I bought my first fitness tracker a few years ago. You can read my review for part 1 and part 2. In November 2016 last year, I bought the Fitbit Charge 2
I find it a useful tool in my menopausal years not only as a means to help me be healthier. Maintaining activity levels such as step count and reducing time when I am sedentary. It also helps to flag up when I am tired and need to rest a little more. We are all very good at keeping going, not so great at knowing when to put our feet up.

You may become more sensitive to stress in your menopausal years. Using the Fitbit to help you monitor that makes it a useful tool to help you manage your energy levels.

Step counter
Daily Activity has always been my focus and reason for having a fitness tracker. Mainly because your daily step count is very difficult to manually calculate. Note: I do not take it as being 100% accurate. It is great for giving me a nudge to take the long way home, as well as a noticing that if it feels like I have walked 10k steps when in fact, I have just walked 7k, my energy levels are low. I aim for 70k steps in a week to help with the ebb and flow of menopausal energy levels and work activities.
‘I’m buzzing’ has a different meaning with a Fitbit, as it vibrates to let you know you have reached your daily step count goal.
You can set your own daily step count in the Activity Goals setting in your Account tab.

Hourly activity reminder
Hourly Activity
This is a new feature. It allows an ‘Hourly Activity Goal’ to be set of 250 steps with a timeframe. Mine is set from 9am to 5pm. 250 steps may not sound like a lot, but it you are pottering about at home or sitting, writing blogs like this one, it is scarily easy to be under 250 steps in an hour. At 50 minutes to the hour, it vibrates if you have not reached 250 steps. Again, this is just a wee nudge to get up and moving. It then buzzes to let you know you have reached your 250 steps.

You can set your own ‘Hourly Activity Goal’ in the Activity Goals setting in your Account tab. Under ‘Reminders to move’
Research is showing that moving for just 2 minutes every hour has health benefits compared to sitting for hours. Sometime we need to create an excuse to get up and walk about. If you are in an office, where does 2 minutes take you, to the coffee machine, or perhaps to the printers?

Heart Rate
Your resting heart rate is an interesting measurement. It can indicate fitness levels as well and interesting to note if it changes throughout your menstrual cycle. It is useful to know your baseline, if you are starting an exercise programme.

You can find a calculator called Karvonen Heart Rate Formula on my website to help you calculate heart rate ranges for when you are exercising.

I personally have not found the Fitbit Charge 2 accurate for recording my heart rate when exercising. I have had both my Fitbit and heart rate monitor (hrm) on while exercising and they have different results. The Fitbit seems to struggle to read my heart rate when it is higher and doesn’t record it, so I would not use it as a replacement to my hrm and just keep it for daily use.

You can see your heart rate over a monthly period, which makes it easy to see any fluctuations and spot patterns if it is a particular time of the month.

Calories burned
This is an interesting one as the Fitbit highlights the difference that takes place over a week based on my activity levels. The calories burned can vary by 400 calories, which is a significant amount. A mindset can be, well I have been to the gym ‘I deserve’ to have a treat. However, that needs to work both ways, and acknowledging that it has been a low energy day so need to monitor treats a bit more.
You can easily fall into consuming more calories than you need just by being tired. If you are tired, you are probably eating differently as well as not moving so much so it is something to be aware of and proactively act on. It is easy to eat more than your body needs to consume because you are eating for energy.

You can read more here about how Fitbit calculates your calorie burn here.

I use the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) calculator on my website to help me compare my Fitbit calories burned figures to BMR as a comparison.

Sleep
Annual Sleep Pattern
My sleep patterns have changed over the last 6 months and I am more restless at certain times of the month. The Fitbit obviously cannot tell when I am sleeping, it records when I move. What is interesting is, I am waking up and turning over and clearing going back to sleep according to my Fitbit, but I am only aware of being awake, and feeling like I am awake for a long time. Therefore, it was a useful insight as I often felt I had been awake for long periods during the night!

You can see from the annual sleep patterns that I sleep slightly less during the summer months. In Scotland, it can be light up until 10pm. It is always weird going to bed in daylight, but I try not to change what time I go to bed at. I naturally wake up earlier and before my alarm which always feels good.

Stopwatch
I use this when I am teaching Pilates and I am timing clients for 60 seconds of exercise such as The Hundred.

Interval Workout

I use this in my Hatha Yoga home practice to help me with timings of yoga poses. Most standing poses are for 2 minutes, and it can be a very long 2 minutes when it’s one I find a challenge,hello triangle pose! I find it useful to set both the rest and work intervals to be 1 minute long each as a measure of how long to be in a pose for.

Relax
The Fitbit Charge 2 has a 2-minute ‘relax’ feature, which prompts you through deep breathing for 2 minutes. It is quite useful when you are having a busy day and need to take a minute or two for yourself. This is a helpful tool for managing stress levels.
I also use it before I get my blood pressure checked as I can visually see my heart rate lower after doing this.

Stuff I do not use
The Fitbit has a stack of things, which I do not use such as: water, food and exercise tracking. It can also send you your text messages if Bluetooth is on.

Practicalities

  • My Fitbit last for around 5 days before recharging. The charging unit is sturdier than the previous version.
  • It easily connects to my iPad via Bluetooth and a network connection to download the data to the app.
  • You can log onto their website and download the data into excel spreadsheet.
  • The strap lasted about a year. They are easy and fairly cheap to replace with lot’s of different colours if you want to colour coordinate!

I do think the Fitbit is a useful tool; I do not take their figures as gospel but more of a nudge. I use it as a guide and a heads up of information that I might not have picked up myself about my energy levels. It helps to increase daily activity levels which important for our health.

You obviously do not specifically need to buy a Fitbit Charge 2. I did some research on what I felt I needed to be tracking as well as my budget all factored into my choice of fitness trackers. There are plenty to choose from!


Samantha Valand is the founder of Wise Women Wellbeing Academy.

A comprehensive hub of resources on healthy eating and exercising in your menopausal years and beyond.