Every step measured. Fitbit Versa and Apple Watch 4.

ECG, Apple Watch 4

When I purchased the Fitbit Versa and the Apple Watch 4 my excitement for new electronic gadgets lasted for two weeks. I liked experimenting with the fitness trackers to see what they could do. As the newness wore off, I found myself interacting with them less often. I even became resentful at times of the reminders to be active. However, despite my resistance to exercise, I continue to be more active during the week than I was before I started wearing the trackers. In addition, I am more conscious of the calories and portions of the food I am consuming.

The biggest surprise was over Thanksgiving weekend. The total amount of calories I consumed was more than I should have for the day.  Everyone knows that as Americans we tend to eat way too much food during and after Thanksgiving. In the US, we have an abundance of food.  A celebration with family and friends can easily turn into an overindulgence. How quickly the calories added up on Thanksgiving was difficult to accept when it plotted out in graph form and shown to me on my Fitbit tracker. To my benefit, I was able to play nearly 2 hours of tennis to counter the extra calories consumed. I give the Fitbit tracker credit for making me aware of calorie input. If you are going to make efforts to be healthier, the types and amount of food consumed is an important aspect of that equation. I think that is why more athletic trainers and coaches prefer the Fitbit. I’ve come to the conclusion that the Fitbit is the more effective, economic and practical choice for fitness when comparing it to the Apple Watch 4.

Pumpkin Pie

My cons for the Fitbit include trouble setting up Pandora with the Versa. It was more complicated than it should be. When I finally did figure out how to get Pandora working on the Versa – my wireless AirPods were not discoverable by the Versa. Instead, it found the wireless sound bar under the television. The quality of sound was great, but will not help when I want to listen to music while running. I had to go to Apple support and learn how to pair the AirPods with a non-Apple device. Once connected, the quality of the sound was great. Other reviewers online have stated that their music didn’t play as clear and so far, I have not found that to be true. Another negative for the Fitbit Versa this week was a miss for the heart monitor. I was comparing the heart rate feature on the Fitbit Versa to the Apple Watch 4 after playing tennis. My rate was in the mid 120s. The Apple Watch was correct while the Fitbit Versa was showing a rate of 80 to 90 beats per minute. The Versa watch was not loose on my wrist so I could not explain why the Fitbit was off with the rate.

Last week the Apple Watch 4 released the ECG feature. It took over 60 minutes to download the updates. The first update was on the Watch itself and took about 40 minutes. I then had to update my iPhone which took another 30 minutes. I eagerly opened up the Watch to use the ECG feature. It gave me an introduction into basic heart rhythms comparing a normal sinus rhythm to an atrial fibrillation and gave many examples of how the ECG tracing does not detect heart attacks, other irregular rhythms and is not accurate when the rhythm is greater than 120 beats per minute. Although not intended to be an FDA approved measurement for your heart rhythm, at the end of recording your ECG, it allows you to keep a PDF and send it to your doctor. I am curious how many people with an AFIB diagnosis will be using the new feature on the Apple Watch to monitor their heart rhythm and how it will influence them to make decisions about how to treat. Will this new technology lead to more emergency room visits for abnormal rhythms? Will it lead to improved communication between patients and their doctors? I suspect in a year or so, we will know. Apparently, this new feature is available in the United States and is not an option for consumers in other countries.

I decided that I do not want to swim with my trackers on. While the benefits of swimming are well known for both aerobic benefits and muscle tone while being easy on the joints, it just is not my choice for exercise. Thus, I will not be comparing the two trackers with this feature.
I did set up the cellular feature with the Apple Watch 4. It is a great feature if you want to leave your phone at home. You can still be called via the Watch. I’ve used the watch as a phone only three times so far, but I do like the ability to do so. I can go for a run without having to worry about bringing the phone along, allowing for more freedom.  If you want this feature for a fitness tracker, then the Apple Watch is a great choice.

Left Wrist / Right Wrist


People have noticed that I am wearing a watch/fitness tracker on both wrists.  I quickly advise I have been comparing the two.  Week 2 is complete and I lost another 2 pounds. Weight loss is not really my goal, being more fit is. I am on the upper end of normal weight for height. I’ve heard that you should not lose more than 3 pounds per week. If that is true, I am on track. According to this article on the CDC website, 1 or 2 pounds a week is good, especially if you can maintain a healthier weight over time. The trackers are indeed motivating me to be more active.


