Fitbit complete guide: All you need to know about the fitness tracking platform

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If you’re the owner of a shiny new Fitbit – or you’re considering jumping into the world of tracking – you might be wondering exactly where to get started.

Even when considering Fitbit, the biggest household name in fitness tracking, there’s a huge array of wearable devices that all do different things.

There’s a shape and size to suit everyone, with features ranging from simple step tracking to insanely detailed biometrics.

It’s also a range that’s been given a serious revamp in recent times, headlined by the Fitbit Versa 2 smartwatch and the Fitbit Charge 3 fitness tracker. However, no matter which Fitbit you have, the new Fitbit app is at the heart of the experience.

In this guide, we detail everything there is to know about the entire Fitbit platform, from devices to data, and FAQs to how-to explainers.

What does a Fitbit do?

Fitbit complete guide: Become a Fitbit power user with our guide

Key Fitbit features differ from device to device, but they all offer the following:

  • Step tracking (measured by movement of your arm)
  • Sleep tracking (measured by your heart rate and movement of your arm)
  • Calorie burn estimation

Across various devices in the Fitbit line, there’s also the following features:

  • Automatic activity tracking
  • Heart rate tracking (resting heart rate, live heart rate)
  • GPS tracking of outdoor workouts
  • Connected GPS pairing to use a phone’s GPS for outdoor workouts
  • Notifications and alarms
  • Alexa support

Fitbit fitness trackers

Fitbit fitness trackers

Fitbit Charge 3

Buy now: Amazon | $139.99

This is Fitbit’s most advanced sports tracking fitness band, with its SpO2 heart rate sensor underneath tracking your bpm 24/7.

You can track a range of workouts, but there’s no GPS – although take your phone out for a run/cycle and you can use the GPS on that. The big screen shows off stats from your day and progress towards those step and sleep goals, plus some cherry picked notifications from your smartphone too.

Fitbit fitness trackers

Fitbit Inspire HR

Buy now: Amazon | $99.95

Essentially acting as replacements for the now-discontinued Alta and Alta HR (below), the Inspire HR and Inspire ($69.95) takes inspiration from the Charge line and slims things down.

There’s swim-proofing, step tracking, sleep tracking, notifications and automatic workout tracking and five-day battery life.

On the HR, you’re also getting some added features, including 24/7 heart rate tracking, Sleep Stages, Guided Breathing, Connected GPS and goal-based exercise modes.

Fitbit fitness trackers

Fitbit Alta HR

Buy now: Amazon | $129.95

Our fitness tracker of the year back in 2017, the Alta HR offers a really strong balance of features in a small, discreet design.

You still get heart rate tracking and advanced sleep stats, and all the normal step tracking features – although the screen is too small for notifications and there’s no connected GPS for workouts.

Though both the Alta HR and Alta are now discontinued and unavailable through Fitbit, the pair are still available on the likes of Amazon.

Fitbit fitness trackers

Fitbit Ace 2

Buy now: Amazon | $69.89

The Ace 2 is aimed at kids aged six and up, which is slightly younger than the original Ace’s eight and above age range. It also comes with fresh colors and a more rugged design that keeps the display a little saferas kids run around and play.

Adults can keep track of their kids steps, activity and sleep tracking just like before, and this time that can even include pool action, thanks to a swim-proof design.

Fitbit smartwatches

Fitbit smartwatches

Fitbit Versa 2

Buy now: Amazon | $199.95

Fitbit’s best smartwatch adds Amazon’s Alexa to its offering for the second generation, and brings small but telling improvements to the Versa’s design and software.

It has everything the original Versa had, to go with that change, and is a seriously impressive smartwatch and fitness tracking wearable.

Fitbit smartwatches

Fitbit Versa Lite Edition

Buy now: Amazon | $111.97

With the original Versa proving to be a success, it was no surprise to see Fitbit returning to the well and releasing a more affordable edition.

There’s no on-board storage for music, Fitbit Pay, swim lap tracking or altimeter, but everything else survives in the newer device – things like the swim-proof design, Fitbit OS, workout modes, heart rate sensor and SpO2 sensor.

Fitbit smartwatches

Fitbit Ionic

Buy now: Amazon | $232.79

Its aggressive sporty styling gives it away – the Fitbit Ionic is the only watch in the line-up to have GPS built in for outdoor run tracking without a phone.

