fitness

ROAD TEST: The fitness activity monitor that does everything a Fitbit does for $69.

For fours years, I’ve had a Fitbit fitness tracker on my wrist.

It’s a source of motivation, a reminder to move every now and again from my sedentary job and a way to make sure I get enough sleep, water and of course, exercise.

But, in those four years I’ve gone through four Fitbits and although one replacement was covered under warranty, it’s still cost me… A lot.

So, when I was given the opportunity to try out an activity tracker that claimed to do everything I loved my Fitbit for but for a third of the cost of my latest model, I had to give it a go.

v-fitness activity tracker
Image: Supplied.

The V-Fitness Activity Monitor retails for only $69 at Big W - here's how I went with it on my wrist.

First reaction.

The V-Fitness tracker is pretty sleek. It's thin - which I like - as it's less clunky and from afar appears less 'fitness tracker' and more 'black bracelet'. As someone who's forgotten to remove a turquoise tracker band while taking glam photos before an event (sigh) this is great.

It's easy to put on and adjust with a snap lock fastener, plus a bright red band comes in the box if you're that way inclined.

Now, my first initial reaction to the charger was... 'What is that?' but after fiddling with it for way too long because I'm an idiot who doesn't read instructions, I learned it was very simple to use and charge. The charging device is very small and unusual though, so you'll want to keep it somewhere safe to make sure you don't lose it.

v-fitness charger
This... strange contraption is the charger.
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Set up is quick and easy, using the My Fit Log app with your tracker nearby.

Tracker functions.

The tracker.

The V-Fitness tracker does do almost everything my Fitbit Charge 3 does, other than allow me to track my menstrual cycle and its symptoms and my daily water intake.

Obviously, it tracks steps, but it also reads your distance travelled, heart rate, sleep quality and calories burned.

One tap of the band will bring up a display that will show you the time and your step count and another tap will show your heart rate and caloric burn.

v-fitness activity tracker
The screen display shows your the time and how many steps you've done.
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v-fitness activity tracker
Plus heart rate and calorie burn.

With a longer tap, you can change the tracker's 'mode'.

It will most regularly be set to 'daily mode', symbolised on screen by a sun. It also has a 'nap mode' (which will give you an hour of 'nap time' then gently wake you up with a silent alarm - it's fantastic), 'sleep mode' for overnight and 'sport mode', for tracking your workout activity without opening the app.

The tracker will also display notifications including text messages and incoming phone calls, as well as from apps like Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp. If you have your phone on you, uh, all the time like me and don't need to be alerted, you can easily turn notifications off or choose what specific ones you'd like from the app.

The app.

The V-Fitness tracker uses an app called My Fit Log.

my fit log app
The My Fit Log app home page. Simply to read and use.
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The app dashboard is pretty sleek and easy to understand, displaying your four main goals: Steps, calories, sleep and exercise. Tapping into each goal with give you a more detailed breakdown by day and hour, so for example you can see that at 7am you did 150 steps, but then did not do anymore until after 8am.

my fit log app

If you prefer to track your exercise from the app, you will be able to specify what kind of exercise it is (run/walk, cycling, hiking, etc) and set a specific distance, time and step goals. Audio feedback can be enabled to let you know when you reach milestones.

my fit log app
You can set goals before you set out for your tracked exercise.
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my fit log app
The app will show you data for per-kilometre splits.

On My Fit Log you can update the settings to reflect your gender, height, weight and age.

You can also set a goal reminder, so the tracker will remind you to exercise at chosen times of the day and set a low activity reminder, where your tracker will buzz after a selected period of time to remind you to move. This is very handy for people in desk jobs like me, as even if we try to be mindful of getting up and moving around every so often, time can get away!

One of my favourite things about the app is the detailed breakdown of sleep. The app will show you how much time you spent awake, in light sleep, deep sleep and REM sleep and also rate your sleep quality.

The app allows you to set silent alarms. This means your tracker will buzz on your wrist to wake you up - and trust me, it makes for a much nicer wake-up than the loud phone alarm you're used to.

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My main problem with My Fit Log is that notifications, like reminders to move, will of course appear on your tracker, but they also need to be cleared on the app. I didn't like the double-up.

The accuracy.

The V-Fitness was far more accurate than I thought it would be (sorry, the price tag had me being cynical!), but I do believe it under-calculated my steps.

I tested it out by going to the gym after work, where I ran six kilometres on a treadmill, and then walked home (approximately 3kms).

It's distance calculation for my treadmill run was much more accurate than it ever is for a Fitbit, even though the Fitbit has a specific treadmill exercise option, calculating 7.10km which was spot on including my warm up and warm down time.

My resting heart rate read the same across both trackers.

However, by the time I got home my Fitbit said I'd done 15,000 steps over my day and the V-Fitness had me at just above 10,000. It had tracked just 5876 steps for my 7km workout, which I know is low because my stride is about 1200 steps per kilometre.

I checked my iPhone which tracks steps through its Health app to get a third reading. I do not carry or wear my phone on me on the treadmill, but without that 7km it still had me at 6,000 steps for the day. Given all three readings, I was inclined to believe I was closer to the Fitbit's number of steps than the V-Fitness'.

Following this, I switched the V-Fitness to my non-dominant wrist and this has improved its accuracy a lot. I could not find a setting on the app to select what wrist the tracker is worn on, but it is recommended trackers are worn on the non-dominant wrist.

When I did a few step tests - of walking on the spot and also through the Mamamia office, counting my steps as I go - the V-Fitness tracked everything correctly.

So, is it worth it?

If you're thinking about trying a fitness tracker, the V-Fitness is definitely a good first option.

It's definitely less sophisticated than trackers such as Fitbit and Garmin and but that is to be expected with a price tag of $69.

Having it on your wrist would definitely provide motivation for a less sedentary work day. The low activity alert - which you can set to discretely go off from every 30 minutes to every 2 hours - will help you be conscious of how much, or how little, you're moving throughout your day.

Hardcore gym junkies will be more satisfied by a more expensive tracker, but if you're main goal is to become more active in your day-to-day life then the V-Fitness will be a sound investment.

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