Lifestyle

Fitbit Alta HR: Remind Yourself to Stay Active

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In the beginning, fitness trackers didn’t enjoy much good press. Many felt that they didn’t do enough, or was a solution looking for a problem to solve. Much has changed since then and people have found ways to make trackers useful. The Fitbit Alta HR is a good example for what a ‘casual’ fitness tracker should be like.

At S$248, the Alta HR is not exactly what you call cheap, and in fact we think it’s rather expensive. But the fact is, it just works: it gives you the metrics that you need to monitor your lifestyle and habits to ensure that you are living well. It’s also rather good to look at, and you can replace the straps for it to suit your personality or your dress sense.

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It’s not to say that it doesn’t have its shortcomings. The Alta HR is still only splashproof, and you have to make sure you don’t drop it in the pool or something. To be fair it works for all activities, short of water-based ones like swimming, but you’d think they’d made it such that you don’t have to make a conscious effort to remember by now.

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That aside, the Alta HR performs well as a ‘basic’ tracker. By that, we mean that it can keep a consistent step count, provide trouble-free syncing, and have a reliable heart rate monitor and sleep tracker. Features like SmartTrack can be used to recognise specific high movement activities like cycling, and sports like tennis (sorry golfers) start tracking automatically when you start, although a minor limitation is that it has to last at least 15 minutes for it to count. It’s not perfect, so you may need to check to see if it’s activated properly or log it manually in the app. Activities like cycling may not work as well too because the tracker detects wrist movement and may not be able to give an accurate measurement of your efforts. It’s effectively a cursory count but ultimately it’s a tool to help build a habit.

What cements Fitbit’s status an excellent activity tracker is its latest feature: Sleep Stages, a feature that is rolled out first on the Alta HR. It estimates your sleep stages and gives you a breakdown of how long you were resting in each stage. It has to be said that short of testing it in an actual sleep laboratory, it would have been rather tricky to see if the Alta HR is up to scratch in this regard. But what we can see is that the level of quality sleep reported corroborated to our own perceived ‘freshness’ for the day. It can help you remind you to target building healthy sleeping habits and gives you the data to validate your decision.

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At least, on a level we can relate to, we know and we’ve seen that the Alta HR is consistent with its step count and sleep tracking. Fitness Trackers aren’t intended to be medical devices, so precision is not of utmost priority. However, consistency is – and the Alta HR can be relied on in that regard. The numbers were more or less in the ballpark when measuring regular routine activities – which is what we want. The lack of stairs tracking is a slight disappointment, however.

There’s one area in particular where the Alta HR is extremely helpful: it gives you constant reminders throughout the day to help you reach your activity goal. In that respect, it’s helping you to adapt to a consistently active lifestyle throughout the day. So if you’re looking to be more active without having to resort to squeezing in a run at night, a tracker may help you to get a good sense of how often you should be moving, and how much you should be moving to be healthy. The software on the app is polished and arguably justifies the asking price.

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If you are an active person who already follows a routine religiously and is looking to measure the effectiveness of your various workouts, the Fitbit Alta HR is not for you. If you are looking to live healthier and are game to find out how much more you can get out of doing just a little bit more each day, then it is a great candidate for the job.

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