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THE FITBIT BLOG

Balancing Fitness with Work: An Inspirational Tale

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At Fitbit, we love to hear feedback from customers. Today we thought we’d pass on a particularly inspiring story from Chris, a businessman who found his busy lifestyle was taking a toll on his health and fitness. The Fitbit helped him so much, he even went out and bought a Fitbit Ultra! “I just saw the new ‘Floors Climbed’ feature in Fitbit Ultra and had to get it!  A key part of my getting back in shape earlier this year was to start by taking the stairs.”

Chris on the summit of Mt. Rainier

Chris on the summit of Mt. Rainier

Here’s his story:
“Last December, my health and fitness reached an all-time low. Four years ago, I moved to start FrontPoint Security. The business is doing fantastic, but it has been pretty ‘all consuming’ for the last four years. By December of last year, I had reached an all-time weight high, body fat high, and my energy level was noticeably the worst it had ever been.”

Chris decided he needed a change, and picked the Fitbit Tracker to help him on his path to get back in shape. He paid close attention to his Dashboard, invested in Fitbit’s Premium Subscription, and made it a point to reach his daily goals. He also made a long-term goal to climb Mt. Shasta by the summer of 2012, something he’d done ten years earlier with his dad.

“I ended up making so much progress that I climbed Mt. Shasta in July 2011 ­ about a year ahead of my plan. My weight had dropped almost 40 lbs., and my body fat dropped to around 10%. At the same time, my blood pressure got much better ­ and I was able to stop taking my blood pressure medication. And, my resting heart rate dropped from around 67 to just 41, where it is today.”

He made so much progress, in fact, that he’s since climbed Mt. Rainier as well – ­an even harder mountain that had been a goal ten years ago!

“I can easily say now that I’ve never felt better or been in better shape.”

Chris shows us that with a little motivation and information, it’s never too late to reach our goals. Share your inspirational stories with us at welovefitbit@fitbit.com.

Introducing the Fitbit Ultra. Now Track Stairs, and More!

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Our goal at Fitbit has always been to provide you with the most useful tools to meet and manage a healthy lifestyle, and it is with this vision in mind that we’ve released the new Fitbit Ultra.

The Fitbit Ultra comes with many new features, as well as everything that had already been included with the Fitbit Classic. It now contains an altimeter that shows how many floors you’ve climbed each day.  Stair climbing is one of the most efficient exercises that can be done, burning around four times as many calories as simply walking. With new online features comparing your floors climbed to different landmarks, we hope you find the motivation to take the stairs. Other new features offer encouraging messages when you pick up your Fitbit Tracker, allow you to add more personal touches to your Fitbit Ultra, and provide you with a clock and stopwatch to keep track of your exercises with even more information.

At the end of the day, it’s not about being filled with fancy gadgets just because they’re new. It’s about providing you with easy to use, fun, effective tools to directly fit your needs and provide you with motivation to keep going — whether you’re taking a walk rather than driving, taking the stairs rather than the elevator, or just getting out and moving. It’s about reaching your goals in the most efficient and fun way possible. And it’s about becoming as healthy as you want to be.

Here’s to happy stepping, and climbing!

Introducing… Food Goal!

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Food Goal Goal Zone

Fitbit is happy to announce a new, flexible way to set and maintain weight goals! Here at Fitbit, our mission is to provide you with tools that encourage a healthy lifestyle. With Food Goal, you’re given a suggested calorie “goal zone” where you’re shown a range of calories you can eat throughout the day to still meet your weight goals.

Something you might not have seen before is the way your Fitbit Food Goal dynamically adjusts itself based on your day’s activities. Your calorie count goal for the day will go up as you exercise, and now you can actually see how exercising and your diet go together to help you meet your weight goals. Going for a walk during your morning break could now mean an extra cookie at the end of the day, or a morning run could mean getting to splurge a little for dinner.

