A few weeks ago my wife bought a Fitbit Alta. She’s been on a health kick for the last couple of months and she wanted an easier way of tracking factors that were contributing to her progress. Simple things like number of steps in a day, calories burned and the amount of time she spent being active are all little things that can help. After reviewing a few different health trackers she eventually decided on the Fitbit Alta. A couple of weeks later and she was regularly meeting her steps goals and seeing general health and fitness improvements.

It was a couple of days later and I my own Fitbit Alta arrived from Amazon. Having already setup Jennifer’s Alta, setting up my own was a two minute job and within a few minutes it was tracking my step count.

Like many health trackers, the Alta looks like a ultra-modern watch and yes it does give you the time. I don’t tend to wear a watch during the day and only opt to wear a watch when I’m going out. At times like this I’ll move the Alta over to my other wrist and wear it there for the time I’m out.

The tracker itself is fairly narrow and with the screen being more longer than it is wider, you’d probably miss it if you seen it on my wrist. The slender design is one of the reasons why I liked this particular model. Too many health trackers try and replace your watch with a huge screen but I’m not using it for telling the time or keeping an eye on my running distance. It’s purely to track my movement over the course of the day.

After three weeks of use I’m starting to see the benefits and drawbacks of health trackers.

The Benefits

On the plus side there’s the ability to see how well you’ve done over the course of the day. Number of steps, walking distance and number of minutes I’ve been active for are three factors I try to keep on top of. Anything else is a bonus. You don’t realise how much walking you done when you look back at your day. I never considered walking Ethan round the golf course to be much of an exercise, but the tracker picks up the activity and works out how many steps I’ve taken.

I took the Alta out on a bike ride to our favourite deli. The tracker worked well and could workout that I was on the bike. Comparing the time spent on the bike with the time logged by Strava (which I also use for tracking bike rides) proved to be consistent.

The Drawbacks

The downside of the health tracker is the accuracy of such a device. Like any technology fan, I’ll take their promise as being accurate with a pinch of salt. I mean, how accurate is it?

I did do some research on the accuracy of health trackers, and there has been some debate of the accuracy of health trackers. While I know there is always going to be cases where steps were missing or added, the health trackers today do a good job of tracking your movements.

I’m not completely sold on the calories tracker within the app. I do a lot of home cooking and portions and ingredients can vary from those foods listed in the Fitbit app. For that reason I tend to ignore this part of the app.

My own cooking is fairly healthy so I don’t see that as being a big issue in the march to better health.

Room for Improvement?

With such a small screen on your hand you would think that it’s hard to read incoming messages on your phone. Well it does only display the first few words from your message, but that’s not a deal-breaker. The display is good and the information that you display on it is adjustable from your phone. I would like to see more customisation though on the information that I can display.

The one feature of the tracker I’m disappointed in was the reminder to move setting. During each hour you set the Alta up to track your movements, it reminds you 10 minutes before the end of the hour to fulfil your hourly quota of steps. Seems a little silly to remind you 10 minutes before the end of each hour.

When I read about this feature I thought it would allow you to configure the Alta to notify you at set intervals to get up and move about. Having just completed a running course of physio to get my back into shape again, the physiotherapist reminded me that I shouldn’t be sitting for any longer than 15 minutes at a time. I thought the Alta’s reminder to move would be configurable to do this but sadly it isn’t.

Overall the purchase of the Alta has been a good thing. I'm more aware of the amount of sleep and exercise I'm getting. I'm also cutting myself a bit of slack as I now know that I'm getting exercise in just by getting a few walks in during the week. Whether that's walking Ethan to school or round the gold course, all the steps add up.

It's taken me a while to warm up to purchasing a wearable but the good thing about it is that I'm getting a clearer sense of the exercise I'm doing. As long as I'm getting in a daily dose of exercise then that can't be a bad thing.