My Vivofit: Not Just a Pedometer

I do not have a Fitbit. I have a Vivofit, by Garmin. They are not the same, but since I’ve never used a Fitbit, I couldn’t tell you exactly what the differences between them are.What I can tell you is what my Vivofit does—it tracks my steps, my calories burned, the current time and date, my goal (the amount of steps I’m aiming to walk that day), and the amount of miles I’ve walked.

Today, for instance, I’ve walked 11,534 steps—4.82 miles, according to the Vivofit—and have burned 1809 calories. (Oh crap, I ate waaaaay too much of that Margherita pizza.)

In addition it will also keep track of my sleeping patterns if I wish it to, and it will let me know if I’ve been sedentary too long, via a creeping band of red squares across the digital face that warn me that I should get up and take a quick walk.

Some people allege that the Fitbit, and other fitness trackers, aren’t really useful or even much used. I disagree. Like many, I was given my Vivofit band as a Christmas present—and it is now February. It has not gone unused and forgotten after the first week. In fact, is has been quite valuable.

The value is not in letting me know exactly how many steps I’ve walked—the Vivofit, like all fitness trackers, has its ups and downs when it comes to accurately recording steps.

Even supposing though, that your fitness tracker is giving you 100 steps instead of the fifty you actually took, or merely 100 steps for the 200 you’ve taken, it’s still useful. Why?

Because you can still quantify the data and understand it. Assuming you do similar actions every day (or can take into account the differences) it’s still good for comparison. “I took 1000 steps today and 3000 yesterday” still lets you know that you’re accomplishing a third of the exercise of yesterday, even in fact, the difference is really that you took 3,000 today and 9,000 yesterday.

Accurate it or not, you can still tell that “Gee, on my off-days I usually walk only 3,000 steps, but today I haven’t even cracked 1000. Better get a walk in before dark.”

The accuracy isn’t all that important. The long-term trends are, and the short-term monitoring regarding those trends.

Now this is where the charge that fitness trackers are just “glorified pedometers” comes in. Yes, I could buy a pedometer for $5—but would it upload all my data to the internet for me, and make neat color-coded bar charts? I don’t think so.

Look at that chart. It’s lovely.

Look at that chart. It’s lovely.

(Yes, I could make my own every day and week with Excel—but that is time-consuming.)

And time is valuable for most of us these days. The charts Garmin gives you let you look back not just at the week, but at the last few weeks, months, or even years. I can see that for some reason, I did really, really well with my goals in January—I exceeded my weekly goal every single week.

Now, if I do not meet my goals in February, I can try to understand what was different about February. Weather? Time commitments? Hours on the job? The Vivofit’s tracking is a way to understand what was different this month and what I can change or adapt to in the next month to meet my goals. A $5 pedometer won’t give me that.

It also won’t give me the 45k Step Challenge. Sure, I’m sure there are sites and forums out there to compete against other people in regards to steps and miles and things—but the Vivofit puts you into appropriate challenges (if I win the 45k this week I will move up an increment, probably to a 50k or 75k weekly challenge—if you do very badly you get bumped down into a more appropriate challenge) automatically, and since everyone is using the same tracking equipment, it’s reasonably fair.

It also gives me nifty little badges to encourage me.

Other benefits? Unlike the ugly, cheap plastic pedometers I’ve gotten at dollar stores before, my Vivofit is very fashionable. I don’t even have to wear a bracelet anymore, it serves as an adequate accessory (the person who bought it for me sought long and hard to get it in my favorite color). I also don’t have to wear a watch—and twitching the button to bring up the time is far more convenient than digging for my phone.

There is also the fact that most cheap pedometers simply do not endure—I have not had a single one last as long as my Vivofit already has. No, the Vivofit is a good bargain and does far more than a simple pedometer. Let those who scoff and scorn it try one for themselves. I am confident they’ll find themselves much mistaken about fitness trackers’ quality and usefulness.