Walking

Product Review: The FitBit Charge 2

(Disclaimer:  I have Amazon affiliate ads for FitBit products on this site.  If you purchase a FitBit after clicking on one of those ads, I will receive a small referral fee at no cost to you.  These ads help to support my site).

I've been wearing my FitBit Charge 2 for a little over a year now, so I've had a good opportunity to become acquainted with the features, benefits and drawbacks.

Chances are, you either currently wear a fitness tracker, or you know someone who does.  If you are still trying to determine if you want to purchase a fitness tracker, or if you are planning to replace or upgrade, then you may find this review helpful.

 

My husband decided to buy a FitBit for me when I first started walking purposefully last summer.  We went to Kohls to take a look at what they had, and I tried on the various versions.  I compared the features of each.  I liked the size and feel of the Alta, but it didn't offer all the features of the Charge 2.  The FitBit Blaze had lots of cool features but was big and heavy - a bit too manly for me and more than I wanted to spend.  The Charge 2 was, as Goldilocks says, "Just Right."  A nice fit and size, a choice of band colors (although not as many as I would like), the features were what I was looking for - steps, exercise, sleep, clock, reminders, alarm, heartrate - and the price was reasonable.  I went home with the Charge 2 and set it up.

From the minute I put it on, I have liked it.  It's not too big or heavy.  I like that it tracks my steps and keeps up with my heart rate.  I've appreciated the insights into my sleep (it reminds me when I should go to bed).  The tracker can be set to buzz on your wrist as an alarm.  The buzz seems to have lost some power since I first purchased the tracker, but it is sufficient.

The tracker syncs wirelessly with your smart phone or when you charge it.  It comes with a dongle that fits into a USB slot on your computer for charging and syncing. 

Once you have set up your tracker, you can choose other items to track on your dashboard such as food and water tracking, weight, sleep, and FitBit has recently added female health tracking and trends.  You can also participate in FitBit challenges.

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Speaking of challenges, many sites now offer syncing with your FitBit data if you so choose.  Sites like MyFitnessPal and Yes.Fit allow you to set up an interface so that they can import the data tracked by your FitBit.  Some employer wellness programs can also sync your FitBit data.  This is a nicely convenient option if you enjoy participating in challenges or programs that track your steps or your caloric intake.  (Note that you always have the option to choose whether or not you want to share your FitBit data) with these apps.  

The accessory band (sold separately, six colors available) is removable and replaceable.  I found that I had to replace my band within the first month, as the material in the original band was irritating to my skin.  I found a metallic magnetic band at WalMart for less than $20, but many options are available. 

The battery life for my FitBit is quite long - usually 5-7 days in between charges, and this number has remained steady over the past year.

Overall, I have been quite happy with my Charge 2.  The tracker has definitely helped to motivate me and to keep me aware of how much I have walked, my level of effort, and my sleep patterns.  I've enjoyed syncing it with apps like Yes.Fit for even more motivation.  It is lightweight, easy to wear, and water resistant, with a long battery life.  FitBit now has eight fitness trackers available, including a clip-type tracker for people who can't wear a wrist tracker.  Even if the Charge 2 isn't what you are looking for, one of the other styles may be.

Do you use a fitness tracker?  Has a tracker helped you to improve your fitness?  Let me know in the comments what you use, and maybe I will be able to review your tracker in the future.

 

 

Get Started On Your Spring Walking Routine

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The cold winds of winter have passed and spring is in the air.  Flowers are blooming, gentle breezes touch your skin, and the sun is warming up the earth.  You feel the urge to get out, get moving, and enjoy the beautiful weather.  You've been wanting to start exercising, and you've heard that walking is a great way to start (it is!)  

Here are five steps to help you get started with a daily walking routine this spring:

1.  Check with your doctor.  If it has been a long time since you have walked, or if you have a chronic health condition, check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.  The chances are that she will be thrilled that you are planning to exercise, and will be able to offer advice on how much you should try to do starting out, as well as any precautions you should take. 

2.  Get the right shoes.  Many athletic shoe companies now make shoes specifically designed for walking.  You will need shoes with a flexible sole and a low, supportive heel, because your heel will strike the ground first and then role to the ball of the foot as you walk.  Your shoes should be lightweight, breathable, and fit properly.  And if you tend to roll your foot to one side or the other as you walk, you may need special shoes or orthotic inserts.  Stores that sell running shoes often have sales people who are trained to evaluate your gait and help you choose just the right shoe.  If you haven't purchased walking shoes in a while, this can be a great resource to make sure you get shoes that will help you be comfortable and safe while walking.

3.  Learn to walk properly.  What do you mean?  I've been walking since I was a baby!  But as we age, and our joints get stiffer, we tend to lose some of the mobility we had when we were younger.  If you walk using bad posture or incorrect technique, you will end up with aches and pains you don't want (and that could derail your exercise plans - been there, done that!)  Stand tall, tuck your bottom under your hips as you walk, and maintain a loose, comfortable stride.  Look forward, not down, and relax your shoulders and arms.  

