Fitbit vs. Apple Watch For Exercise: Here Are Our Thoughts

Fitness trackers are one of the hottest holiday gifts — and for good reason! They motivate, inspire, and can help incite massive physical (and mental) changes. Whether you’re trying to encourage more movement or help someone learn about their heart rate during exercise, a tracker can help.

I got the chance to compare my Apple Watch Series 2 and my Fitbit Charge 2 side by side, worn simultaneously (yes, I looked like a tool in my SoulCycle classes and on my runs and in my kettlebell class). Since trackers have been helping me on my fitness journey, I wanted to see what the user experience was like for each and what kind of data I could access after my workout. Let’s take a look.

Aesthetic

If you’re worried about the look of your tracker, you have two great options to choose from. You either lean more toward the aesthetic of a traditional tracker/fitness band with the Fitbit Charge 2, or the digital watch styling of the Apple Watch. With both, you can choose the metal accent color (gold, silver, etc.) and change out the bands if you’d like to wear them every day beyond your workouts. Fitbit has a blush pink leather that I’m particularly fond of, and I may switch up my Apple Watch with a new color of silicone band if I get tired of the light gray.

General Features (of Note)

  • HRM. Both trackers offer a heart rate monitor, which is ideal for data tracking and learning more about your body. It also provides a more accurate account of how many calories are burned per workout.
  • Waterproof (or not). The Apple Watch Series 2 is waterproof, the Fitbit Charge 2 is not. You will definitely have to take it off in your post-workout shower.
  • Music Storage. Additionally, the latest Apple Watch has music storage capabilities, meaning you don’t have to bring your phone, and you can listen to your workout playlist — provided you have Bluetooth headphones.

Tracking Your Workout

The first time I used my Fitbit Charge 2, I had no idea how to start tracking my workouts — I was simply wearing it for step tracking and my heart rate. But when I wore it to SoulCycle, it somehow miraculously knew that I was doing a cycling workout from the moment I started — from there, it logged my heart rate every second of the way, and provided me with an in-depth analysis of my workout. Once the Fitbit synced with my phone, the app showed a workout logged as “Bike.”

I wrongfully assumed my Apple Watch Series 2 would do the same, and went into another SoulCycle class with…

Which Is Better For Tracking Your Runs: Apple Watch or Fitbit?

It’s the holiday season and quite possibly you’re either asking for a new running tracker or deciding on which one to give a loved one — right? I compared the Apple Watch Nike+ and the Fitbit Charge 2 (yes, I wore them simultaneously) to give you a brief rundown of my opinion and the features: which one is best for tracking all those runs?

A disclaimer: I realize that the Fitbit Blaze is a closer comparison to the Apple Watch, but I don’t have one of those, so I tested the Charge 2. I love both my Apple Watch and my Fitbit for different reasons, so I’ll give context about what the Blaze could potentially provide for a runner while also giving my experience with these two particular models.

Aesthetic

If the style of your tracker is of the utmost importance, then you’re in luck — both the Apple Watch Nike+ ($399) and the Charge 2 ($150) are pretty sleek. While the Apple Watch obviously looks like a watch, the Nike+ version is decidedly sporty with a perforated band and preset Nike+ “faces.” This means you can customize the display of your Apple Watch with Nike’s own fonts and designs that show the time, date, and Nike+ button to start your run.

The Fitbit Charge 2 definitely has the look of an activity tracker, but with models like the rose gold and lavender one (or the black and gunmetal!) it’s sleeker than ever and definitely a more transitional piece that you can wear easily in both the gym and the office. So in summary, both are great options; it’s just a matter of preference.

Winner: Tie

Important Features: Auto-Pause

One of my favorite features of the Nike+ Run Club app on the Apple Watch Nike+ is the auto-pause feature. I went on a jog from my house to Golden Gate Park, which has many stoplights on the way (as you’ll see), and I didn’t have to fiddle with my watch every time I came to a stop on my run — the app senses that you’ve stopped and in turn pauses your workout recording. The Fitbit Charge 2 does not have this functionality, so my 15-minute run at an 11’34” pace on the Nike app looked like an 18- or 19-minute run at an over 15-minute pace on the Fitbit. I know I’m slow, but I’m not that slow!

Winner: Apple Watch Nike+

An exact look (on the Nike+ Run Club app) at all those times I had to stop at stoplights . . .

Important Features: Audio

If you’re looking for a tracker that gives you an audio update when you hit your mile marks, then you’re going to want to opt for the Apple Watch Nike+ vs. the Fitbit Charge, as the Fitbit Charge has no audio capabilities. However, the Fitbit Blaze does have music control features.