Food Goal offers four different intensities as well: Easier, Medium, Kinda Hard, and Harder. Each intensity varies in how many pounds you might expect to lose per week to meet your goal by a certain date. So whether you’d like to lose two pounds a week, or see when you might realistically be able to meet your weight goal, you can pick the intensity that works best for you.

You can start using Food Goal today by logging in to your Fitbit account and going to your “Log” tab. Once you’ve started, find some encouragement on our Facebook page or email us your success stories at welovefitbit@fitbit.com.

Fitbit Makes Finding Fitness Friends Easier

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Have you ever forced yourself to go to the gym just because you’d already
made plans to meet up with a friend there? How about pushing yourself to
make sure you get those last thousand steps in because you know your
friend will be asking how many you did?

The value of friends in supporting your goals and celebrating your
achievements is undeniable. And with everyone’s busy schedules it’s not
always easy to meet up daily, or even weekly, to get this support. With
the right online tools you can build a great friend support network
online. That’s why we’ve just made it easier to find and invite friends to
Fitbit.com.

Fitbit now connects with Facebook so that you can find all of your
Facebook friends that use Fitbit.  You may be surprised how many of your
friends use Fitbit.   Never fear if you have some friends that aren’t on
Facebook: you can import your address book and send them an email
invitation instead. To start finding out which of your friends are using
Fitbit, log on to your account at Fitbit.com, go to
your “Home” tab, and look under “My Stats” on the left. You’ll find a link
to start finding and inviting friends.

Once you’re connected with your friends, it’s easy to see one another’s
stats through the competitive leaderboard, or view one another’s profiles.
It’s important to celebrate fitness milestones with friends, but, hey, a
little healthy competition isn’t bad as well.   So go on, get over to your
Fitbit Dashboard and start inviting with Friend Finder. When you do, let
us know how you and your friends keep each other motivated to stay fit!
Find us on Facebook or email us at welovefitbit@fitbit.com

Celebrate your fitness achievements

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Ever hit your step goal and let loose a fist pump?

We’re big believers in giving credit where it’s due, so we’ve cooked up a way to help celebrate your milestones with you. Cue the trumpets, Fitbit now has badges! You’ll now receive badges for hitting daily milestones. Get your first badge for hitting 5,000 steps.

Let’s not forget the name of the game is total cumulative steps––it’s all about how much you’ve done over time. You’ll also earn badges for racking up major mileage with your trusty tracker.

Badges will appear on your Fitbit.com dashboard once you’ve hit certain targets. You can share them with friends on Fitbit.com as well as by posting them through your Facebook or Four Square account.

Badges are pretty cool.  One of the biggest achievement we have is when you have achieved 3,000 miles which is nothing short of amazing.  It’s approximately the distance of San Francisco to New York! If you’ve received the 3,000 miles badge, please let us know on Facebook or Twitter or email us at welovefitbit@fitbit.com.  We’d love to hear how you did it and salute you — virtual fist bump!

Dad Stunned Into Action – Getting Back into Shape

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Tyler -- On a way with his daughter for a few more steps

Tyler -- On a walk with his daughter for a few more steps

At Fitbit we like to ask our users for feedback. Very often we like to share our customers experiences with the community because they are so inspirational and insightful. Here’s a great one from Tyler, hailing from Prince George:

“I was shocked, absolutely shocked. When I saw that I was just hitting 3,000 steps a day, it was a wake-up call. I knew the heart healthy number was 10,000, and here I was, only doing a third.”

Tyler played college basketball and always prided himself for being an athlete. But life got a little busy.  He became a new dad, with an active little girl.  He spends long days at the job. Plus, he was having knee problems. He purchased the Fitbit Tracker to help him get him back on his fitness plan. But reality hit when Tyler got his Fitbit Tracker and saw after the first day what those bright little numbers were saying. 3,000 steps. Ouch. “There is no way to argue with the numbers.  I wasn’t as active as I thought I was.”

After using the Fitbit Tracker for 6 months and aiming for 10,000 steps a day, Tyler has lost 25 lbs. Now he runs up and down the stairs chasing his little girl with ease and without any knee pain. “Fitbit gave me a good wake-up call. Now all my friends and family have one and we all compare and compete with each other. Fitbit Trackers have definitely helped our family get more fit and heart-happy.”