4.  Stretch.  Before and after your walk, take a few minutes to gently stretch your muscles in your legs, back, arms, and shoulders.

5.  Start slowly.  Walk for short distances to begin with and focus on enjoying yourself and taking in the surroundings.  Gradually increase the distance and time you spend walking each day, as well as your speed, as you build your endurance.  And change up your route to maintain your interest and motivation.  

Do you need support to build your walking routine?  Join us in our Facebook group!

5 Ways to Get More Out of Your Walk

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Walking is a fantastic way to start your fitness journey, especially if it has been a while since you exercised.  When you first start walking, you may just be happy to get up and out and around the block.  

But as you press forward and become stronger and more fit, you may find that you need more intensity in your walk, but you aren't ready or don't want to run.

In that case, here are some tips to up the level of intensity of your walks which will boost cardiovascular benefits and strengthen your muscles.

1.  Stairs and Hills

Take advantage of naturally occurring features in your environment such as hills and inclines.  Inclines will increase your exertion level and build muscles in your buttocks and legs.  If, like me, you live in the flat lands, you can take advantage of stairs or steps.  You may look odd stepping up and down off curbs, but your butt will thank you.

If you are indoors, you can set treadmills at an incline, or use a stair stepper.

2.  Use Your Arms

Rather than letting your arms swing naturally at your sides, bring them up and incorporate upper body moves such as punches, pull downs, and bicep curls as you walk.  You'll get the benefit of an upper body workout, while increasing the intensity of your walk.

3.  Walk Faster

A brisk walk will bring up your heart rate and build deeper lung capacity.  Set a goal to incrementally increase the speed of your walk each time you go out.  You may want to use interval walking (alternating fast and slow walking) to build up your endurance.

 

4.  Correct Posture

Using good posture while you walk will allow you to walk farther and faster with increased breathing capacity and fewer aches and pains.  Stand up straight with your eyes looking straight ahead and your chin parallel to the ground.  Avoid arching your back by tucking in your tummy and your bottom.  Relax your shoulders.  As you walk, be mindful of your posture, and make corrections as needed.

5.  Change Up Your Routine

Walking the same route every day leads to boredom and use of the same muscles day after day.  Changing your route, moving indoors or outdoors, adding in intervals or strengthening moves such as marches or lunges, or adding small ankle or wrist weights as you walk will create a more enjoyable experience and bring different muscles into play.

What tips do you have for getting more out of  your walk?  Share in the comments below!

Improve Symptoms of Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) With Exercise

September is PAD (Peripheral Arterial Disease) Awareness Month. In PAD, a build up of plaque in the arteries (clogged arteries) decreases blood flow and oxygenation to the muscles. A symptom of PAD is chronic leg pain. This pain may start as cramping during walking or climbing stairs, and progress to pain and cramping at rest. Severe PAD can eventually lead to infection and amputation.

One of the best things you can do to improve the symptoms of PAD is to exercise, especially walking! The study below showed that people with PAD who started a walking program significantly increased the amount of time they could walk without pain.

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Exercise for PAD: Trying It At Home

Research suggests that regular cardio exercise such as walking improves circulation in the legs. A regular walking program stimulates the development of new blood vessels in the legs, builds calf muscle, and leads to your muscles using oxygen more efficiently. 

Regular exercise, combined with a healthy diet, stopping smoking, and taking medications if prescribed by your physician, can prevent PAD from getting worse and improve your fitness and function for years to come.

Can Walking Briskly 10 Minutes a Day Really Make a Difference?

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Just a few weeks ago, researchers with Public Health England urged the populace of the UK to walk briskly for ten minutes everyday. The researchers found that an intense daily ten-minute walk could reduce the risk of death, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, dementia, and some cancers.

The benefits of a daily walk are well-known, but until now, most agencies have recommended walking 30 minutes a day, five days a week, for a total of 150 minutes a week. Previously, researchers have found that the 30 minutes could be broken up into several shorter walks a day. 

But in a world that seems to become more and more "time-crunched," many are sure to welcome the idea that they can cram their daily exercise into just 10 minutes. What's more, people who thought a 30-minute walk might be too challenging may be more motivated by only having to walk 10 minutes a day.

The researchers recommend "brisk walking," or walking faster than your normally would, at a pace that "gets your heart pumping." And they have even created an app (One You Active Tracker) to help you out (available for free on iTunes and Google Play). The app monitors your time spent walking and tells you how many minutes were "brisk." It helps you with goal setting and daily motivation.  Or you could just use your FitBit.

So, what do you think? Is ten minutes a day enough? Or are you a firm believer in thirty minutes or longer? Would just having to walk 10 minutes a day motivate you? Let me know in the comments!

"Walking 10 Minutes a Day 'adds YEARS to your life'"