Fitbit Versa & Apple Watch 4

I am a busy clinician. While being an orthopedic physician assistant, most of my energy during the week is focused on my career. Weekends are typically my free time to socialize, entertain, clean and shop. Prior to working in orthopedics, I was a primary care / internal medicine physician assistant. I understand the importance of regular exercise to promote optimal health and prevent disease. When I switched to orthopedics, I had to learn more to meet the demands of the specialty. In the last two years, I neglected my exercise during the week and as a result, my fitness level decreased. During those two years, I played tennis on the weekends, but it was not enough. So I decided to invest in an activity tracker to help motivate me to become more active again.

I had done my research in the past. I nearly purchased one a year ago. In retrospect, I should have invested in one at the time. However, I convinced myself that I did not need to purchase a tracker to trace my steps or motivate me to be more active. Ultimately, I thought, if I want to make exercise a priority – I just have to do it.

The tracker I almost purchased a year ago was a Fitbit. I was considering the Fitbit Alta HR as it had a heart rate tracker that I believed was more advanced than the other trackers available at the time. When I tried it on, I did not like the way it fit. However, I do not wear watches or jewelry on my wrists, so the idea of wearing an activity tracker and having to adjust to constriction of the device was enough for me to pass on the purchase. Fast forward to now and I reached the point where I decided I need the motivation. Newer models were now available and once again I was at a point where I had to decide which tracker I wanted to invest in. I read about the various options and ended up purchasing two. I couldn’t decide which one I wanted more and also felt that detailed descriptions of my experiences may prove to be insightful for other consumers. So now I have one on each wrist! I intend to wear them for a month and compare the two including the apps that come with the trackers.

I decided to buy the Fitbit Versa. It has the heart rate monitor/cardio fitness level feature and many other features. For an extra $100, I could have bought the Fitbit Ionic with built-in GPS and exclusive onscreen workouts with the Adidas edition. I ordered it online and had it shipped to my home via regular service. The company I ordered through had it on sale, so I saved an additional $25. It arrived on Nov 1st, I fully charged it overnight and started wearing it Nov 2nd after work. I like the colorful display. The set up was easy. In order to use some of the features associated with the tracker, you need to download the Fitbit app. The app took around 20 to 25 minutes to set up. It asks you to create an account, agree to the terms and enter some personal information. I changed to one of the other 4 or 5 clock displays for my personal preference. Other displays are available to purchase if desired. I did not set up all the features yet and will discuss them in future posts.

When the new Apple 4 came out with an advanced heart monitor, I was intrigued by the capability of the watch to determine irregular heart rhythms and a one lead ECG tracing. Then I read the watch can detect hard falls and if you do not respond to the watch within 60 seconds it would call 9-1-1 for you and send your GPS location to the emergency officials. Granted, I doubt I would need that service, but then again, life happens and even young and relatively healthy people can have surprises.

After work on Nov 1st, I went to a local electronics store and was surprised that they did not have any of the new Apple 4 watches. So I went to the Apple store on Nov 3rd and purchased one with the cellular option and chose the Nike + sport one. On the back of the box, it reads the Apple Watch is not a medical device and is not intended for use as personal protective equipment. When I was at the store, the salesperson gave me plenty of time to allow me to pick which band I wanted, helped to pair it with my phone and discussed several of the features available on the watch. When connected to the wifi in the store, it took over 20 minutes as well to pair with my iPhone.

I was inquiring about the ECG feature on the watch as I read online by other consumers that the feature was not fully available yet. The salesperson pointed out that the watch was cleared by FDA but not an approved FDA medical device as there was not anything like it on the market to compare it to. So I did a bit of online research at the FDA and found a press release on the digital health products. As the technology is new, it makes sense that Apple chose to place on the back of the box that it is not a medical device. I think this might help protect Apple from lawsuits. I have a particular interest in how this technology will improve the detection of arrhythmias and how better-informed consumers may be more apt to consult treatment for potentially life-threatening conditions such as atrial fibrillation.

An ECG on your watch? That is amazing.

electrocardiogram heart

Over the next 4 weeks, I intend to update my experiences with the fitness trackers including the features for exercise, sleep, music, and. heart monitoring features. I played tennis yesterday and afterward, checked my pulse manually. Both the Fitbit Versa and Apple 4 Watch were accurate in the detection of the cardiac rate. When I awoke this am, I went to check my sleep. The Fitbit had an analysis and to my surprise, the Apple Watch did not. I will need to download a sleep app that will use the data collected to display the data. The Fitbit also has the ability to enter or scan a barcode of food consumed. It estimates the calories consumed based upon the number of servings entered and will compare the calories burned graphed on the app. The Fitbit has a place to enter water consumption as well to monitor hydration. The Apple Watch App monitors exercise, stand per hour and moving/ calories burned. So far, the Apple Watch is notifying me more often than the Fitbit with reminders. The Apple Watch has more features than the Fitbit. However, I realize that comparing the two is like comparing an apple to an orange. (Pun intended!) I am pleased with both products on my initial observation. The one exception is the bands and the feel on my wrists which admittedly I am not used to. At times I had to adjust both bands after exercise and didn’t like wearing them to bed. Future observations to come and I look forward to sharing my experiences. Stay tuned…

Health Care Professional

About Paul Connor

Nationally Certified Physician Assistant.
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