The company’s advanced heart rate sensor is also on board for accurate tracking of calories and sleep, as well as during the tracked workouts.

How does Fitbit track heart rate

Heart rate tracking is a big part of modern fitness wearables, and most of Fitbit’s line-up now has a built-in heart rate monitor.

Firstly, these are the Fitbit wearables that include a heart rate monitor:

  • Fitbit Ionic
  • Fitbit Versa 2
  • Fitbit Versa
  • Fitbit Versa Lite Edition
  • Fitbit Charge 3
  • Fitbit Inspire HR
  • Fitbit Alta HR

How does Fitbit heart rate work?

Fitbit uses its own in-house PurePulse technology to detect the amount of blood flowing through the wrist.

These lights are then flashed hundreds of times per second in order to gain the most accurate BPM (beats per minute) data, by judging how much green light is being absorbed.

Naturally, while every company dabbling with this optical sensor technology is working from the same blueprint, how each company’s algorithms interpret the data affects how accurate the readings are.

Resting heart rate

A Fitbit with a heart rate sensors will keep tabs on resting heart rate – a key metric of your health. As you get fitter this should lower, and seeing spikes could be a sign that you’re run down, fatigued or getting ill. It’s a powerful metric and often under-used.

Active heart rate

Obviously you can check in on your heart rate at any time, and HR will be recorded during workouts too. If you track a session you can find a summary in your Fitbit app, and look at the performance of your heart throughout that session.

Why is that useful? You should see yourself get faster or stronger at the same heart rate as you get fitter, and you can also check you were pushing yourself hard enough in intense sessions (or not over-reaching).

VO2 Max

VO2 Max is also tracked within the app from outdoor workouts with a heart rate-toting Fitbit. VO2 Max is an estimate of the amount of oxygen your body can process – the more that is, the fitter you are. If you’re working out regularly (and we mean proper, intense workouts) you should see this number improve quickly.

Heart rate zones

Your Fitbit can also assess how long you’re spending in each HR zone, which can help you ensure your sessions are meeting your goals. Intense sessions should be spent in a high zone, while long, slow runs, for example, shouldn’t break above zone 2 or 3. Using heart rate zones can help you prevent over training and get better value for your workouts.

Fitbit guide: Find your fitness data

Chances are, you’ve bought a Fitbit mainly to track your fitness, and the good news is that all Fitbit devices do a pretty solid job of it.

But once you’ve tracked a treadmill run or a swimming session with your Charge or Ionic, you probably want to know where all of that data lives and what it all means.

Well, we can help with that. We’ve broken down the key areas we think you’ll be most concerned about. Got questions about any of the other data? Hit us up in the comments section below.


Fitbit complete guide: Become a Fitbit power user with our guide

Let’s start with the most basic one. Fitbit devices, just like pedometers, can count your steps and is front and centre in the ‘Today’ section.

Once you’ve seen a snapshot of your day, tap the big circle with the foot in it to dig deeper.

Here, you’ll a graph displaying step counts from across the week and below that you can scroll from all previous days and weeks that you’ve been counting steps.

If you spot a green star next to one of those days, that means you smashed your goal.

If you feel you need to adjust that goal and make or what that step goal is measured by, look for the little cog icon up in the right hand corner of the screen and from there you can adjust steps, distance, calories, active minutes, floors climbed and even hourly activity goals that can be influenced by steps.

Track exercise

Fitbit complete guide: Become a Fitbit power user with our guide

If you’re about more than steps, and you like going to the gym or getting on your bike, this is your key domain.

It’s here you can see any activities you’ve logged with your tracker or any activities that Fitbit’s SmartTrack technology has automatically picked up.

As a reminder, most Fitbit’s support SmartTrack, but not all, so do check that it’s a feature supported before assuming your Fitbit is getting on with the tracking.

Above the feed of workout history you can see your workouts plotted in a range of different ways, swiping between them as you like.

If you want to set some specific exercise goals, like walking for 15+ minutes of getting a 30 minute swim in, look for that settings cog icon to set that up.

Alongside the cog lives the icon that unlocks the ability to track exercises like a run, walk or hike from the Fitbit app. It uses your phone’s GPS and will keep a record of the mapped route too.

