REVIEW: Garmin Vivofit Fitness Band

We recently discussed the Garmin Vivofit fitness band (http://amzn.to/1BaVCiH). This is a popular activity tracker by Garmin, a leading company in the GPS technology field. The Vivofit is well priced, costing less than $100 – a small price to pay for better health and a slimmer waistline.

Here's the Vivofit fitness band in black. "Only" 5933 steps to reach my daily goal! That sounds like a lot, but it's achievable. (Click the pic for more info.)

Here's the Vivofit fitness band in black. "Only" 5933 steps to reach my daily goal! That sounds like a lot, but it's achievable. Walking will make the red lines disappear and the goal count go lower. (Click the pic for more info.)

Fitness bands have become a popular phenomenon in recent years. Developments in wearable technology (especially GPS and accelerometer advances) have made these devices not only possible, but inexpensive. The Garmin Vivofit is a typical consumer fitness band that boasts some nice features. You might think of these bands as pedometers for the digital age.

The Garmin Vivofit is a device that is worn on the wrist like a traditional wristwatch. It contains a small LCD type of screen that is not backlit. Simplicity is the order of the day here. The user interface consists of one button. Pressing the button toggles the screen to display various bits of data about your activity. This data includes a daily step goal, the number of steps necessary to complete the goal, a mileage count, and an estimate of calories burned.

The Vivofit device itself snaps into a wristband. This design allows different bands to be used. There are large and small bands to fit different size wrists, and also bands of different colors. So you can start with plain black, and later change to a more colorful band if you so desire. Or you can start with a colorful band, if purple and orange are more your cup of tea. It’s up to you.

Here's a look at the Garmin app. The app is free and syncing is quite easy via Bluetooth.

Here's a look at the Garmin app. The app is free and syncing is quite easy via Bluetooth.

Yes, the Vivofit displays time and date like a digital watch. But what makes these “fitness band” devices special is the ability to track daily steps (similar to a traditional pedometer) and mileage traveled, and the resulting calories burned.

By adding a Garmin heart rate monitor, it’s possible to keep track of one’s heart rate when exercising. This is a welcome, but by no means necessary, feature. The combination bundle package (http://amzn.to/1ASoP3y) is a nice deal since it includes the heart rate monitor with the band. If you purchase the two items separately, the total cost will be higher.

The key to these fitness bands is the step count. At a glance, one can see how many steps one has taken in a day. Of course, taking more steps leads to burning more calories.

We tend to make fitness complicated in this country by promoting complex workout routines and nutritional plans. But losing weight is actually a simple proposition: burn more calories than you consume. Walking is probably the simplest and most effective method of burning calories, losing weight, and promoting overall health.

Yes, the best way to burn calories to get up off the couch and move. These bands act like little fitness coaches. They offer some extra motivation and make the daily activity more fun.

Step data is recorded and saved, so over time it’s possible to chart and graph one’s activity. The band and related Garmin services keeps track of your daily walking data, so you don’t need to worry about it.

The Vivofit can be worn 24/7. It's not only waterproof, it tracks movement during sleep. Here's how I slept last night. 6 hours of sleep is not enough...

The Vivofit can be worn 24/7. It's not only waterproof, it tracks movement during sleep. Here's how I slept last night. 6 hours of sleep is not enough...

If you are inactive for periods of time during the day, the Vivofit display will prompt you to move. The prompt is a series of red bars that appear across the top of the band display. By moving around for a couple of minutes, you can make the red bar go away. It sounds like a minor motivation, but the prompt is one of those genius little features that helps combat a sedentary lifestyle.

Note that the Garmin Vivofit does not vibrate or even have a backlight. This lack of such features actually has its upside in terms of battery life. Garmin claims that the Vivofit lithium batteries will last a full year without need of a recharge.

The Vivofit establishes a personalized daily step goal for you that’s based upon the wearer’s typical activity. In this respect, it serves as a goal setting motivational tool. If the day is passing along and you have been inactive, the Vivofit can spur you to arise from the couch.

You don’t need to be outdoors for a Vivofit to work. The Vivofit keeps track of steps even when you are inside a home or RV. It also logs steps on a treadmill, which is handy for anyone who wants to workout in a club or exercise room.

The Vivofit itself does not weigh much. It’s a narrow piece of plastic held by a thin rubber band. The build quality is robust. Some people have reported problems with the wrist attachment coming loose, but we have had no such trouble to date.

The Vivofit is waterproof, so you can wear it in the rain, in the shower, or even in the swimming pool for swimming and water aerobics.

In fact, the Vivofit is a device that you can truly wear 24/7. Yes, it even tracks your sleep. To be more precise, it tracks body movement while you sleep. While it can’t exactly monitor your amount of quality R.E.M. “deep” sleep, it can let you know the times in the night when you were most at rest. As someone who tends to toss and turn in bed, this information is fascinating.

Note that the “sleep mode” must be manually triggered each night when you go to bed. It is activated by simply holding the device button until “sleep” is activated. Pressing the button again the next morning will reactivate normal step tracking mode.

Step goal achieved! Here's a full day in review. Note that I burned 2661 calories on Christmas Day. (Unfortunately my turkey, dressing, and gravy meal was about 10,000 calories.) Click the pic for more info.

Step goal achieved! Here's a full day in review. Note that I burned 2661 calories on Christmas Day. (Unfortunately my turkey, dressing, and gravy meal was about 10,000 calories.) Click the pic for more info.

In addition to the daily logging of data, the fun of the Vivofit is in “syncing” your device with Garmin Connect software and keeping long term record of your activity.

As you complete certain goals (for example, 5000 steps walked) you will earn “badges” on the website. Again, these badges are simply fun motivational tools.

You can also enter community step “challenges.” The challenges work as small competitions towards taking the most steps in a week.

You can friend others in the Garmin community and share information, if you please. For example, husband and wife can “friend” and enter walking competitions together.

Some people have complained about difficulty syncing their fitness bands with the Garmin service. We had no trouble whatsoever, but we used an iPad with Bluetooth enabled and the corresponding Garmin app.

The Garmin iPad app is not flashy, but it is effective and easy to use. To sync the device, one need only open the app and press the button on the fitness band. It doesn’t get much easier than that. No cables are necessary. Not much information is being transferred, so the entire sync process takes but a few seconds.

Things are a little more complicated when using a laptop. Garmin includes a small Bluetooth antenna that plugs into the laptop USB port. The device then syncs using that antenna to transmit the signal. This arrangement is a bit more complex and thus more prone to problems.

Our conclusion is thus to use the phone or tablet app if you have such devices. The app and fitness band seem to play nice together.

The Garmin Vivofit is a nice activity tracker. We like the simple design, waterproof 24/7 functionality, and long term statistical logging. The Garmin community features are welcome, too.

Will owning a fitness band lead to a slimmer, healthier body? Check back with us in a year to find out…

Click here to get your own Garmin Vivofit.

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