It uses a watch style battery (the CR2025 I believe) that should last you many months. In fact I only just changed mine after nearly 6 months and I have used it constantly.
You might also be wondering how accurate it is? Well the distance and calories are just estimates, but since you are using them as a guide for comparison, accuracy is not important.
The step counter is very sensitive. The only time I think it misses a count is if you try to do “on the spot” steps or stationary cycling. But I don’t think that is a problem for most!
If you want to motivate yourself to get more active and see how you are doing you can check out FitBit Zip at the FitBit website. The FitBit Zip currently retails for $59.95.
Have you ever used the FitBit? Do you like the idea of wearable tech to monitor your fitness? Would the FitBit Zip motivate you?
Ashley is a blogger, web developer and social media enthusiast at Mad Lemmings. He loves to share his knowledge and has just published a new course – How to use Twitter like a Pro. He also dabbles in and reviews the latest magic tricks. You can follow Ashley on Twitter @madlemmingz