Fitbit has one of the most user friendly fitness apps out there. But some of its features sit behind a paywall. Are they worth the cost? Read on to find out.
Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets
Fitbit’s smartphone app is great. It’s simple to navigate and everything is pretty easy to find. The software dishes out a lots of data, but without overloading you with information.
All the basics are free to use. This includes info on steps, distance, calories, exercise, sleep and more. With the introduction of Fitbit Charge 4 the company has slapped on some more software-based goodies.
This includes the ability to overlay training intensity information on a map after a workout. This can either be in the form of pace or heart rate zones shaded throughout your route. Think of it as a heat map that shows the intensity of your effort.
The other new feature is dubbed Active Zones. It captures intensity of your activity by awarding you points for various heart rate zones. The harder you work your ticker the more points you collect. The overall goal is to accumulate 150 active minutes each week (or 75 minutes of vigorous activity), as per recommendations from the World Health Organization.
But what about features that sit behind the paywall? What do you get for the $9.99 you’re expected to dish out? Are the extras worth it?
Fitbit Premium was introduced in the latter part of last year. It is part of the company’s effort to move away from a revenue stream based solely on hardware.
A subscription gives you access to customised programs, personal insights, challenges & adventures, advanced sleep tools, thousands of unique workouts and more.
Starting off with customised programs as they are probably the biggest add-on. These are step-by-step workout instructions that can be found in the Discover tab of the app.
Click on this and you’ll be presented with a plethora of options. For simplicity, they are categorised into at-home training, eating better, getting more quality shut eye and being more active. This first category was added recently to help people cope better with social distancing measures. Each program lasts between one and three weeks and keeps you accountable during the journey.
The clue is in the name. Advanced insights are just that. More personalised info that taps into your metrics and connects the dots. The app delves deeply into your sleep, activity and heart rate data to spit out useful suggestions. Sure you get these even without the subscription, but this is insights on steroids.
What’s more, there’s also something called a Wellness report. This summarises your data from the past month and presents it in a simple to understand way. The report can be downloaded as a PDF file for easy viewing or printing, and you can also share it with your doctor or personal trainer. Everything is there including stats and charts about your heart health, weight (if you have a connected scale), sleep and activity.
Extra sleep tools
Fitbit’s sleep stats are detailed as it is. If you have a heart rate enabled device you get info on Light, Deep and REM sleep. The app dishes out personalised guidance and you can set bedtime and wakeup targets; reminders to stay on schedule, and a sleep schedule history to chart your progress.
With the Premium Subscription this gets even better. Here you’ll get a breakdown of your Sleep Score. For example, last night I was awarded a 66 points for my nightly rest. Clicking on the figure revealed that 33 of these (out of a possible 50) were earned for the length of my sleep session, 17 (out of a possible 25) for Deep and REM sleep and 16 (out of a possible 25) for Restoration (which measures how peaceful or agitated I was by analysing my sleeping heart rate).
The insights on how to improve your kip time are also more detailed and personalised with the Premium subscription.
The next Premium addition are Workouts. These are exercise instructions and videos to help spice up your routine. They include material from Fitbit, Daily Burn, Pop Sugar, barre3 and more.
Challenges & adventures
Premium members also gain access to new types of challenges. The company calls them “adaptive challenges and games”. Challenges can be personal or allow you to connect with others to compete or work towards shared fitness goals. This could be family, friends or others in the Fitbit community. It has been shown time and time again, we work out more in social settings.
The final extra is there to help you stay chilled. This includes a library of relaxing sounds for guided meditations, again from a range of sources.
Summary and price
The typical Fitbit user will find everything they need in the free portion of the app. The biggest addition that you get with the Premium subscription are the guided workouts and programs. These are great for someone just starting out, for those looking to spice up their routine, or for those needing a bit of extra motivation.
Let’s face it. The additional sleep insights, mindfulness exercises and challenges will be a nice-to-have rather than a must-have for most people. So if you don’t plan on using the guided workouts and programs, it probably doesn’t make sense shelling out $9.99 each month (or $79.99 for an annual subscription).
Typically all Fitbit users get a 7 day free trial to make up their mind whether they are interested. Just remember to cancel your subscription before the trial is up in order to avoid being charged.
Even better news is that Fitbit is currently offering a portion of the Premium content at no cost to everyone and a free 90-day trial to the full service for new users. The company is doing this to help people stay active amidst the current COVID-19 outbreak.
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