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Fitbit vs. BodyMedia

By Erin Zeggert ; Updated April 13, 2018

If you're in the market for a daily activity tracker, there are a lot of options to choose from. Generally, any one of them can help in your quest to get fit or lose weight. While most are pretty similar in function and price, there are some differences to be aware of when trying to decide which one to buy.

Two of those options are FitBit and BodyMedia. But it's important to note that BodyMedia was sold to Jawbone in 2013; in 2017, Jawbone went into liquidation. The BodyMedia activity tracker is no longer in production as a result, though you may still be able to find models for purchase at online sellers like Amazon.com.

Activity Tracking

Fitbit tracks activities such as steps taken, stairs climbed and distance traveled using a built-in accelerometer and altimeter. It also uses information you enter into your profile — such as your gender and weight — to calculate your caloric burn for the day.

BodyMedia also tracks the steps you take. Unlike the Fitbit, it uses sensors to monitor your movement, skin temperature, heat flux and galvanic skin response to calculate your activity level and caloric burn. This gives you insight into how hard you are working during your activity.

Activity is displayed in the online tracker as "Moderate" or "Vigorous." Moderate activity falls within the three to six METS range — such as walking, housework and gardening. Vigorous activity is anything more than six METS — such as running, fast cycling and aerobics.

Research Comparisons

A study conducted at the University of Wisconsin showed that both devices accurately count steps for most activities. The Fitbit was found to underestimate steps during treadmill running and neither was accurate for agility training.

As for caloric burn, the BodyMedia was found to underestimate caloric burn for treadmill running, elliptical training and agility training. Fitbit underestimated caloric burn during agility training, according to the study.

Sleep Monitoring

Both units monitor sleep, recognizing its importance in weight loss. Fitbit tracks the number of hours you sleep as well as how many times you wake during the night. The unit also has a silent vibrating alarm that will wake you while allowing your partner to continue sleeping.

BodyMedia tracks only the number of hours you sleep. It does continue to monitor all other measurements as you sleep, calculating calories burned even while your eyes are closed.

The accuracy of sleep monitoring in either device is unknown, as independent studies have not been done on this feature.

Progress Tracking

Fitbit has an online interface that allows you to view your activity and track progress; it also offers a smartphone app. Fitbit integrates with partner sites such as Runkeeper and MapMyRun, Tactio Health and Waterlogged. Fitbit's online tracker is free.

You can upgrade to a premium membership that adds in a digital trainer, benchmarking, additional reports and other features for an annual fee. Data is continuously synchronized wirelessly and available via your phone. There is also a social component that allows you to connect with friends and compare your progress to theirs.

As a result of BodyMedia no longer being produced, there are no longer any online features to utilize.

Wearing the Unit

Fitbit has a few options when it comes to buying a unit. Units are available that clip onto your clothing or that you can wear like a watch. Either option can be easily hidden and is unobtrusive. By contrast, you wear the BodyMedia unit on your arm with an armband. It's clearly visible when you wear short sleeves and carries some bulk, showing under long sleeves as well.

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