The Fitbit Charge HR

I have been using a Fitbit to track my exercise for the past 18 months. Starting with a Flex (which I wrote about here) I was able to track my steps and monitor how much I moved throughout the day. As I started to exercise more, I began to look at heart rate monitors. At one point I mentioned to my husband that I wished Fitbit had a device with wireless heart rate monitoring built in. A few weeks after I made that comment, Fitbit announced that they were releasing a new range of monitors and I decided to wait to buy one.

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to be sent a new Fitbit Charge HR to try. The Charge HR is one of three new Fitbit devices – the Charge and the Surge have also been released recently. The Charge still monitors steps and sleeping patterns just like the Flex, but can also record how many flights of stairs you have climbed and features caller ID. In addition to these features, the Charge HR has a built in heart rate monitor. Worn a finger-width above the wrist bone, it takes a constant measure of your heart rate so you can view your calorie burn across the day. The Surge also has a GPS function, and comes in a larger size, looking more like a watch.

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The Charge HR uses the same app and interface as the Flex, and as a result has been an easy transition. There is a small black button on the side of the unit that allows you to toggle through the screen options, of which you can set the order and importance during set up. My unit displays the date and time, my steps taken, current heart rate, calories burnt, distance covered and flights of stairs climbed. There is a small button on the side of the band that you can press to access this data. If you are going to start a workout, hold this button down to start recording information logged during your exercise. When you’re finished, simply press it again. During the workout you can monitor your progress at any time, and once you have finished you can access the full data through the app. You will be able to see your average heart rate, when you were exercising in different heart rate zones, and how many calories you burnt during your workout. The strap comes in two sizes – small and large. I tried on both but ended up choosing a large size as left me with more options when it came to tightening and loosening the device. The charger is a lot less temperamental than that of the Flex, which I found I had to fiddle with a few times before it started to charge. The charger plugs straight into the back of the Charge HR, and is fully charged within a couple of hours. The device is comfortable to wear and hasn’t caused any skin irritation on me.

Lots of questions have been asked on the Fitbit community forums about how the wireless heart rate monitor stacks up against it’s tethered counterparts. This was the part I was most curious and excited to try. The Charge HR monitors your heart rate using light technology, with two green lights flashing and measuring the blood flow beneath the skin. I mainly do High Impact Interval Training (HIIT) workouts, which result in a high heart rate and sweat. After using a heart rate monitor with a chest strap for the better part of a year, I had an idea about where my heart rate would sit during different workouts. The first few times I used the Fitbit Charge HR I wasn’t sure of its accuracy. I am still finding the best place to have it on my wrist, as Fitbit say that it should be pushed up a little higher than normal placement during exercise to pick up the heart rate. I fiddled with the monitor during exercises, which then lead to it losing contact, which would in turn have lead to inaccuracy. While it may not have been 100% accurate (and I am sure some of this is due to user error), the fact that I had exercised did increase the extended calorie burn during the rest of the day. It worked very well during a stationary cycling workout and also during a walk. I am looking forward to trying some more workouts in the coming weeks to put it to a further test. Some users on the forum suggest wearing the device on the inside of the rest while exercising, so this is something I think I will try. Obviously it may not read as well when the skin is damp, so this is something I will need to be mindful of.

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I decided to conduct a little experiment this week, doing two different exercises over the same distance. We kayaked along a river, and then I power walked the same route to see how the Fitbit Charge HR results stacked up. I walked with the Lorna Jane app switched on to accurately track the distance through GPS. The distance covered was 1.83 kilometres, which I kayaked in 23 minutes, and burnt 50 calories. While my heart rate was higher than when I walked it was probably more consistent. I wasn’t puffing during this time, but definitely felt it in my arms! The walk took 15 minutes and I burnt 107 calories. The Lorna Jane app estimated my calorie burn (based on my height, weight and age) to be 127 calories, so it’s not too far out.

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The Fitbit Charge HR app in action

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The Lorna Jane app summary of my walking workout

While I haven’t been using the Fitbit Charge HR for too long, I have been really happy with it. I am still trialling it with different exercises, and have yet to put it through a strenuous weights workout in the gym. So far, it seems to be most accurate during exercises when my arms are not moving too much (for example walking and cycling), but I will be trying to find a way to make it more accurate during HIIT workouts. I love being able to get more comprehensive information about my exercise sessions, and my movements throughout the day. Once I have finished holidays and back in my regular routine I will be interested to track my daily movements. I am definitely glad I was given the opportunity to upgrade my Fitbit, and have found it better than the Flex already. If you are looking at buying a Fitbit or another device with an in-built heart rate monitor I would urge you to look at the Fitbit Charge HR.

Do you use a heart rate monitor or other wearable technology? If you’re a Fitbit user, which device do you have and what do you love about it?

* I was given a Fitbit Charge HR by Fitbit Australia. I am involved in an exciting upcoming project with them, and I can’t wait to share it with you.  

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