Tech Review: Fitbit Inspire HR

Photo from Fitbit.com

Sometime last summer, I started paying attention to my phone’s built-in fitness app, Google Fit. I’ve been working a full-time desk job for several years now, and I’ve had to become more intentional about exercise. In college, I had exercise built into my day in the form of walks across campus every hour or hour and a half, but no more. Now, I do a mix of walking on my lunch breaks, yoga, Popsugar workout videos, and in the last month I’ve started (very casually) running again.

I like the Google Fit app, but after a few months of using it consistently, I got tired of having to carry my phone around everywhere, and felt like I was ready for an upgrade. My husband got me a Fitbit Inspire HR for Christmas, and I’ve been using it since then. Here’s how I like it so far!!

The Bad

For a fitness tracker that’s been around awhile, this has a surprising amount of issues.

Step Count Sensitivity. The step counter on the Inspire HR is honestly kind of disappointing. For the first week or so, I compared it against my Google Fit app, and Fitbit consistently overcounted by a LOT. I expected discrepancies, but Fitbit was logging thousands more steps than Google Fit. I changed the setting so that Fitbit thinks I wear the tracker on my dominant hand, even though I don’t, because this lowers the sensitivity. That cut down a bit on extra steps, but Fitbit does a poor job of recognizing when you’re running/walking versus doing other things.

Biking vs Step Count. For example, my husband and I went biking last weekend, and Fitbit accurately recognized we were biking and logged it as an activity – but also added thousands of extra steps due to bumps in the pavement. That seems like a programming issue to me. If Fitbit is smart enough to recognize a bike ride, shouldn’t it be smart enough to not count steps during that activity?

Driving vs Step Count. We also drove to South Carolina a couple weeks after I got the Fitbit, and it gave me thousands of steps during times when we were sitting in the car. Fitbit has a fix for this – you can log a Driving activity after the fact, which reduces your number of steps. BUT, Driving counts as an exercise, so it shows up in the app as an Exercise day, which is not ideal if you’re trying to track how many days you exercise. The Fitbit steps feature could really use some work, in my opinion.

Period Tracker. Fitbit does include a period tracker, which is nice (where’s yours, Google Fit?). But it kind of feels like an afterthought to me. I have already been using a different app to track my cycle for several years, so I likely wouldn’t have used Fitbit’s anyway, but I disliked how it is set up. Instead of telling the app when you start/stop, Fitbit estimates your cycle for you, and if it gets it wrong, you have to go in and edit your period. If you have a regular period, it might be useful, but mine is not, so my current app where I can tell it the exact date works much better for me.

The Good

A sleep graph.
A sleep graph.

Sleep Tracker. I didn’t expect to enjoy the sleep tracker this much. If you wear the Fitbit at night, in the morning you get a Sleep Score (based on how many hours you’re shooting for and the quality of your sleep), and a pretty little graph that shows you how much time you spent awake, in light sleep, in deep sleep, and in REM. I don’t really have sleep issues, but I really enjoy looking at it. It seems pretty accurate, too, so it seems like a good tool to verify your sleep quality if that’s something you’re interested in.

A heart rate graph.
My heart rate graph for a whole day.

Heart Rate and Active Minutes. Part of the reason I don’t run much is because my heart and lungs, like, CANNOT handle it. Fitbit is actually helping me remedy that. Because it has the heart rate sensor, it can track Active Minutes, when your heart rate is elevated. I made the Active Minutes my main tracking metric, and have really enjoyed looking at the heart rate and exercise graphs after I run or do a cardio workout. In the time I’ve been wearing the Fitbit, my resting heart rate has decreased some (although some of that could still be the tracker getting calibrated to my body). I’ve also been able to increase the amount of time in the “Peak” heart rate zone when I run. Being able to see those graphs gives me a tangible way to measure progress. I haven’t really been running farther or working out longer, but it seems like I’ve been working out better. (I do have to wear the tracker tighter for any workout more intense than walking; otherwise my arm gets sweaty and it will stop recognizing my heartbeat for a minute or two. But wearing it tighter during the workout has fixed this.) Within the heart rate feature, Fitbit also includes a Cardio Fitness score based on your gender, height, and weight, and I’ve already seen mine go up a bit. Hurray!

A screenshot of the exercise tab. A screenshot of a heart rate graph for a 29-minute run. A screenshot of the run's "impact on my day" graph.
I am an extremely casual, 25-30 minute runner. Don’t ask me to do more than that; I will die.

Exercise Log. I have a goal of 5 days of exercise each week, and that can be anything that gets my heart rate up for at least 15 minutes (although my active minute daily goal is 30 minutes). I like the Exercise calendar in the app; it helps keep me motivated, and I like that you can see the impact of each auto-recognized workout on your daily total. Each exercise you log also comes with its own heart rate graph so you can see that data separately from the day as a whole.

Charge Time. For me, the Fitbit has been lasting about 5 days with no charge, and it takes maybe a couple hours to charge fully if it’s really low. I have been just charging it whenever I shower and that seems to keep it topped up.

Overall Recommendation

I really enjoy this. I’m not sure how long the device itself will last; the Internet says probably around 2-3 years, which is pretty average for technology these days. This is fine with me, especially since it is pretty affordable at under $100. If you want to use your step count as your main exercise metric, I really don’t think I would go with this. There are too many discrepancies in the step count for it to be useful. However, I prefer tracking active minutes and the heart rate data anyway, as I feel like those are better measures of good quality exercise, and for that this is a great option. Thumbs up!

This is NOT a sponsored post; all opinions are my own and we purchased the Inspire ourselves.

4 comments

  1. Like Jeff, your previous commenter, I also do not run with technology (unless you count a $10 Timex). I have thought about using my fitbit to track my heart rate but just never got around to it. It seems like the fitbit has some serious issues!

  2. Seems like a shame. Someone probably *should* have given you the tracker for your in-depth review. I read your post with a weird incredulity brewing. I’m not your target audience. I don’t even wear a watch when I run. Pretty much, I just see how sweaty I get to rate my exercise. Still, I’m surprised by the difficulty with steps. I thought counting steps was fitbit’s *thing*.

    • I know! Weren’t they like the inaugural step moder step counter? It really does not make sense to me that it’s still so bad when they are several generations in on the Fitbit.

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