Starting an exercise routine is the easy part. Continuing once you get past that first burst of motivation is where it gets tricky, and that's exactly where a Fitbit can help. You won't be bogged down in keeping track of your activity and goals, because the Fitbit keeps track of them for you and gives you timely reminders of how far you've come. A Fitbit may occasionally misbehave, like any other piece of tech, but you can reset it easily and then bring back your synced data.
What Is a Fitbit?
Fitbit makes smartwatches, but each Fitbit is a fitness tracker first and foremost. The simplest Fitbits are simply bands without a watch face or timekeeping functions at all. Instead, they monitor your activities. After a few weeks of wearing a Fitbit, you'll have an excellent idea of your daily activity levels and overall fitness, and you'll begin to see how your current level of fitness relates to your goals. They're smart devices that connect with your phone and sync your fitness data for safekeeping, and like other smart devices, they'll let you know when calls or texts come to your phone. Their focus, though, first, last and always, is on fitness.
How Does Fitbit Work?
The Fitbit uses two basic pieces of technology to track your activity and fitness levels. The first is a three-axis accelerometer, which detects motion. It's the same thing your smartphone uses to recognize when you take it away from your ear or rotate it to look at a photo sideways.
Monitoring your heart from a simple wristband was a trickier proposition, but the company's engineers managed it by drawing on hospital technology. The finger clamps hospitals use to check your heart rate work on a sophisticated system that uses green light, of all things, to track your blood's flow and oxygenation. After some trial and error and a lot of prototypes, Fitbit successfully made that same technology work in its bands. With those two sensors and some sophisticated algorithms, a Fitbit can deduce surprising things about your fitness and overall health.
How Does Fitbit Track Sleep?
One striking example of the Fitbit's versatility is its ability to judge how well you're sleeping, which is a surprisingly important part of your overall health picture. It does this by monitoring both the accelerometer to track your motions and the heart monitor to track your blood flow, the depth of your breathing and other markers. Some of this analysis is easy: If you spend the first hour tossing and turning, it doesn't take sophisticated software to guess you had trouble falling to sleep. After you drop off, though, your brain and body pass through cycles of light and deep sleep and rapid eye movement, or REM, sleep. Those have been well-researched, and while there's a lot we still don't know about them, it's possible to recognize which sleep state you're experiencing by careful attention to your movement – or stillness – and heart rate. In the morning, a click glance at the Fitbit app on your phone tells you how well you slept, and it may suggest things you can do to help you sleep better.
It Gets Better
One good thing about relying on your Fitbit to keep your wellness regime on track is that over time, as the tracker learns your routine and monitors your activity, you get a deeper and more personalized understanding of your fitness and activity levels. The Fitbit's app draws on the data to make personalized suggestions for reaching your goals and for setting new ones as needed. The data from your tracker is synced to your phone and then from there to the cloud, where it's safe if you should ever have issues with your phone or your Fitbit. In most cases, any minor issues you have with the Fitbit can be resolved by a quick restart. Your data's safe, so you don't have to panic when the occasional glitch comes along.
Why Is My Fitbit Not Syncing With My Phone?
Syncing with your phone is what keeps everything safe and up to date, so if you're having trouble getting your Fitbit to sync, you need to take care of that right away. There are lots of things that can keep your phone and Fitbit from communicating properly, so there's a long list of troubleshooting steps you can try. If you're setting up for the first time, make sure the Fitbit app supports your phone and that you have the current version. Make sure your Bluetooth is turned on and that your phone isn't currently paired with other, conflicting devices. If you have an Android phone, allow the Fitbit app to run in the background and use location services, and confirm that your phone isn't one of the ones known to have an issue with the Fitbit app. If you have a computer or another device nearby with the Fitbit app on it, try syncing with that device instead. If all else fails, and the problem seems to be with the Fitbit rather than your phone, you might need to restart or reset it.
How to Restart Your Fitbit
If your Fitbit isn't syncing, isn't turning on or isn't tracking your activity, it might just require a restart. This is pretty much the same thing as turning your computer off and back on again, and it fixes a lot of minor problems. The process varies between Fitbit models, but you'll need your charging cable. With the original Flex and Flex 2, you pop the tracker itself out of its band and into the charger. On the Flex, you press the reset button with a straightened paper clip for a few seconds until it restarts, and on the Flex 2, you press the power button three times over a few seconds. With the Ace and Alta models, you do the same thing except the power button is located on the charger itself. With Charge models, you hold down the power button until the unit restarts. On the watch-styled Blaze, Ionic and Versa, hold down the left and bottom buttons for a few seconds until you see the Fitbit logo on the screen and then let go of the buttons. Restarting any of the models should take only a few seconds.
How to Reset Your Fitbit
If a restart doesn't fix your problem, you might need to do a full factory reset on your Fitbit. It's the same important step you take when you sell your Fitbit or pass it along to someone else as a gift. The reset takes it back to its original out-of-the-box condition, so all your data is wiped out, but you can sync it all back when you're up and running again. On the Ionic and Versa, it's a simple matter of tapping "Settings," "About," and finally "Factory Reset."
On most other Fitbit devices, the process is more complicated. With the Charge and Charge HR, for example, you plug in the charger, hold the button for two seconds, unplug the charger and wait several more seconds. Then, let go of the button, press and hold it again, and wait for a screen that reads "ALT." Let go of the button and hold it down again until you feel a vibration. Then let go and hold it again until you see a message reading "ERROR." Let it go and hold it down one more time until you see "ERASE." At that point, let go of the button, and the Charge turns off. If the on-screen time is all zeros when you turn the watch back on, you reset it successfully. If you're unsure how to go about resetting your model of Fitbit, and if it's not covered on the company's support pages, you might need to contact customer service directly and have a technician walk you through the process.
- Fitbit: Why Fitbit
- Fitbit: Our Technology
- National Institutes of Health: Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency
- Fitbit: Sleep Better
- Fitbit: How Do I Restart My Fitbit Device?
- Fitbit: How Do I Erase My Fitbit Device?
- Fitbit: How Do I Factory Reset My Charge or Charge HR?
- Fitbit: Why Won't My Fitness Device Sync?