Everyone I know is getting in shape, and I feel left out. Given that I’m unwilling to adjust my sybaritic diet or lifestyle, I reasoned that technology must be the solution. So I turned to fitness trackers, the wearable gadgets that log your food consumption, sleep and activity, sync with your smartphone, and make fitness fun. (Color me skeptical.)
Trackers come in all shapes, sizes, colors and designs, from pendants to clips, but I gravitated to bracelets as the most innocuous, and tested the popular Jawbone UP24 ($150) and Fitbit Flex ($100). The UP24 is an unclosed rubber oval that stretches to slide on. The Flex has a svelte rubber band that fastens like a wristwatch. Both come in a range of colors. Because the Jawbone trial model came in persimmon, I pawned that off on my girlfriend to test, and kept the navy blue Fitbit. She found hers (size medium) hung loose. Mine (adjustable) fit nicely.
Each charges off your computer, using a USB connector, however, the UP24 needed to juice up but once a week, and the Flex only lasted four days on a charge. With the Jawbone you access your fitness details through an Android or iPhone. What I liked about the Flex is the option of tracking on the Fitbit websites. If I were already in front of a computer, why would I check stats on a four-inch iPhone screen?
Though both devices track your sleep and measure activity, the UP24 does everything with a pinch more panache and a delightfully fresh interface. Move over, Apple. Jawbone also offers vibration alerts that will wake you from naps and remind you when you’re idle. In the course of writing this piece, UP24 has already nudged me to get up and be human.
The Flex does all that, but can come on a bit strong. By default, Fitbit e-mails you each time you attain a goal. Most aren’t difficult to achieve. On my first day, I received three e-mails of congratulations.
While both trackers do a fine job counting steps, they’re far from scrupulous accountants. Routine arm movements can qualify as steps, and because both models lack altimeters, they won’t count stairs climbed. To track your sleep, you put them into sleep mode, which I regularly forgot to do. Committed athletes (not me) can add all sorts of information manually. Both devices integrate with third-party calorie trackers, such as MyFitnessPal, and the Flex will even pair with Fitbit’s connected scale, the Aria ($129), to keep you honest about your weight.
I preferred using the UP24, but wearing the Flex, which is also my choice as a gift for a lady. Fitbit also offers seductive accessories from designer Tory Burch. For the cost of the UP24, you can buy her a Flex and premium bracelet.
Whether either will make fitness fun depends upon your pathologies. They’re both convenient and not terribly expensive, but after a week of more than 100,000 steps, I’m still in lousy shape. Perhaps, what I need is a tiramisu tracker.
Visit jawbone.com/store/buy/up24 and fitbit.com/flex