So if your Fitbit doesn’t have GPS, this is an alternative way to log your outdoor activities.


Fitbit complete guide: Become a Fitbit power user with our guide

Fitbit has been making big improvements to the way its devices track sleep and the data it provides.

Most Fitbits automatically track sleep, so you all need to do is wear it to bed and it’ll get on with recording the data. When it’s time to review that data, you’ll need to hit the sleep tile on Today.

Read this: Spending some quality time with Fitbit’s new sleep features

Like reviewing step counts, sleep data is organised similarly. You’ve got your feed of sleep tracking history and, above that, graphs to display hours of sleep versus your target sleep schedule (the time you should go to sleep), and hours in sleep stages.

Those sleep stages are REM, Light and Deep, while you’ll also get a look at the time you spent awake. If you want to know more about what those mean, definitely go give our sleep metrics explained feature a read.

Tapping the little cog icon in the top right hand corner launches your Sleep Goals settings. It’s here where you can tell the Fitbit app what time you want to sleep, set up bedtime and wake up times and even get a reminder nudging you to get ready for bed.

It’s also here where you can turn on Fitbit’s Sleep Insights, which appear above your sleep history feed offering you personalised information about the sleep patterns and how it can impact on other aspects of your health and tracking.

Heart rate

Fitbit complete guide: Become a Fitbit power user with our guide

Fitbit wearables like the Charge 3, Ionic, Versa 2 and the Alta HR include heart rate monitors that enables these devices to do a variety of things related to the heart.

They can be used to measure how hard you are working when you’re exercising, but it can also provide insightful resting heart rate readings, which can provide an indication of your current health and fitness levels.

Tapping the heart rate tile on the Dashboard opens up the data screen where you can view resting heart rate data from the last 30 days along with time spent in heart rate zones and you cardio fitness level.

This cardio fitness level is generated based on your user profile and resting heart rate.

Keep moving every hour

Most Fitbit devices now offer inactivity reminders where you’ll get a nudge every hour to make certain number of steps to keep active on small scale as minimum.

You can find out how well you did by searching for the tile with the red person standing up, where you can see how many hours you managed to meet that goal.

You can change when those hours start and end and pick the days you want it to run, just in case you fancy having a nap or two at the weekend.


Fitbit complete guide: Become a Fitbit power user with our guide

Fitbit’s wearables will not automatically log your weight everyday, but it does support the ability to do it manually or to pair it to the Aria smart scales to make that happen.

Once you do that, look for the dashboard tile that includes the scale to view weight-related data.

As long as you’ve manually logged your weight or connected it to a smart scale, you’ll be able to view a host of data weight trends, lean versus fat comparisons, BMI and body fat percentage.

Some of that data is reliant on the scale that can provide those insights. It’s this page where you can log data and set goals to lose, maintain and even gain weight. As you record the data, it’ll keep track of your progress.

Food and water tracking

Fitbit complete guide: Become a Fitbit power user with our guide

Racking up great daily step counts or exercise is just one part of staying healthy. You need to put good stuff in your body, too, and Fitbit does enable you to track what you eat and drink water.

For the latter it’s a simple case of selecting the water logging tile on the Fitbit dashboard and either entering the amount you’ve drunk or using the quick add feature.

For food tracking, things get a bit more comprehensive. From here, you can see graphs displaying calories in versus out and a breakdown of your macronutrients.

When you need to log meals or food items, you have a number of options here. You can scan barcodes from meals you’ve eaten, and you’ll need to allow Fitbit to access your smartphone camera to do this.

It will then attempt to match it to Fitbit’s own database to correctly record the nutritional data. Another option is to hit the + icon to search from Fitbit’s database to log items.

You can add custom items if they’re not included in the food library and can add quick calorie counts for different meals of the day. So if you know you had 500 calories for lunch, you can add that in without breaking it down by individual items.

Female health tracking

Fitbit complete guide: Become a Fitbit power user with our guide

This is one of the latest additions to Fitbit’s companion app, and sees the company venture into the world of women’s health tracking for the very first time. It will record information, including menstrual tracking, and you’ll now be able to log your cycle and record symptoms such as headaches and cramps.

Fitbit analyses this data to predict where you are in your menstrual cycle and when your next period will come. There is also user guidance for ovulation, fertility and tips to debunk common misconceptions.

