Your new Fitbit is a fun and powerful motivator. It can coach you to increase your activity level, to eat right, or to get enough sleep. While many people love their Fitbit activity trackers, some get frustrated as they do not know how to make the best use of it.
Best Way To Get Started With Your New Fitbit
While Fitbit’s interface is fairly intuitive, there is always a learning curve. As a long time Fitbit user, I want to share a few tips to help you get started.
Most likely, you chose your Fitbit to help you on your journey to a healthier lifestyle. Whether you strive to lose weight, gain weight, exercise more, or sit less you can use these tips to help you make the most of your new Fitbit.
Step 1. Set up your device
Follow instructions to set up your device and to link it to your phone, computer or tablet. The instructions may vary for your specific Fitbit, so I will leave this first step vague.
Step 2. Enter accurate personal details in your profile
Unless you have a good reason otherwise, complete your profile statistics with accurate information. The estimated calorie burn and distance calculations are all based on your profile information. For example…
- Fitbit’s calorie burn estimates: Fitbit estimates resting calorie burn from a formula factoring in your height, weight, age, and gender. These numbers are estimates that may be high or low for you as an individual. From comparing my own Fitbit numbers with popular formulas, I learned that the Fitbit base calorie burn seems based on the Mifflin-St Jeor Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). BMR is intended to represent what someone like you would typically burn resting all day. On top of that, Fitbit estimates activity calories based on how much and how fast you move throughout the day. Please note – new users are often surprised to see a calorie burn on their Fitbit device when they wake up in the morning. This is as intended as those calories represent what you likely burned resting starting at 12 am that day. (For more information about BMR check out this article from Daily Burn).
- Fitbit’s distance calculations: Excluding the GPS function in some models, the distance calculation is primarily based on your steps and stride length. If you do not know your running and walking stride lengths, it is estimated based on your height and gender. You can improve the accuracy if the default estimate isn’t right for you (more on this in step 4).
- Make sure your time zone is correct: If you sync through a phone, this will likely happen automatically. The Fitbit day starts at 12 am. Your daily numbers will be easiest to understand if your time zone is accurate.
Step 3. Set goals appropriate for you
The best goals are specific to you. For some, the standard 10,000 steps is a perfect goal, but others may be too difficult due to illness, injury or years of inactivity. If you can, try wearing your device for a week before setting goals. Go about your usual routine. This gives you a baseline estimate of your current activity level. For more information, see my previous post on Setting SMART Goals With Your Fitbit.
If you find your activity level is lower than ideal, here are some ideas to help you increase your activity level throughout the day. I also wrote a post for bloggers and people who work from home to add more activity into their day.
Step 4. Consider adjusting your stride length settings
As mentioned, Fitbit uses your steps, stride length setting and activity (whether it seems that you are walking or running) to calculate distance. This is more of an estimate than a calculation. If you find that the distance estimates are wrong, try this method for calculating and setting your average stride length.
Step 5. Consider supplementing with other apps
One great thing about the Fitbit is that it plays nice with many other apps, devices, and services. This extends the usefulness and capability of the Fitbit.
For example, I like the detailed activity information Fitbit provides, but I do not find the food tracking program as comprehensive as I prefer. When I was dieting to lose weight, I synched it with a better-established nutrition tracking application. This gave me the best of both worlds.
Step 6. Consider reward programs
There are quite a few rewards programs that use Fitbit data. Some are coordinated through employers or other organizations. However, some are open to most people. I previously wrote a post about how my Fitbit paid for itself through some of these programs.