Fitbit: I’ve got that sinking feeling

I’m not one for running. A teenage knee injury made sure of that.

In fact, I’ve recently become quite glad that I’m not a runner. It means that I’m not able to fall into the overly narcissistic behaviour of using a fitness tracker to post my running and exercise regimes on Facebook, (cyclists you are equally as bad).

“Look at me; I ran 3.7km in 16mins”.

IDGAF. Really I don’t.

However, I am quite keen on the idea of fitness trackers as a piece of technology.

You see, I may not be a runner but I am a swimmer and, unlike running, where most folks seem to habitually follow a predetermined route, I find it a little harder to keep track of my swimming distances.

I swim lengths. I count those lengths. I multiple those lengths by the size of the pool. I multiply that distance by my weekly visits….my aim is minimum 4km a week but heck, sometimes I just forget. A fitness tracker therefore seems like a good idea.

I haven’t started any exhaustive research into these yet but I am rather frustrated by one of the market leaders, Fitbit.

Its search engine summary text tells me that Fitbit can “log my activity wherever I am”. Good, I’ll be in the pool.

However, delve a little deeper and the help pages tell me that the product is not designed to track swimming activities. Hmm, ok so Fitbit can’t log my activity “wherever I am”.

This was curious. I had just read an article on Forbes stating that the Fitbit Flex was waterproof so could be taken swimming. On the Fitbit Flex spec pages I was then told that the product was water resistant (up to 10m).

And here’s the confusion…

Water resistant (and can be submerged up to 10m) isn’t the same as waterproof (as the Forbes review told me). It’s the same reason that standards bodies have cracked-down on watch manufacturers’ claims over waterproofing. We now have IP ratings to measure water ingress.

I couldn’t find an IP rating for the Fitbit Flex but I’m confident the product offers very basic water resistance only (IP1-4) and therefore should absolutely not be submerged for any extended duration (like a serious training swim of 45mins).

My concerns are confirmed with a scan over some Amazon reviews. Several customers experienced failure within just a few minutes of submersion.

IMHO Fitbit could absolutely do better to clarify the words it uses. It doesn’t expressly say I can’t use the product for swimming (just that it’s not purposely designed for tracking swimming activities) and it says it can be submerged up to 10m. However, the words water resistant ring alarm bells.

If anyone has any recommendations for a fitness tracker for swimming, I’d live to know, I promise not to publish my progress on Facebook.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Forrest says:

    A coworker accidentally left his fitbit in his pocket and sent it through the laundry. He’s still using it – the same one, not a replacement.

    Personally, I’d put it in a water-tight bag before I even thought about going swimming with it.

    I’m not sure it would track your swimming properly, anyway. I use mine for walking, but also while riding my bike; it tracks pedal strokes as if they were steps, but it gives me credit for 1 mile for every 7 I ride. (That’s pretty consistent.) And I wouldn’t expect it to be very accurate on this, it doesn’t know how many chain inches I’m pushing. I’d think a similar thing would happen for swimming.

  2. tim deluca-smith says:

    Thanks Forrest. Good point. I guess I really need a GPS based tracker rather than an accelerometer-based solution.

  3. Forrest says:

    I’ve got a Garmin hiking GPS. I tried it while swimming in an outdoor lake, but it kept losing its connection to the satellites whenever it was more than a few inches underwater. i think what you really need is a cute personal assistant to count for you and record everything. 🙂

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