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Garmin Vivofit: A New Fitness Coach at Your Wrist

Garmin Vivofit Fitness Tracker

Photo: Garmin.com

When that “I think I can” voice begins to fade, who steps in to save the day? Maybe it’s a trainer or a running buddy — or, that brand new gadget on your wrist.

Vívofit, Garmin’s first foray into the quantified self arena, covers basic metrics like steps taken and metabolic activity (i.e. calories burned), but it also acts as a personal coach, prodding you to get up and move more throughout the day. But the most notable edge over the competition is its one-year battery life and the option to connect a heart rate monitor for a 360-degree view of your activity throughout the day.

The Garmin Vivofit: All the Data Without the Charge

In addition to steps and calories, users can expect Vívofit to track common metrics including sleep quality and total distance covered each day (calculated using an accelerometer, estimated stride length, and physical attributes such as height). Users can view this data from the display on the device at their wrist by toggling through one of seven preset data screens. Vívofit also syncs with Garmin Connect, Garmin’s flagship software that aggregates data from their fitness tracker as well as other Garmin devices all onto one screen. Users can sync data from their mobile device (using Bluetooth technology) or through their computer.

And while none of this may sound too different from other fitness trackers out there, Vívofit does have some key distinguishing features. Whereas most trackers require charging every five to seven days (typically through USB), the replacable Vívofit batteries  — in the form of two coin-shaped cells — can last up to one year or more. 

Vívofit also boasts the ability to connect a heart rate monitor — something few trackers on the market currently offer. (Atlas features heart rate capabilities but leaders like the Jawbone UP and Fitbit Flex haven’t added it yet). Users can opt to purchase a heart rate monitor as a package alongside the device or connect another heart rate monitor that they may already own (Vívofit can connect with any ANT+ heart rate strap). This can especially come in handy during workouts to gauge intensity levels and more accurately track recovery times.

Garmin Vivofit App

Photo: Garmin.com

Personal Motivator at Your Wrist 

Tech features aside, the Vívofit also brings an element of coaching to the game by encouraging users to get up and get moving. Whereas most trackers prompt users to set generic goals (like 10,000 steps per day) right out of the gate, Vívofit gets up close and personal with your data to keep you progressing forward. Once the Vívofit learns your normal activity level, it sets bigger goals to encourage you to move more. So, if you barely hit 5,000 steps on your first day with the device, it might set a goal of 5,200 for the next day. But, if you knock 5,000 steps out of the park, your goal for the next day may get bumped up to 5,500 or higher. 

Vívofit also includes a “move bar” — similar to the Nike+ FuelBand’s new “hours won” feature — designed to keep you from getting too cozy in that desk chair all day. After one hour of inactivity, a red bar appears across the top of the screen indicating it’s time to get moving. A few minutes of activity effectively clears the red indicator, but the amount of movement required depends on the amount of time spent sitting still. So, the longer you sit, the more you’ll have to move! 

For all its benefits, the $129 band ($169 with the optional heart rate strap) does have a few limitations. Unlike many Garmin devices that are equipped with GPS capabilities allowing for more accurate distance tracking, Vívofit leaves distance calculations up to estimations. The device also doesn’t come with a backlight, making it difficult to see the screen at night or in dark rooms. Both of these factors likely play into the battery life, sacrificing features to deliver a year or more of use before running low.

Charging Forward With Fitness

With Vívofit, Garmin has pushed the envelope on battery life expectations and added an optional heart rate monitor to give users access to more data. Unfortunately, just having the data doesn’t guarantee you’re going to get any fitter. But that’s where goal setting comes into play. The personalized coaching pushes users to incrementally improve their health and fitness — no matter their starting point. While it lacks GPS capability, the one-year battery life makes Vívofit a reasonable competitor to the ever-growing market of fitness trackers.

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