If you’re struggling to find out how to access these features, you might need to add it to your dashboard. To do that, scroll down to the bottom of the dashboard and select Discover.

Tap ‘Health & Fitness Stats’ and you should see the female health tracking tile appear, which you can simply add to the page. You’ll then have to answer a few questions to ensure the features are set up correctly.

Editing the Fitbit app home screen

If there are some tiles you don’t want to see you’ll find the edit button at the top right, which will allow you do move tiles to different places by dragging them with your finger. Or, you can add or remove tiles too.

Check your tracking history

If you want to see how you performed the previous day, look for the two arrows either side of the daily step count (that’s the big circle at the top) to skip back and forth through days.

There’s no calendar mode view right now, but hopefully this is something that Fitbit will consider adding in the future.

Sync and share your data

Sticking around the top of ‘Today’, if you pull down from the top of the screen you’ll prompt the app to re-sync with the device you’ve paired.

Meanwhile, to the right of your daily step total you’ll see a little share box. This icon is the one that will let you share your data for gloating to purposes.

It will let you share the snapshot of your day letting you change the color of the display. From here you can post to other friends who use a Fitbit (more on this later) or you have the option to share to contacts or third party apps, social networks and messaging services like Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp.

Account settings

Fitbit complete guide: Become a Fitbit power user with our guide

Before we move away from ‘Today’, we should to talk about account settings, just to make sure you get your Fitbit properly set up. Access it by tapping the icon at the screen’s top left corner.

Along with hosting personal details like height, weight and gender, it’s also where you can do things like set up family accounts (if you buy a Fitbit Ace 2, the company’s kids fitness tracker), but also where you can set your goals.

So, if you have a specific how many steps you want to manage a day or hours you’d like to sleep, this can help Fitbit personalize the tracking experience to ensure you stick to your goals.

This is also a place where you can find compatible apps that work with the platform, which currently includes Amazon Alexa, MyFitnessPal, Runkeeper, Strava and more.

When we say ‘work with Fitbit’, we mean that if you use those apps already, you can pull data in across into the Fitbit app to contribute to your overall daily scores.

So, you continue logging food in MyFitnessPal and instead of using the features that Fitbit offers for food tracking, it will automatically go towards you calorie count.

If you care about privacy and security, this is where you’ll need to visit to check what information you are sharing and who you are sharing it with. If you have a Fitbit smartwatch, you can also take control of the notifications that Fitbit sends to your watch.

If your Fitbit has a heart rate monitor, it’s also here where you can set up heart rate zones, to ensure you are making the most of your workouts. Fitbit does a pretty good job explaining just what a heart rate zone is, but if you don’t know what your zones are, you can read our guide to show you how to correctly set up heart rate zones.

Fitbit Premium

A big shakeup for Fitbit’s ecosystem came with the launch of Fitbit Premium, its subscription service for advanced features.

The service rolled out alongside an update for Fitbit’s app, and features prominently in the ‘Discover’ tab.

It offers personalised exercise programs and coaching to help you achieve your goals, as well as unlocking the ability for the Fitbit app to feed you insights about your performances and what you could be doing better.

The service costs $9.99 a month or $79.99 a year, and has been a bit divisive in the community, to say the least.

Some functions, like in-depth sleep tracking insights, are now locked into Fitbit Premium, so it’s worth thinking about subscribing, depending on your priorities.

Fitbit Challenges

Fitbit complete guide: Become a Fitbit power user with our guide

Challenges is a relatively new addition to the Fitbit app setup, that you can find in the ‘Discover’ tab at the bottom of the screen. It feeds off that idea that sometimes you need a little push or motivation to keep you up and moving.

One of Fitbit’s ways of doing that is you can take on virtual challenges on your own or with others, unlocking facts about famous landmarks, new Fitbit badges and 180-degree views of destinations. Most of these virtual challenges are based on US landmarks, but anyone can take advantage of them.

Fitbit complete guide: Become a Fitbit power user with our guide

Once you’ve seen an adventure or challenge that takes your fancy, tap to select and it’ll break down the number of people who can participate and steps the challenge will amass. You’ll also be able to invite Fitbit-owning friends as well.