Tyler hit on something that we often forget — that half of the fitness battle is just being able to objectively and easily assess how active you are on a daily basis.   If you know someone like Tyler, please forward this inspirational story. We also would love to hear your inspirational stories –welovefitbit@fitbit.com

New and improved ways to track your activity

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Hi there! I’m Christine, and I’ve been working on the product team at Fitbit for the past few months. I’ve been working on enhancements to the website, including improving logging and social features.

Since Fitbit launched, we’ve received many feature suggestions (in addition to building a giant list of our own ideas!). The requests for activity based features generally fall into 2 types – integrating with 3rd party apps (like RunKeeper) and enhancements to our logging tools.

I’ll focus on the second category, where we’ve launched several new improvements (and we’ll post more about our 3rd party integrations on this blog, soon.)

Before we get into the details of what’s new, it might be worth explaining why a person with a Fitbit would want to manually log an activity (since the tracker was made for that!). Here are some common use cases.

  • Forgetting to wear the tracker
  • Doing an activity that is not tracked well (like cycling or swimming)
  • Wearing a heart rate monitor or using another tracking tool while wearing a fitbit

We’ve observed that these use cases are frequent, and being able to support them via manual activity logging helps our customers get a more accurate picture of their overall fitness. Now, here are a few of those enhancements:

    Activity search and custom activities

    Activity search and custom activities

  • Popular workouts added. If you log manual activities, you can now choose from a variety of yoga styles as well as pilates, elliptical, treadmill, bootcamp, spinning, kickboxing and several Wii and Wii Fit games
  • Activity search. You can search for activities ( in addition to browsing) which makes finding and logging your workouts faster than before.
  • Custom Activities. You can create and log favorite workouts that are not in activity search. This is great for new workouts and ones that vary based on intensity and routine (such as P90X). Find this in the search results box (pictured above) and in the favorites area
  • Editing calorie estimates

    Editing calorie estimates

  • Editing calorie estimates. When you enter a manual activity we estimate the calorie burn, but now you can enter your own – particularly useful for those of you that workout with Heart Rate Monitors (pictured right).
  • Tracker Record with name & notes added

    Tracker Record with name & notes added

  • Tracker Activity record labels (pictured right). When you add records from your tracker you can now give them names and notes. Tip: you can add these records either by using the start/stop button or if you forget to use the button during a workout -  by adding one from the activity log page ( We think this is a handy but hidden feature)

If you have a suggestion or request for Fitbit’s product roadmap, please come post them in our forums.

Free Upgraded Shipping for the Holidays!

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Note: The free upgraded shipping offer for the holidays has expired as of 12/23/10.  Still plenty of time to consider a Fitbit for a New Year’s Resolution Solution!

Looking for a last-minute holiday gift for someone on your list? A Fitbit Tracker makes a great gift for a spouse (a little friendly competition anyone?), a walking buddy, or for anyone you’d like to share the gift of health!

There’s still time – we’re offering free upgraded shipping for Fitbit Tracker orders.  Happy Healthy Holidays!

Fitbit Tracker: much more than a pedometer

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Thanks for the intro Amy!

As Amy mentioned in the last post, my name is Shelten and I’m the Chief Scientist at Fitbit.  I lead our research in sensor architectures and algorithms for health & wellness monitoring and discovery. Since you’re reading this, you probably already know that the Fitbit Tracker is an unobtrusive device that you can wear all day long to track your steps, calories burned, and sleep. In today’s blog post, I’d like to clear up some confusion about how our activity tracking algorithms work.

I. What the Fitbit Tracker does not do

People often refer to the Fitbit Tracker as a “pedometer on steroids”. Illegal drug use aside, I think that’s meant to be a compliment. Thank you. However, that description doesn’t quite give justice to the Tracker.  To understand why, let me first show you what the Fitbit Tracker does NOT do.

