Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Our short stint in the fitness band world

The Mr's heart rate monitor (HRM) was on the fritz for the past month or so.  His griping about his  frustration alone probably burned more calories than what would end up showing up on the screen.  It was pretty obvious his strap died and after having it for quite a few years, we can't really complain about it eventually waving the white flag.

Obviously the fitness band market is all the rage right now.  The Mr did a buttload of research before ever proclaiming what he perceived to be the holy grail currently available.

At $200 for the Garmin VivoSmart with the chest strap, I was less than comfortable paying that kind of dough for something I could easily pay half that price for and get what I needed.  All I really need to know is calories burned for my workout and that's as far as I go.  I don't have the time or desire to crunch numbers and scan data.  I'm sure that can be fun in the beginning but I'm simple.  The Mr convinced me that knowing our BMR could be beneficial for us in knowing how much we should really be eating instead of going off of various website calculations.  I surrendered and figured that could come in handy.  One day after going over some finances, I decided to surprise him with buying one for each of us.  I was skeptical but I was interested in seeing calories burned while sleeping and tracking those patterns and such so I was willing to play along.

As we did our initial setup on the website (or app), I was looking forward to seeing it in action so we did a strenuous strength session.  I kept swiping to see where you find the calories burned for the workout alone vs. the whole day, which were the only calorie numbers I could find.  Well, I would be swiping for eternity because this most basic of HRM functions wasn't there.  That's right, I paid $200 for a fancy pants HRM that doesn't even tell me the calories burned during my workout!!  It only tells you the amount of calories you burn the whole day whether you're wearing the strap all day to track for BMR purposes or not.  I wrote down the calories burned for the day before the workout and then what it was after the workout so I could figure out how many calories I burned.  It was half of what I usually burned for that workout.  I figured maybe because it wasn't using a full day's data it was off so I tried not to hold a grudge (I did though) and we got to the other features.

We had various issues with it retaining settings despite setting what we wanted, saving it and syncing it to the band.  Then the calories that were burned during the workout based off my math directly after the workout were different in their dashboard than what the band said I burned after syncing.  I was so ticked at one point, I declared I was sending it back asap.  I knew I had to give it at least a few days but this was not going well.

Before you go to bed, you have to start a sleep timer and then you stop it when you wake up for the day.  When I looked to see how much sleep I actually got, I was an exact match to when I started my timer.  So it doesn't actually track your sleep, it tracks movement during the times your sleep timer is recording.  Given how many times I tossed and turned that first night, I'm pretty sure I got closer to 6 hours of sleep and not the 7 hrs 24 mins it claimed I got.

The Mr was getting more info on his because he created a MyFitnessPal account and he said he was irritated because his BMR was the exact same number by the end of the second day as it had been the end of the first day when we'd only been wearing it for 6 hours before it reset at midnight.  My numbers were different but it was because I didn't have a MFP account and didn't want one.  By the end of the night, I created an account and my numbers changed from what they were prior to the sync to the exact same number.  Basically, all it did was take the info I entered in MFP and guesstimated on their formulas, not actual info like I thought I was getting wearing a chest strap for 2 days straight.  So, I could've used MFP for free to get the info Garmin acted like it was providing and not paid $200 for it.

The move bar is a joke.  The first full day I did this, I was on my feet and moving in the kitchen for well over 90 minutes.  It did not record a single bit of that movement toward my goal because it forces  you to get up and walk continuous steps.  I'm talking you cannot even pause or it won't count and you have to somewhat exaggerate your arm movements as well.  Can you cheat it if say you're on a conference call and can't get up?  Yep.  Just wildly wave your arm in the air for at least 30 seconds.  We did it for testing purposes and were disappointed you could cheat it.  One of the main reasons I got it was because the commercials make it seem like when the move bar goes off when you're inactive for an hour that it alerts more than once.  It doesn't...until an hour later.  Then it only requires you to move more to get it to go off.

The pedometer is also laughable.  You know the thing that counts your steps and is basically what the whole band revolves around goal wise?  When I can go to the bathroom and it counts 30 steps according to the pedometer when I've only walked 5 actual steps in the time I looked at the band, how can I honestly believe the data I'm getting?  Like any pedometer, if you're driving in a car, it counts at least 100 steps even though no steps were taken.

The final straw for me was when I did my second workout and it was a hard one.  I wore the new band and my old HRM which was working fine for me.  I did update my old HRM with the most current info for my maximum heart rate which is based off of my age and activity level (I always list as sedentary).  I checked both devices throughout the workout and any time they didn't match  perfectly heart rate wise, they were within 1-2 beats either way so I considered that accurate.  What wasn't accurate?  My calories burned!  The VivoSmart said despite me being in high zone 3 for most of the workout and dripping with sweat afterward that I burned 465 calories and my old HRM said I burned 866 calories!  Uh...pardon?  I have tested my old HRM and another brand we have as a back up and they match.  So now I really can't believe what I'm seeing.  The Mr's numbers were also off by about 25% which is a lot for him.

We were completely unimpressed on too many levels to be able to justify keeping it.  The fact that you can't even look down to see what calories you burn after a workout much less not knowing if the numbers you're seeing are right, is just too much for me to keep it.  In addition to that it wouldn't stay paired with our tablets and it was all way more trouble than it's worth.

I will stick with the HRM I have and the Mr has ordered a new strap for his.  For cautions sake, I will maybe subtract 200 calories off super high burn workouts for me even though I feel I earned every calorie burn and see if I get better results after the first of the year when weight loss over maintenance becomes our goal again.

