A happy new year is one thing but this is the week when we start thinking a fitter new year would be even better still. This is the week that I have a little more time to plan a new regime and promise myself that I’ll slump in the sofa less, move more and try to shed those couple of pounds that have crept up on me. I’m not alone it seems, and in the run-up to Christmas I noticed fitness trackers everywhere. From online retailers to my local pharmacy, technology was waiting to lead me in to a more active new year.
Unpacking the Fitbit Blaze reveals something more substantial and more attractive than the standard, functional fitness trackers I’m familiar with. The Blaze looks like a watch and comes assembled with an attractive strap. As well as the watch, in the box there is also a clamp-style USB charging cable that I found easier to use than fiddly micro-USB cables.
Powering up the watch reveals it’s very attractive full-colour screen. The detachable touch-screen at 1.2 inches, is bright and clear enough to check discreetly during the day. Setting up Fitbit trackers has always been straightforward and though the Blaze can be set-up and synced with your Mac or PC, ideally you should use a Bluetooth enabled Android or iOS phone to get the most out of the features.
The Blaze does plenty more than just step tracking. It has a built in altimeter and pulse monitor and although it doesn’t have a built in GPS, it will use the location data from your phone for more accurate activity tracking. The pulse-monitoring technology is one of this gadget’s best features. It continually monitors your pulse and this means you get the calorie burn credit for aerobic activity which doesn’t involve much movement, for instance weights or push-ups. There’s also a mini fitness coach built in to the watch, FitStar which provides three short programs for warm-up, workout and abs exercises.
Many fitness trackers offer sleep-tracking as a feature and the Blaze does it well. It automatically detects sleep, records restlessness during the night and provides, via the app a nice overview of how you’ve slept over a period of time. There are also silent alarms, which help wake you up thanks to a gentle, silent vibration on your wrist in the morning.
The most obvious missing feature of this tracker is the lack of water-proofing. It is resistant to perspiration and can survive running in the rain, but shouldn’t be worn in the shower or swimming pool. The Blaze also promises exercise recognition
Fitbit’s app is one of the best available and provides access to goals, exercise history and stats like calories burned and pulse monitoring data. As useful as the watch screen is, and the data is easily accessible on the watch, referencing the app quickly becomes an integral part of your daily fitness routine. As well as Fitbit’s app, there is a growing list of apps that are compatible with the Blaze, like Weight Watchers, Strava and MapMyRun.
As well as the fitness features the Blaze will control your music and can be enabled to show you notifications from your phone. Although it looks like a smart-watch, this device is still firmly focused on fitness and it does that job in a stylish way, with a remarkable five day battery life. It may not be for swimmers or serious runners but for most of us looking to up our activity, lose some weight and move more in 2017, the Blaze is on track.
An edited version of this review appeared in the Irish Mail on Sunday, 1-January-2017.