The audio capability on the Apple Watch also allows you to sync with Bluetooth headphones and store up to 1 GB of music on your watch. The Fitbit Blaze has no space for music storage, and you’ll still need your phone.

Winner: Apple Watch Nike+

Data: Heart Rate

The Apple Watch Nike+ gives you…

Review: Life with The ZoomHRV Wearable Fitness Monitor

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We had the opportunity to get our hands on a ZoomHRV 2.0 by LifeTrak, retailing at $139. This impressive fitness wearable is capable of continuous activity and heart rate monitoring even under water. It is unequivocally designed for the multi-sport athlete obsessed with data about their health and fitness.

When asked about the underlying technology behind Zoom, LifeTrak says, “…[it] is both a unique and proprietary sensor, developed by LifeTrak’s parent Salutron Inc.” While the Zoom’s optical sensor utilizes the principles of photoplethysmography (referred to as PPG technology), it is significantly different than other PPG-based sensors found in various existing wearables.

The most noticeable difference is the use of four separate optical sensors vs. the typical single sensor approach. This gives Zoom an advantage of a broader ‘sensor area’ when interfacing with the skin and the underlying capillaries, allowing for more in-depth signal analysis for both heart rate and heart rate variability.

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As well, the Zoom uses a single LED as a light emitter vs. multiple LEDs often used, which supports an extended battery life of five days during normal usage of one hour of active workout per day with heart rate readings every 10 minutes over the entire day.

LifeTrak has not published data on the accuracy of the system, however, we know that PPG is widely used across the industry with acceptable accuracy for its use case. It does seem that the implementation of this sensor set has been perfected by LifeTrak, allowing it to be used on different parts of the body and under water, which are use cases that many cannot promise.

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Unboxing and…

Hate to Run? Stay Inside and Do This Cardio Workout Instead

You can get your heart rate up in the comfort of your own home. Skip the gym and the cardio machines for this short, fun, and challenging cardio workout. We think you’ll love it! And your arms and legs will feel worked, too. Equipment wise, you will need a step (for step-ups) and a jump rope. If there are no stairs in your home, use a small bench, march in place with some vigor, or up the intensity by running in place doing the high-knee run — this advanced variation works the abs, too. If you don’t have a jump rope, just imagine you do and hop over your imaginary rope.

The Warmup

ExerciseTime / Reps
March in place2 minutes
Step-ups2 minutes
Jump rope2 minutes
StretchHamstrings,…

Heart Rate Tracking Headphones: Review of Jabra Sport Pulse Special Edition

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In August, Jabra unveiled their next-gen wireless sports headphones, premiering the world’s first sports headphones to feature automatic (and continuous) VO2 max fitness testing. I got to spend a few days testing the headphones, and was more than excited to see the new features in action.

First Impressions

The headphones come in sleek packaging, geared towards the fitness inspired. Boxed with six sets of silicone or foam buds, 4 pairs of EarWings that help secure the headphones for a better fit, there are options for almost anyone’s ears. I have small ears, so typically a whole day of wearing earbud headphones can make my ears sore, but after finding the right EarWing they were comfortable to wear for extended periods. The right fit also made the Jabras feel a lot more secure and I haven’t had them slide out of place whether I’ve been running, walking, or lifting weights.

Overall, the housing of the headphones feels durable and light, both good signs. The microphone controls are simple to use, and the Bluetooth connects with the touch of one button. With so much technology packed into the headphones, the overall footprint was surprisingly small. Jabra managed to fit the opto-mechanical heart rate sensor into a small nub on the left earbud, and the charging port on the right.

Heart Rate Sensor

Developed by Valencell, a company out of Raleigh, North Carolina, the sensor utilizes a method called photoplethysmorgraphy(PPG) to measure the heart rate. The nub on the headphones house an accelerometer as well as an optical emitter and detector which refract light through the thin skin of the ear to calculate variable blood flow. The cool thing about this optical sensor is that its position next to the thin skin of the ear allows it to take better readings than common wrist-based optical sensors. Using the data collected by the sensor, the Jabra Sports Pulse Special Edition…

Smart Contactless Clothing Monitors Vital Signs

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Taiwan’s Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) and ECLAT Textiles announced iSmartweaR, a clothing line designed to monitor vital signs. Its main feature is that it’s contactless, allowing you to move without restrictions as you track your heart rate and breathing rates. The company uses these two data points to then provide you with insight into your physical activity, sleep quality, and emotional state.

Rather than using traditional sticky polymer contact electrodes as in ECG monitors, the iSmartweaR uses low-power RF technology to measure heartbeats and breaths using a single antennae combined with conductive clothing fibres. Specifically, they use nanosecond pulse near-field sensing (NPNS) technology, which is kind of like a radar system, but for electromagnetic…