My wife is going to have a surgery soon that will basically give her her life back. It’s important that she build up her strength before the surgery, and we have both just wanted to be more active in general. Deciding to call it quits on the Tiny House has made this much more possible, as our time is freed up to focus on what we choose.
Since we’ve decided to make working out a habit, the geek in me naturally wanted to be able to track my progress.
Fitbit Charge HR + Fitbit Aria
I initially wanted to be able to track my heart rate throughout the day, as well as track my weight, BMI, body fat, muscle mass, etc. I thought the combo of a Fitbit Charge HR (one for each of us) and a Fitbit Aria Scale would be perfect. The first problem? The price.
That’s a total of $418 for health tracking gadgets, before we’ve even hit the gym… yeesh.
The Fitbit Charge HR has currently been on sale for as low as $120, and the Aria is currently $118 (but has been as low as $100). At current prices, that would be $300 for two Fitbits (plus tax), and $118 for the Aria. That’s a total of $418 for health tracking gadgets, before we’ve even hit the gym… yeesh.
Then There are the Amazon Reviews
Jessica went through the Amazon reviews and found multiple accounts of people saying that the Charge HR is not even close to as accurate as a chest strap heart rate monitor is. Also, you have to wear the wrist band high up on your wrist to get accurate measurements, so if it slides down, your accuracy is sliding down with it.
As far as the Aria goes, it’s nice because it automatically syncs (via WiFi) your scale measurements with your Fitbit account online, so you don’t have to manually track anything. However. It only measures weight, body fat, and BMI. If I’m going to spend $100 on a scale, I want it to measure more than two non-weight stats.
The Aria gets good Amazon reviews, but its capabilities don’t match its price tag, in my opinion. Time to find a Fitbit Alternative.
Fitbit Alternative – Smartphone + Smart Scale + BT HR Strap
So what did I sub in for the $418 group of kit above? I decided to get some cheaper stuff and rely on manual entry in some circumstances. Let me explain each one of these selections.
Moto G (Page Plus)
Cost: Already owned
Link to Product at Amazon
Most people already have a smartphone. I went without a smartphone for a number of years, but as my business needed to manage multiple Google Voice accounts, it became too much of a hassle to NOT have a smartphone, so I got this Moto G (Amazon), for $60. I flashed it to Page Plus (initially it was Boost) and I’m currently paying $10 per 120 days for voice service, using about 95% WiFi only for calls/texts/data.
The Apps I Use (Google Play and iOS Versions)
One of the great features of the Fitbit wristbands is that they count the steps you take during the day. Guess what’s free, and also counts my steps throughout the day? Accupedo (on Google Play). Accupedo is also on the iOS App Store. It’s relatively accurate, and it didn’t cost any extra money in the form of a gadget, so I call that a score!
Accupedo counts your steps (in the background) throughout the day, as long as you leave your phone in your pocket.
Another great app I installed is Endomondo (Google Play). Also available on the iOS App Store. This app can be used to create a GPS map of the walks/runs we take. It also tracks the elevation/etc of the terrain we’re walking on, to get a really accurate Calorie burn count. It’s just damn cool to see where we walked on a map, even when my phone doesn’t have a data connection. Techmology.
Endomondo also has a great feature. It can read a number of bluetooth heart rate monitors, like the Polar H7 shown above. This means that during a weight lifting workout along with interval running, I can track my average heart rate and my max heart rate, and track how much better they get as we keep working out. I can also keep an eye on my heart rate during my runs by simply turning on my phone’s screen.
Endomondo not only tracks workouts, it can record my heart rate during a workout!
I also installed MyFitnessPal (Google Play). Also available on iOS. This is similar to an app I used long ago, called Lose It. Although Lose It is prettier, MyFitnessPal integrates with a LOT of apps. This means I can use multiple apps, and they’ll all sync their data in one place. I can add the food I’m eating (by typing it in or scanning barcodes) to MyFitnessPal, and track my weight, BMI, Body Fat, Muscle Mass, Bone Density, Body Water – and virtually as many more stats as I want. You can manually add all the stats you want. I get these stats from the Smart Weight Scale.
Side note: These apps are all so good, that I do intend to spend the $1-5 per app for the Pro versions, but you can absolutely get away with using the free versions.
Smart Weigh Scale
Link to Product at Amazon
This scale is freaking awesome. It’s absolutely gorgeous in person, constructed of stainless steel and tempered glass. It feels unbelievably sturdy under my feet. It measures the following:
- Body Fat Percentage
- Total Body Water Percentage
- Muscle Mass Percentage
- Bone Mass (weight)
I mean, come on! This thing records so many measurements! It can store up to 8 different users. Basically, you just have to set your height, age, and gender, so it can calculate all the different measurements. It doesn’t have WiFi like the Aria, so I manually enter these into MyFitnessPal about once a week. It takes about 60 seconds – SO not a big deal.
Polar H7 Bluetooth Heart Rate Monitor
Cost: $51.98 (M-XXL), $57.50 (XS/S)
Link to Product at Amazon
The great thing about this Polar H7 heart rate monitor is that it connects to my phone via Bluetooth, and Endomondo can then track my heart rate during runs/walks/workouts. At this point in time, there’s no more accurate way to track your heart rate during a workout than with a chest strap. This one is pretty comfortable, so it doesn’t bother me during workouts.
I realized that although the Charge HR tracks heart rate all day long, it might not be very accurate, and I don’t really care to track my heart rate all day long. I only want to track it during workouts, so I make sure that I’m not going over my max.
So How Much Did I Save?
I spent a total of $153.46 for two Polar H7‘s and a Smart Weigh scale. My $60 smartphone takes care of the rest. I saved about $264 by not buying the Fitbit products. The other great thing is that Fitbit releases a new product every year (much like Apple), so the Charge HR will either be outdated or broken within a year (based on Amazon reviews). I will use the Polar H7 monitor until it absolutely dies, and even then, I’ll try to fix it myself.
Sure, we could have gone the easy route and just bought Fitbit stuff, but I’m so much happier having saved a lot of money this way. Also, having chosen to use MyFitnessPal, I can now use many other Fitness apps on my Android device, if I so wish.
Look, health tracking stuff is great, but it’s not going to get you to actually go to the gym. I like having data, and I’m looking forward to tracking how much better my average heart rate gets, how my body fat percentage goes down, and all that jazz. But my wife and I fully accept that it’s up to us to actually get our asses over to the gym and get it done.
Buying this stuff will not make you work out, but it sure makes working out a lot more fun.