Most challenges will start the following day and you can view a map of your virtual trail to see where you are going to be heading. From that map screen, you can view gameplay and rules and choose whether to receive notifications while the challenge is active.

Fitbit Community

Fitbit Community

Fitbit’s community is without doubt one of its biggest strengths as a platform, and has its own tab at the bottom of the app.

It’s the place where you can join a host of groups from runners to people who are all about talking heart health. The ‘Community’ tab inside of the Fitbit app is also the place where you can add friends and see a feed of activity to see what everyone else is getting up to.

If you want to add a friend to Fitbit, the easiest way to do this is to go to the Friends section in the Community page and look for the + friend button at the top right.

From there, the app can search your contacts to see who owns a Fitbit, or you can connect to Facebook to try and find friends that also own or use Fitbit, and even email someone directly to ask if they want to be added.

Joining a Group is really easy to do, simply hit ‘join’ on the group you want to be part of and then you’ll be able to visit those groups so see what other users have to say.

The Feed will also pull any of the latest posts from those groups you’ve joined and from friends to give you an update on what’s been posted most recently.

Fitbit: How to guides

Fitbit how to guides

How to calibrate your Fitbit

If you don’t feel your Fitbit is accurately reporting your steps, you can calibrate it to your stride length, which should get things a little closer to reality.

How to sync Fitbit

To see your data in the app, you’ll need to sync it. Check out our guide to syncing your Fitbit – and what to do if it won’t work.

How to text on Fitbit

If your Fitbit smartwatch is paired with an Android phone, you should see the option to reply when a notification appears on your watch.

How to change Fitbit band

Most Fitbit wearables can be customised for a more personal look. Check out our guide to swapping bands and changing things up.

How to reset your Fitbit

If you’re letting someone else use your Fitbit, or you want to wipe your data and start again, then check out our guide on how to reset your Fitbit.

How to turn off your Fitbit

Sometimes you may just want to take a break from the tracking. Learn how to turn your Fitbit device off, or the next best option if it can’t.

Frequently asked questions

How are Fitbit calories calculated?

Firstly, the device will take into account your basal metabolic rate, which is you burning calories just to maintain necessary body functions like breathing, heartbeat, and brain activity.

This BMR accounts for around half of your daily calories, with this estimated from the gender, age, weight and height you enter when setting up your device. The rest of the picture is made up from your activity within a given day.

How does Fitbit measure steps and distance?

Fitbit measures your distance by multiplying your steps by your walking stride length, and by multiplying your running steps by your running stride length.

These lengths are both calculated automatically by using your height and gender, though can be altered within the Advanced Settings section of the Fitbit app.

Which Fitbit size is right for me?

Fitbit’s ranges come in both small and large sizes (with some also offering extra large), and are measured using the circumference of your wrist. Bands are generally adjustable and must be worn with the underside always touching the skin, in order to pick up accurate heart rate data. You can also switch out the straps on most Fitbit devices if the standard options aren’t to your taste.

Fitbit Versa 2 FAQ

Fitbit complete guide: Become a Fitbit power user with our guide

The Versa 2 is Fitbit’s swift followup to its original Versa, as it continues its forays into the smartwatch market following the Ionic and Versa Lite.

Does the Fitbit Versa 2 stream music?

The Versa 2 comes with Spotify pre-installed, and it works nicely in tandem with your phone, letting you stream music.

However, you can’t store offline music via Spotify – you’ll need to resort to old-school drag and drop for that. It’s also got all the same smarts as the Versa, below.

Does the Fitbit Versa 2 have GPS?

Like the first Versa, there’s unfortunately no independent GPS on the Versa 2, though you can pair it with your phone to get tethered coverage.

Can I change bands on the Fitbit Versa 2?

The Versa 2, Versa and Versa Lite all have bands that are compatible with each other, letting you swap between them at will.

That said, it’s hardly the easiest process, with switching sometimes being a fiddly and annoying trial. Still, you’ve got a wide range of visual options to pick from as far as bands are concerned.

Can the Fitbit Versa 2 send text messages?

As with Fitbit’s other devices, if you’re on an Android phone you can fire off quick replies. If you’re using iOS, though, there’s no luck.

Is the Fitbit Versa 2 waterproof?

The Versa 2 is waterproof to 50m and is suitable for swimming.

