Activity Trackers: A Review of Fitbit, Jawbone and Nike

Motivation: An ideal health device should hit you with motivating messages and helpful tips, helping to push you to reach your goals. None of these really shined in this area for me. The Fuelband’s screen was probably the most effective motivator, as a quick glance would tell me how many steps I had. Second best was Fitbit, which sent me an email with summary stats and advice. The Jawbone also had excellent advice, but only after syncing and only if you directly clicked on their messages. I wish all these features were combined in one! But even if combined, their advice was fairly generic, with no major health recommendations I found very useful.

Sharing: I suppose it could be very motivating to share your data with friends and family, or co-workers taking a wellness challenge, cheering each other along in healthy competition.  All of these trackers offer some type of syncing with networks such as Facebook, allowing you to share your stats. But I personally wouldn’t like to share such data. Besides, nobody on my contact list came up as a team member. None of the three, even Nike, impressed me on this angle.

My Bottom Line

I love the idea of activity trackers, and I definitely see these gadgets as increasingly effective health tools for millions of people. Every day in my clinic I see people who could use such help: overweight, diabetic, not exercising, high blood pressure, etc. If just a small percentage of them could live better via apps and gadgets, then what a wonderfully useful new industry this would be! I also definitely would wear one 24/7 if I felt it were making me healthier.

But that time has not yet arrived. Right now, I’m honestly not thrilled with any of these three that I tested, and I don’t plan on keeping any of them. None were the complete package for me, and none motivated me enough to eat better, lose weight or exercise more. I think I need more useful features in mine, such as:

  • Offering more useful, specific health advice, maybe with links to evidence-based articles or data.
  • Syncing directly with my primary doctor or my hospital website, so I can upload all my data to my online patient file and share with my medical team.
  • Monitoring blood pressure, weight, pulse and diet more easily

It looks like I will have to get healthier the old fashioned way — self motivation! At least now I actually do have a spurt of humiliation with my waist measurement. In any case, I am very happy I tried all of these for free; now I can return them to Sports Illustrated instead of blowing over $100 on something I would only use for a month, ending up in a special corner of my home filled with all the other sports equipment I bought and rarely used. Stay tuned; in a year I should be reviewing the next generation of trackers — and hopefully will keep one.

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3 thoughts on “Activity Trackers: A Review of Fitbit, Jawbone and Nike”

  1. Interesting article but i would have to say that these gadgets can only work in conjunction with self motivation. I am a workout junky but by no means a gym rat. I exercise everywhere, from doing Insanity workouts, bodyweight metabolic training and TRX at home to running on all kinds of surfaces including my apartment building stairs where I get funny looks from the cleaning staff. The only time i go to a gym is in the winter where I use the treadmill a few times a week. Having said all that, it took me moving to Beijing to get creative with my workouts… used to be just running and because of BJ’s air , all these other methods of getting my workouts in had to be implemented. And now i love exercising even more…..i still hate biking though!

  2. Hi,
    I enjoyed reading this article and despite your desire for a few modifications, I would love to own one of these devices. I was wondering where I could purchase a fitbit or similar tracking device here in Beijing?
    I look forward to hearing back from you!


    1. These are sold everywhere in electronics stores like Buynow, or just order online from Tmall, Amazon China, Jingdong etc…

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