This week, I changed the clock faces on both the Fitbit Versa and the Apple Watch. I like how you can easily change the appearance of the trackers. With all the various faces, you can be assured that you will not get bored with the look. Both trackers have several options and one does not seem better than the other with this feature.

When it comes to interacting with the trackers themselves, I tend to reach for the Apple Watch more often. It tends to vibrate more than the Fitbit, especially when I get a text message on the phone. Apple Watch reminds me every hour to stand while the Fitbit sometimes reminds me to move 10 minutes before the hour is up. Many of the notifications are controllable, so this feature does not make one better than the other in my opinion. Some of the faces for the Apple Watch can include information including the local weather, UV index, stock markets, heart rate, etc. The Fitbit tells me steps, heart rate, miles walked, flights climbed, exercise minutes, local weather and calories burned.

When I reach for my phone – I open up the Fitbit app a lot. I rarely open the Apple rings app. The Fitbit app has the ability to document food, calories and water intake. I like to see how I am doing with my sleep and I log my weight on the Fitbit app. It will graph the facts, including showing me the percentage of carbohydrates, protein, and fat I’ve consumed for the day. The information is valuable and helps me to achieve my daily goals. I know there are other apps available which can do the same things as the Fitbit. Apple Watch relies on the consumer to decide which apps for sleep and calorie counting to use.

I have been using I-Tunes and the Apple watch exclusively to play music. The ease in which I can use the watch to pause, replay or fast forward the songs is a great feature. I will make an effort to use Pandora with the Fitbit and see how I like music with the Fitbit. With Thanksgiving on Thursday, the temptations on the table next week could set me back….

Motivating me to be active: Week one with the Apple Series 4 Watch and Fitbit Versa.

With week one completed, I am satisfied with the performance of both fitness trackers. Both products send reminders to be active throughout the day.  Apple Watch 4 encourages you to “stand” for more than 1 minute at hourly intervals throughout the day. In addition to standing, it will monitor movement and exercise. Should you complete one, two or all three of the categories, the watch will congratulate you and “close” a ring. Rings are displayed on the watch in a calendar format to visually see your performance. On one occasion the watch didn’t recognize when I went from sitting to standing. It also encouraged me to move one morning when I was still in bed. I found it odd that I had just woke up and the reminder was starting so early. The notifications can all be turned off or specific notifications can be turned off.

Apple Watch 4 Rings
The Fitbit Versa encourages 250 or more steps every hour from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. If you have not achieved 250 steps by 10 minutes prior to the top of the hour, it will remind you to “look alive” or “move” allowing you the opportunity to get those steps in before the hour changes. The app on the phone will graph your hourly activity and also show you your longest stationary periods. The tracker will congratulate you when you a celebratory notification when you achieve a goal. The reminders can be turned on or off and you can change the start and stop times as well which days of the week you want reminders to be active.

Fitbit Versa Daily Steps

Neither tracker is accurate with logging flights of steps climbed.  So far, this seems to be one of the biggest misses for the trackers. Yesterday, I climbed 10 flights of stairs as I wanted to complete that goal. Fitbit Versa logged 7 flights and the Apple Watch 4 logged 6 flights. The Fitbit Versa logged 12,166 steps, 5.46 miles, and 3,196 calories while the Apple Watch 4 logged 12,077 steps, 6.37 miles, and 3,171 calories. On Tuesday, the Fitbit Versa logged 9,889 steps, 4.34 miles, 3,763 calories and 1 flight climbed and the Apple Watch 4 logged 10,083 steps, 5.00 miles, 2,930 calories and 2 flights climbed.

Both trackers easily allow you to share your progress via text or posting to social media, compete with friends, get coached or join community groups. The apps will give you awards when you achieve goals. The amount of information that the trackers log, graph and analyze will keep any user who loves statistics more than satisfied. I have yet to swim with trackers and am curious as to how that will track that activity.

My summary for the week, 2.5 pounds of weight loss and more active than I would have been otherwise.  I went for a morning run one day, played tennis during the week, lifted weights one day and went for a walk one evening to accomplish goals.  Both trackers motivate me.  As the weeks go by and my attention to the trackers fades, will it help to achieve my ultimate goal of remaining physically active during the week?  I hope so, my health is too important and I want to maintain an ideal weight and overall fitness.

Fitbit Versa and an Apple 4 Watch


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.

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…