FitBit: Fitness fact or fiction?

FitBit: Fitness fact or fiction?

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Judy McCrackin-Langfitt has built a life around staying fit. As the owner of Core Fitness in Myrtle Beach, she spends her days leading group fitness classes and training clients.

Recently, she bought a FitBit Flex to join her members in a friendly competition to see who could record the most steps.

"At first I kind of did think it was a gimmick and gadget and people would use it for a short time," Langfitt remembers about her initial thoughts.

In the end, she bought one for every family member and watched some of their habits change.

"You're watching your steps, you kind of look at it often and it makes you more aware," she says. "Oh I have to move a little bit more today, my friend is 100 steps in front of me."

It's a tiny tech gadget you've undoubtedly seen sported on people looking to get in shape. FitBit is the brand of trendy fitness accessories and has no shortage of awards, including RadioShack's "Best New Product Launch," Men's Journal "Gear of the Year" and Consumer Reports "Best Buy" to name a few.

Like Langfitt, Erika Pesta uses the FitBit Flex to track her daily steps and activities.

"It definitely has shown me that I don't walk as much as I thought I did, just on my average," Pesta says. "So I need to get up and start moving!"

There are several different "FitBit" trackers.

At the basic end, the Zip sells for about $60 and tracks steps taken, calories burned and distance traveled.

The most involved is the Surge. For about $250 it boasts GPS tracking, heart rate monitoring, and all day activity tracking for several different athletic workouts.

Once you purchase a FitBit, there's an app that allows you to keep track of your day right on your phone.

Pesta, who owns the FitBit Flex, admits it doesn't do a great job tracking her gym activity, but it has gotten her to move more outside of regular yoga or Pilates classes.

"I'm definitely on my feet more than I was before, it kind of shocked me," Pesta says. "I thought I easily walked 5 miles a day when it was more like 3 miles."

Langfitt and Pesta both say they get addicted to watching their amount of steps increase throughout the day.

WMBF News anchor Paula Caruso met Pesta at Doug Shaw Stadium in Myrtle Beach to measure if the steps being tracked were actual steps taken.

First, WMBF News used a measuring wheel around the track to guarantee one lap was actually one-quarter mile. Caruso put a FitBit Flex that WMBF News purchased on her wrist and attached a FitBit Zip that WMBF News purchased to her shoelaces. Erika wore her FitBit Flex on her wrist.

"I think it activates more when my hands are moving or I'm moving for at least one minute," Erika warned Caruso.

Erika was right.

The FitBit Flex on Caruso's wrist actually didn't count any steps on the first lap because her arm was stationary pushing a stroller. The FitBit Zip, on her shoe, came closer to recording a quarter-mile.

On the following laps, Caruso said she had to remember to pump her arm if she wanted the FitBit Flex to record any "steps."

So in reality, it actually records arm movement over foot movement.

At the end of four laps, Erika's FitBit Flex and the FitBit Zip on Caruso's shoe were both reading close to one mile.

The FitBit Flex on Caruso's wrist was off a bit from all the times she forgot to pump her arm.

WMBF News decided to see how the FitBits would hold up on longer runs for WMBF News videographer Drew. He's in training for a marathon.

On Drew's first run, a GPS watch measured 12 miles but both the FitBit Flex on his wrist and the Zip on his shoe recorded only 9.2 miles.

He tried again the next day and again, GPS measured his distance at 8 miles but the Flex on his wrist and the Zip, this time on his waistband, both only measured 6.1 miles.

On his third run, 10 miles on GPS, the Zip recorded only 7.5 miles and the Flex 7.25 miles.

The Flex and Zip didn't seem to hold up to Drew's GPS watch on long distances.

According to the FitBit website, Flex and Zip are considered "everyday" trackers to get you to move more, set goals and slowly make changes.

"What it does is it motivates, it's just like working out with a buddy. You have something you're accountable to," Langfitt says.

If you're more active, you might consider the FitBit "Charge" or "Surge" because both are equipped with more functions to handle a performance athlete.

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