BTBS's Guide to The FitBit Ultra

For those that have never heard of a FitBit Ultra, it's a tiny device (about the size of your thumb), that you wear to track your daily activity, workouts and the quality of your sleep. A FitBit goes well beyond the scope of a pedometer and tracks your steps, stairs climbed, calories burned, and gives you a score for your daily activity. You can then wirelessly synchronise this data using the included base station to FitBit's website so see all of the data in fancy charts and tables and you can link it to apps and other sites, including my personal favourite, MY Fitness Pal.

They come in two colours, blue or plum (as pictured) and cost around £79.99 in the UK. In the box the FitBit comes packaged with a:

  • Base station / USB cable
  • Sleep wristband
  • Belt holster

Set Up:
When you first take it out of the box, you will need to go to the FitBit Website to download an installer for the base station drivers. There are no instructions in the box itself, but there are clear steps listed on the website. 

Once you've installed the drivers and set up your base station (it'll only take a few minutes) and charged your fitbit on the base station until the battery is full (you can check this by pressing the button whilst it's on place on the base station) you'll be able to wear your FitBit and start tracking!

How does it work?
The FitBit ultra makes use of a 3D motion sensor like that of a Wii Remote as well as a barometric pressure sensor (this measures the weight of air) which FitBit uses to determine your elevation i.e walking upstairs. 

Where do I put it?
Pockets, belt or in the middle of a bra. You can use the included belt holster for attaching to pockets and belts. I prefer to wear mine on my bra as no one can see it and it won't fall out of my pocket when I go to grab my keys or phone. 

Don't worry, the backlit screen doesn't show through your clothes if the button is accidentally pressed, I tested it in a white t-shirt to make sure I wouldn't attract funny looks for having a glowing bra. Speaking of which, it's quite difficult to accidentally press the button as it's so well designed, so no need to worry about accidentally stopping your workout timer or knocking it in your sleep. 

The FitBit Dashboard: 
Each time you're wearing the FitBit at your computer, with the base station plugged in, it will automatically sync to the FitBit website and will look a little like this:

The main page is where you will see basic information about your FitBit, such as the battery level and when it was last synced, both listed under 'Devices'. As you can see at the top there are three links: 'Log Food', 'Log Activity', and 'Track Weight'. The only one of these I use is 'Track Weight', as I use My Fitness Pal to record my food, water and main workouts which are then synced to FitBit's website. If you do not wish to use a secondary app then you can use the other links to log your food and workouts that took place without the FitBit, e.g. swimming.

I particularly like the FitBit badge system, it's a little like PlayStation or Xbox 360, in that you're rewarded with a badge for milestones like 5,000 steps and 10,000 steps.  It's pretty good for motivation if you like that sort of reward system (which as a gamer, I do!).

Using FitBit with My Fitness Pal and a Heart Rate Monitor
Each time you have a gym session you need to press and hold the button for the timer to start and stop at the end of your session. If you've not linked FitBit to a secondary app and you're not using a heart rate monitor, you don't have to do any more than this.

However, if like me, you're using a HRM and a secondary app like My Fitness Pal, the trick is to make a note of the precise time you started the timer and when you stopped it (the FitBit has a clock screen on it so this is easily done.) Then record your workout only on MFP, adding in the precise times that you started your FitBit's timer, and the calories burned shown on your HRM, that way when you sync your FitBit,MFP will use the information you've just logged to prevent double calorie logging. 

Note: You will need to link the FitBit to your My Fitness Pal account first before the two sites will sync. Do this by going clicking 'Tools' at the top of your MFP homepage, FitBit Ultra, and then 'Link FitBit'. 

Tracking your sleep
This is my favourite feature, because it still puzzles me how the FitBit knows when I wake up in the middle of the night! Simply place the FitBit in the included soft wrist strap and then hold the button the start the timer when you're ready to start going to sleep (not when your in bed reading or watching TV!). The screen will turn off but the FitBit will continue to do it's thing. It's completely unnoticeable actually. I thought it would bug me to wear something on my wrist whilst I'm asleep and that I'd knock it or lose it in the bed, but I haven't and it hasn't stopped me getting to sleep at all. 

Upon waking up, just hold the button for a few seconds again to stop the timer. Now for the fun part! If you want to analyse your sleep activity, just sync it to your computer and log into the website, where you'll notice the 'sleep' heading at the bottom of the dashboard (you may have to scroll all the wya down). It looks like this:

As you can see FitBit provides some interesting stats about your ZZZs, including the time you went to bed, how long it took you to fall asleep, how often you woke up, the length of time you slept for and a score for your sleep efficiency. (As you can see, I make sleep look like an endurance sport on the weekends!) 

What else can I use the Fitbit Dashboard to track?
As I mentioned earlier, I use the FitBit Dashboard to track my weight (though I also do this with MFP) along with my Body Fat %, blood pressure and blood glucose. There's also the option for allergies, moods, a journal section and a section to record your heart activity such as resting rate, normal rate, and exertive rate. 

How will the FitBit help me lose weight?
I'd say to make full use of it, it's best to link it to a secondary app that sets a daily calorie goal for you which will help with weight loss. The FitBit will then work with the app to provide an accurate picture of your daily activity every day, rather than an estimate based on your occupation.  

If you don't wish to use another app, there is an option for a food plan on the FitBit Website, I just haven't tried this feature myself. 

The FitBit is not water proof so don't take it swimming and make sure you remember to take it off your clothing before you wash them. It sounds obvious, but many people have done exactly this!

Where to buy: 

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