Fitbit Ionic FAQ

Fitbit FAQ: All the answers to your Fitbit queries in one place

Its first official smartwatch, the Fitbit Ionic is the company’s first model to truly take on Apple, Samsung and Android Wear by offering the likes of music streaming, GPS, Fitbit Pay and its very own app store.

Will the Fitbit Ionic take phone calls?

Yes and no. While the device can be used to reject and accept calls, you’re only able to hold the conversation through the phone.

However, if you’re listening to music through on the Ionic through Pandora, for example, it will be paused in order to allow you to answer the call and take it through the Fitbit Flyer headphones.

Can Fitbit Ionic reply to text messages?

The Ionic will allow you to receive the notifications your phone does, which includes texts and those coming from WhatsApp and other third parties, but unfortunately only Android users can currently make use of the Quick Replies feature.

Is Fitbit Ionic waterproof?

Yes. With a 5ATM water resistance rating, you’re able to take the Ionic into the swimming pool and the shower plus keep it on during heavy exercise without fear of destruction.

Does Fitbit Ionic work with iPhone?

Yes. The Ionic doesn’t just work with iOS devices, though, with Android users also afforded compatibility. All you need to do to get set up is sync the watch through the Fitbit smartphone app.

Fitbit Charge 3 FAQ

Fitbit complete guide: Everything you need to know about the fitness tracking giant

While it may have been superseded at the top of the tree by the Versa 2, the Fitbit Charge 2 is still the company’s premier fitness tracker. It doesn’t offer the complete package, but it certainly ticks most of the boxes people want from their device.

Can the Fitbit Charge 3 receive text messages?

The Fitbit Charge 2 will receive notifications which mirror your smartphone, but you will be unable to reply to text messages or third-party messenger services.

Can the Fitbit Charge 3 track weight lifting?

The Fitbit Charge 2 has a dedicated mode for weight lifting, though this does not feature the likes of automatic rep counting or exercise detection. It will simply track your heart rate, time and calories.

Can you change the Fitbit Charge 3 band?

Yes. This is fairly simple to do, too, with the main body easily popping away from the two sections of the band. If you need any inspiration deciding which strap to consider as a replacement, we’ve rounded up the best Fitbit accessories.

Is the Fitbit Charge 3 waterproof and track swimming?

Yes – the Charge 3 is the first of Fitbit’s advanced sports band to get waterproofing. This means you get swim tracking on the watch, and it’s obviously good for the shower too. However, unlike the Versa you don’t get live stats about your swim on the watch, so you won’t be able to see how many lengths you’ve done until you get out of the pool and sync up your tracker.

Fitbit Alta HR

Fitbit FAQ: All the answers to your Fitbit queries in one place

Not to be confused with its older sibling, the Fitbit Alta, the Alta HR brings largely the same package with a slightly different band design and the all-important heart rate tracking. With this offering a slimmer design than the Charge 2, some may find it a more attractive option on the wrist.

Can the Fitbit Alta HR get wet?

As with the Charge 2, the Fitbit Alta and its Alta HR equivalent are not able to resist water. While both can handle rain, splashes and sweat, they’re not able to track activity in the swimming pool.

Does Fitbit Alta HR do heart rate?

As we’ve noted just above, the standard Alta won’t give you any heart rate monitoring. However, with the newer Alta HR, the company has provided a device that’s able to track your ticker continuously – great for exercise, but also good for sleep insights.

Will Fitbit Alta HR track cycling?

Since the Alta and Alta HR come with SmartTrack, your cycling activity is registered within the Fitbit app. However, be aware that the device is best used for tracking walking and running activity.

Can the Fitbit Alta HR be used as a watch?

Yes. As with most fitness trackers with a screen, the Fitbit Alta and Fitbit Alta HR can both be used to tell the time. And if you’re really looking to nail the watch look, Public School also collaborated with the company and created an accessory which places the tracker inside a metal watch strap.

Are Fitbit Alta HR bands interchangeable?

Yes. As with the Charge 2 and Ionic, you’re able to pick and choose which bands you pair with your tracker. If you’re feeling sporty, you can pick a silicon rubber option, while there are plenty of leather and metal options if you want to keep things smart. We’ve rounded up the best Fitbit Alta and Alta HR bands, in case you need any help.


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