I was irritated but not for myself, for the Mr.  He did so much research on this and to have it fail so completely for our needs is a real bummer.  There are some people who love it but ultimately it gets 3 1/2 stars on most review sites and that's no higher than our current HRM's get.  Given how much more it is, not worth it for our purposes and how we use HRM info.  If others like it and it helps them, good on them.  It just doesn't meet our needs and that money is better in my pocket than theirs right now.  If they fix quite a few things and drop the price, then we might give them another shot but until then, we'll stick with what we've got.

I'm a basic info person, I don't need all of that data and moreover I don't need data I don't feel I can trust 100%.

I will stick with traditional heart rate monitors because they get the same ratings as these fancy, expensive brands.

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  1. There are honestly a few seemingly simple tweaks that could have made this a totally different experience for us. The heart rate monitor is accurate but the calorie burn is not. The move bar would have motivated us but it needs to know if you are already standing vs. sitting down. Fix a few of those things and maybe lower the price by at least $50 and Garmin would have perhaps the best tracker on the market. So close yet so far!

    1. The fact it didn't tell you calories burned after a workout was completely ridiculous. The pedometer is so inaccurate it's like 'hello! If all of my goals seem to be step centric, you should have an accurate pedometer!' I wouldn't pay more than $125 for this even with the fixes.

  2. It seems like none of these bands really "work" the way people want them to. At my place of employment, they're huge on the fitbit, we get points if we have one and accrue points for activity, and once we reach a certain number of points, we get a discount on our insurance every year. We also can turn in the activity points for gift cards to --- however, it still doesn't encourage me to wear it. I put it on at the beginning of the year, wear it just until I have enough points to get my $60 discount, and then on the shelf it goes. lol

    1. haha I'm laughing at the "I'll wear it until I get my $60 discount" part.

      I think that's cool that your job does that. I think it's encouraging and fun and like you said--if it's not your jam, you can at LEAST get a $60 discount out of it!

      I agree with your first statement, too. None of these bands really work as expected. I have a Fitbit. Got it for free as a gift. After being livid over it not syncing properly, I pretty much use it as a glorified, overpriced pedometer. Not a problem for me since I didn't pay for it. I do find it very helpful in getting me to move my buns more since my current job is extremely sedentary.

    2. Kerry- That's awesome your work does that! But yeah, I probably would've done what I needed to get the discount and shelve it just out of sheer frustration.

      Tigalee- I agree with ya both...bands do not work the way they're expected. I think the positive reviews are probably more from people who don't have a ton of experience with HRMs. We've been dealing with them for 10 years so we know what we like and 3.5 stars for a high priced fitness band vs the same rating for an HRM is kind of insane. For double the price, I should be getting a WAY better experience.

  3. I had a fitbit one that I really liked. It was more accurate than my old Omron pedometer, because it gave me credit for steps I took in my class room even though they are slow "barely" steps. They are still steps! even if I'm not going to be raising my heartrate they should count towards my step goal. I liked that it differentiated stairs from flat, and it didn't add nearly as many steps while driving as my pedometer. Except the time I took it off and put in in the console - then I got 75 flights of stairs in an hour. I wonder what would have happened in I flew with it? It even survived the washer a couple times.

    But, alas - I failed to replace the holder even though I knew I needed to and I lost it. Thank you for the review - I've been looking to replace the fitbit. That one is more than I wanted to pay, but the heart-rate monitor was intriguing. No more.

    1. We have the Fitbit pedometer looking model from a few years ago. A sweet friend who didn't use it gave it us for free so I wasn't going to turn it down. We still use it, we just know to deduct the number of steps prior to our walks since we usually get about 140 steps on the drive to the paths. That's hilarious you got 75 flights of stairs on the console! Now you make me want to take it on a plane.

      Yeah, it may be old school but a plain ol' watch/strap combo will get you the same info for half the price of the fad bands.

  4. I've completely avoided the fitness band movement for a majority of the reasons you listed above! I looked into the Garmin Vivofit when they came out last year and was like "nah...I'll pass..." because they just didn't seem to be very accurate and had a lot of glitches. I love Garmin, but I think they need to put a lot more work into their fitness bands if they want to charge that much for them and truly compete with the oversaturated market.

    I know when I bought a Polar HRM I was disappointed from day one. I should have returned it, but kept thinking it was magically going to be what I wanted it to be because it was a Polar and everybody LOVES their Polars, right? It's all you ever hear in the fitness world...well, let's just say I will NEVER buy a Polar again. Ever.

    Sorry it didn't work out, but at least you accepted it and returned them! :-)

    1. I've been resisting for quite a long time and when the Mr's HRM strap died, I knew this was probably the time we needed to jump in to see if it was for us. This product felt like it was just rushed out and the forums tell the real tale. There was a bug originally that said the calorie count was way off on the high side and now with their "fix" people complained they went the other way. I tend to agree given the data I got.

      I always hear that about Polar's too and while the Mr thinks I'm nuts, I KNOW Polar was the first HRM we owned like YEEEEARS ago and it was a piece of well... So I've never even looked at them again since.

      They received the return a few days ago and I haven't heard anything so I'm anxiously awaiting that $400 back. No way was I keeping them longer than I had to just to keep getting frustrated with it.

  5. hmmmm thanks for the honest review...i want some sort of fitness abdn for xmas...this is really helpful!

    1. It's what I do! LOL Should you find something that you like, be sure to report back!


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