Using Your Fitbit Charge 2
In a crowded fitness-tracker market, the Fitbit Charge 2 stands out as a device that offers the core features of a fitness tracker, the basic functionality of a smartwatch, unique features to help you step up your training as well as relax, and access to the Fitbit app. The wearable doesn’t do everything, but it's our top Best Fitness Tracker pick.
Here are 15 tips for getting the most out of the Fitbit Charge 2.
Customize the Display
The display on the Charge 2 is four times bigger than the Charge HR, which lets you see the date and time and your step count at the same time. You can also configure the display to show different information; one option is time, step count and heart rate.
Tap the display on the Charge 2 to toggle between menus and view additional stats. The device doesn't have a touch screen, and it's not always lit. So if you want to check the time, you need to shake your wrist or tap the screen.
Choose Your Colors
The Fitbit Charge 2 offers interchangeable bands. Four colors are available for the device's base price of $149.95: black, plum, blue and teal, all with a silver band clip. Two special editions are available for $179.95: Lavender with rose-gold trim and black with gunmetal trim. Additional rubber bands are available for $29.95, while leather bands that come in brown, pink and indigo are available for $69.95.
With interchangeable bands, a user can wear one band during exercise and another during the workday or an evening out. Swapping out bands also makes them easier to clean, which will help them last longer.
Create a Food Plan
The Fitbit app also lets users input such information as their weight and the number of glasses of water consumed in a day. Adding this data can help you create a "food plan" that will help you lose weight. (Fitbit recommends small, short-term goals that are easy to achieve and set the stage for long-term progress.)
Incorporating these features lets users manage fitness and diet in the same application instead of switching between Fitbit for the former and an app, such as MyFitnessPal or LoseIt, for the latter. This provides a unified experience that makes it easier to manage health and wellness goals.
Choose Your Exercise
To track a workout, press the button on the left-hand side of the Fitbit Charge 2, then tap the screen to choose the type of exercise. Options include running, walking, biking and lifting weights. You can also use the Fitbit app to add or subtract different shortcuts if, say, you spend a lot of time on the elliptical but rarely ride a bike. The Fitbit Charge 2 will also automatically track runs, walks and bike rides, which is handy, but if you track workouts this way, you won't collect distance or pace information.
Chart Your Progress
Fitbit's app is arguably the best among its ilk. The app home screen offers a snapshot of key daily activity information -- steps taken, active minutes, floors climbed, distance traveled, hours of sleep and so on. Selecting a metric lets you view data over time, which helps you drill down into long-term trends for key values, such as activity, heart rate and sleep.
In addition, the app's Account tab keeps track of the badges you have earned over time. These include the most steps in a day, the most floors in a day and the total number of miles you’ve covered. To give you some perspective, lifetime mileage and floor counts are expressed in real-world equivalents, such as the length of New Zealand (990 miles) or the height of an airborne 747 (4,000 flights of stairs).
Use the Relax Feature
To address growing interest in mindfulness, the Fitbit Charge 2 has introduced a Relax feature that guides users through a 2- or 5-minute meditation exercise. The aim is to help you reduce stress, which over time will lower your blood pressure. The Charge 2 measures heart rate variability to determine the rate and pattern of breath that you need. The screen displays an expanding circle when it's time to breathe in and a contracting circle to tell you to breathe out.
Get More Accurate Step Count, Distance
The Fitbit Charge 2 uses an accelerometer to track steps, distance and flights of stairs climbed. This is effective for basic activity tracking, but it's not always accurate for runs, bike rides or especially hikes, where stride length can change depending on the terrain.
There are two ways to get more accurate fitness data from the Charge 2. One is to sync the device with a GPS-enabled smartphone and bring that phone along for each activity. The other is to calculate and enter your average stride length into the Fitbit app, which will give the Charge 2 a better indication of how many steps you take per mile.
Track Your VO2 Level
The Fitbit Charge 2 introduces a personalized "score" that's calculated by estimating your VO2 max, which gauges how well your body uses oxygen when you're working out the hardest. The higher this number, the better your cardiovascular fitness.You'll have to do a little bit of digging to find your Cardio Fitness Level; it's in the Fitbit app's heart rate section, not on the home screen.
Get On Your Feet
Amid scientific research suggesting that sitting is the new smoking, the Fitbit Charge 2 will light up at 60-minute increments to remind you to get up and move. The Charge 2 will buzz again once you record 250 steps. You can increase that number in the Fitbit app if you'd like.
Track Your Sleep
The Fitbit Charge 2 will automatically detect when you are asleep, restless and awake in the middle of the night. You can set an alarm so the Charge 2 will vibrate when it's time for you to wake up. The Fitbit app lets you edit your sleep data. This is a handy feature, as the Charge 2 sometimes has trouble picking up the exact time you wake up. You can also adjust the sensitivity of the sleep-tracking algorithm, which is helpful if you happen to be a light or heavy sleeper.
Set Interval Training
The Fitbit Charge 2's best new exercise feature is the Interval workout. Here, you can set the amount of time you want to be active, the amount of time you want to rest, and the total number of intervals that you want to do in the entire workout. The Charge 2's taptic feedback telling you it's time to start another interval is a helpful feature that lets you focus on your workout.
Connect with Friends
The Fitbit app lets users connect with friends and family who use Fitbit devices, or the app on their smartphone, to track physical activity. You can use email addresses or social media accounts to find friends. Once connected, you can offer encouragement (or taunts) and invite friends to participate in activity challenges. Building a network of Fitbit friends is a key motivating factor to make sure you keep using your Fitbit, and not stuff it in a drawer after a month.
Start an Adventure
When Fitbit released the Charge 2, it also introduced a new twist to the Fitbit Challenges available through the app. Adventures let users challenge themselves to work toward a specific step goal, unlock landmarks, collect "treasures" and learn more about their destination along the way. Goals are based on a seven-day step average, which lets users move at their own pace while also doing a bit more each day.
At its launch, Adventures featured three sites in Yosemite National Park: Vernal Falls, the Valley Loop and the Pohono Trail. These range from 15,000 to 42,000 total steps, so the adventure will last several days. Fitbit has since added 3.1-, 10-, and 26.2-mile journeys through New York City in conjunction with the recent New York City Marathon. The full marathon is a whopping 57,000 steps, not including the walk back to the subway.
Find Your Battery Life
Though the Charge 2 will last a few days in between charges, there's unfortunately no easy way to tell how much juice is left. The device will tell you that the battery is at "high," "medium" or "low," but you won't actually see a low battery icon on the display until the battery is nearly dead. To view a battery meter for the Charge 2, you have to check the Fitbit app.
Find Out Who's Calling or Texting
If you enable smartphone notifications through Fitbit's App, the Charge 2 will buzz and show the number of anyone who calls your phone. If that person is in your contacts, the Charge 2 will display his or her name. The Charge 2 can also be configured to show texts (which scroll across its display) and calendar alerts.