Friday, January 2, 2015

Garmin Vivofit - First 300000 Steps

Garmin Vivofit - Review

After two years working at Microsoft my health was pretty poor. Sure, I was really active, but by diet and sleep patterns were a mess. And, to deal with work stress it wasn't unusual for me to grab the chainsaw and garden tools and do several hours of exhausting yard work - just so I could get to sleep.  

When we moved back to Texas from Seattle I was fully burned out. Dr. M. told me my blood sugar (HbA1c) and Triglycerides were too high and put me back on diabetes medication for the first time since 2009. I could have saved time and money for the office visit.

For Thanksgiving I purchased a Garmin Vivofit from Amazon (product link) for just under $80. I'll cover the Good, the Bad and the Bottom Line... and endorse the product as a solid, low price, wearable fitness device - for those that walk or jog. 

The Good 

Dashboard - Drag and Drop modules.
Clean, easy to read, and simple to use.
(Click for larger image).

  • The website is very simple to use. Menus are on the left, graphics on the right, and click-down for more information. 
  • The band display is very easy to read, even without glasses, as long as you have some light.
  • Not having to charge it daily, or weekly, is a huge win. Sync is completed via a wireless mini-USB device and takes less than 30 seconds. I sync every 2-3 days, but understand that it can hold several days of data. 
  • It's waterproof - and I have tested with showers, swimming and the hot tub. In fact, the only time I took it off was when I was cleaning the turkey.
  • The Red Bar (no activity) feature is very motivating.  
  • The reporting feature is easy to understand.  

The Reports Section makes it easy to review your history. 

For those that need encouragement -
Badges are easy to get at first, then they require more effort
The Sleep Tracker is nice, and easily editable -- in case you
forget to set Sleep Mode or to turn off Sleep Mode in the morning.  

The Bad

  • There is very little documentation (even online) to help understand how the device works - the underlying logic that is. YouTube videos for the Vivofit are mostly marketing in nature. 
  • The Sleep Tracker shows how much movement you have during the night - on a scale from Low to High, but does not offer any measure to relate to the scale. Is tossing-turning considered "low" and a walk to the bathroom "high"? It's just not clear.
  • Some chores don't register as activity. Doing the dishes, folding laundry... if you are not moving from place to place, you don't get points. On the other hand, vacuuming and raking the yard seem to over-score.
  • The Personalized Daily Goals (random step targets) are OK, for variety, but the Vivofit does not recognize the days of the week. My Monday calendar is typically booked with conference calls. So I have missed my Monday goal several times. My Thursday calendar is light, so I'm OK with a few more steps.  
  • There is not really a good method to set a monthly (or annual) target for steps. Again, I suspect Garmin sees daily activity as key to success, but I work on longer and larger goals. My 2.5 million step goal for 2015 is not easy to track on the Vivofit. 

The Bottom Line

The Garmin Vivofit has helped me get out of the house and walk. It provides (hourly) encouragement to meet daily goals, does a good job recording activity, and provides very real feedback on performance. It is very low hassle - no recharging, no removal to sync, no removal to take a shower. 

My first 300,000 steps were accomplished with just a bit of nagging... which is exactly what I need. 


P.S. The Garmin Vivofit also allows manual entry of your weight. 
I lost (LOST!) five pounds between Thanksgiving and New Years Day. #winning. 

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