Gadget Review: The Garmin vívofit

I’m a pretty active person, but I like having a little nudge to be more active. Especially now that I’m more of a programmer and less of a tech. You tend to sit still a lot when you’re typing lines of code instead of climbing ladders. (Funny how that happens!) I wanted to get an activity tracker, but none of them met all of my criteria.

Then I visited with my sister, checked out her Garmin vívofit (affiliate link), and decided that it was close enough. I’ve been wearing the vívofit for about 6 months now, so I think I’m ready to weigh-in on how I like it.

Why use an activity tracker in the first place? To begin with, it keeps me honest. I can tell myself all I want that I had a pretty active day, but if the vívofit says I only took 6,000 steps, I can’t pretend that I made up for all that time spent watching TV with one long walk with the dog. The vívofit has also helped me to notice patterns, and I’ve made some lifestyle adjustments accordingly. For example, going to client sites has a seriously negative effect on my step totals. I wasn’t sure why that was (I tend to run around a lot at job sites because I’m actively troubleshooting and fixing things). But then I realized that it’s less about the work I’m doing, and more about the drive to get there. Going onsite almost always means an extra-long commute, which means I’m basically sitting for an extra hour or two (if I’m lucky). Now, when I know I’ll be going to a job site, I make sure to plan for some sort of extra physical activity that day to make up for it.

Also, the vívofit definitely gets me to walk more. It’s a fun little challenge to try and beat my step goal every day. I was concerned that I’d get all excited about it for a few weeks, and then forget all about it and go back to putting my feet up. This is where the vívofit has a real advantage over some of the other trackers with fancier features: it’s designed to last a year on a little watch battery, so you never have to take it off. It’s water-proof, so I even wear it in the shower. This means that I never have a morning where I say “meh,” and leave it at home.

This would probably be a good time to mention that I have some OCD-like tendencies (some might say undiagnosed OCD, potato-potahto). My vívofit sets a step goal for me every day. And then I must beat it. You know that New Yorker article by David Sedaris about his Fitbit? It’s a little bit like that, except I don’t have the English countryside to go gallivanting around in. Instead, I tell my husband that I’ll take the dog for one last walk “because I need to get my steps in.” I have been known to walk around in circles for five minutes before bed, because I have a few hundred more steps to reach my goal. I’m honestly surprised at how seriously I take my step goal.

(The dog is definitely not complaining.)

(The husband isn’t really complaining either.)

The vívofit also tells you if you’ve been sitting still for too long. A little red bar starts making its way across the screen. Which usually prompts a rushed “Oh no! I’m in the red!” from me. Swiftly followed by some frantic pacing and arm waving, until the screen goes back to normal. Or a little dance. It depends on how I’m feeling. Either way, sitting still for prolonged periods of time is definitely not good for you, and the vívofit definitely makes me get up and move.

My biggest complaint is that you have to actually notice that little red bar on the screen, but the newer version (the vívofit 2) will make an audible alert as well.

So, that’s what the vívofit does well. It sits on your wrist, sipping lightly on its battery, and encouraging you to use your own neuroses in a more positive manner. What doesn’t it do well? Well, basically everything else.

This thing lasts a year without a charge. It’s kindof bare bones.

It doesn’t integrate with your phone. You can’t use it to control your music on a run. It won’t report anything from a tracking app like Runkeeper or Strava. It technically tracks your sleep, but it’s kindof clunky to put it into sleep mode, and then it’s not really all that accurate anyways, so I don’t bother. It doesn’t give you any biometric data like some of the fancier trackers. It only detects certain types of motion, so you can go on an 8.5 mile bike ride and it will think that you were just sitting on your couch the whole time (I’m still a little bitter about that one). It won’t vibrate to wake you up in the morning.

(I guess it will pair with a heart rate monitor, but I haven’t played with that feature yet.)

Basically, it tells the time, it tells you how many steps you’ve done, it tells you how many steps it thinks you should be taking, it lets you know if you’ve been sitting for too long, and that’s about it. And you know what? I don’t miss any of the other features. If you added any of those other features, you’d be back in the realm of needing to charge it frequently.

(Ok, I do kindof wish that it would wake me up in the morning.)

(The app is also not great, but it’s getting better.)

My two biggest peeves with it are the aforementioned lack of alerts when you’ve been sitting too long, and the fact that it is kindof a PITA to sync. And both of these are apparently addressed with the newer version. I would probably recommend version 2 for anyone buying one now, but I’m still very happy with my purchase.

(Garmin paid me exactly zero dollars and zero cents for this post, although there is an affiliate link at the top.)

(If Garmin wants to send me a vívofit 2 to review, I would happily take one.)

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