Fig. 1 sketches out what a typical pedometer does to estimate your calorie burn. It counts your steps and then multiplies the step count by some value to come up with a calorie value.

II. Question: Why don’t we just convert steps into calories?

Well, it turns out to not be very accurate. People walk and run very differently — some are more efficient at ambulatory activity than others — so a one-size-fits-all conversion of steps to calories burnt won’t work. To see this for yourself, check out Fig. 2 below. If I were to naively say that my additional caloric burn is 8.8 calories per 100 steps (the “Shelten” bar) and then apply that to everyone else, then I’d be undercutting their calories by as much as 43% (as in the case of the “Priscilla” bar).

It gets worse. If I focus on a single user, say James, and look at his data across the week, you can see that a single value doesn’t work well even in that case. Check out Fig. 3. On Wednesday, his value of 6.8 calories per 100 steps is about 46% of the value on Saturday. Presumably this is because on some days James walked more aggressively than others. This implies that even a personalized calibration of a conversion factor from steps to calories won’t do very well if you’re at all interested in knowing how much extra credit you get for going on that jog.

III. How the Fitbit Tracker measures calorie burn

The Fitbit Tracker determines calorie burn by using the *raw* motion data of the user, as obtained from a 3-axis accelerometer. The Tracker looks at the intensity and duration of the accelerometer signal, analyzes patterns, and then determines calorie burn. This general approach to energy expenditure monitoring has roots in the scientific literature dating back to about three decades ago and is still an active area of research in academia and at Fitbit. If you’re interested in learning more about the ongoing state of the field, Staudenmayer, et al. (2009) is a good recent example and van Hees & Ekelund (2009) give a nice overview.

Okay, so what does this all mean? The Fitbit Tracker is much more than a pedometer — it’s also a finely tuned instrument that measures calorie burn. Let’s return to the example of James’s week-long data set, now separated into steps and calories burnt in Fig. 4. We see that by measuring calories and steps as two distinct quantities (rather than just calories derived from steps a la Fig. 1), we can glean some interesting insights into activity. First off, it’s pretty clear that more steps don’t necessarily mean more calories when comparing the values on Thursday to the values on Monday. On Monday, James only walked about 5600 steps but burned 787 calories. On Thursday he walked more (7700 steps) but burned fewer calories (640 calories). If James is trying to lose weight without having to wear out his running shoes, he should try to mimic his behavior on Monday!

IV. References

Staudenmayer, J., Prober, D., Crouter, S., Bassett, D., Freedson, P. (2009) An artificial neural network to estimate physical activity energy expenditure and identify physical activity type from an accelerometer. J Appl Physiol 107: 1300-1307.

van Hees, V.T. and Ekelund, U. (2009) Novel daily energy expenditure estimation by using objective activity type classification: where do we go from here? J Appl Physiol 107: 639-640.

Using the Fitbit Trip Monitor

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As you may have seen in our recent Fitbit.com features post, the  <start and <stop functions on Fitbit aren’t just for sleep anymore! You can use them to capture any type of activity.  Walking to public transit, or taking the dog for a walk? Start your Fitbit and your activity will be logged automatically on the site.  The Fitbit Tracker will also display the steps, calories and distance for the duration of the activity, until you hit <stop.  And then head back to Fitbit.com and choose your activity from the more than 700 activities we list.

Walking Fido a daily ritual?  Save it as a favorite activity in your log and add it each day in just seconds! Click the star next to an activity in your activity log to make it a favorite.

Forgot to hit the <start button?  No problem, you can manually create or edit any activity.  This also works for logging sleep if you were wore your Fitbit to sleep but forgot to hit <start.  Go to http://www.fitbit.com/activities and click Activity Record.  Enter the start / stop time and we’ll analyze your data for you.  Bonus:  Activity records provide more detail than the normal daily graphs.

While you are out being active, our algorithms will also be monitoring activities to become even more intelligent at detecting and categorizing your activities. We’ll look at the steps taken and calories burned to figure out if you were logging sleep or another activity type.