Guys – I’m excited! I mentioned on Monday that I pulled out my old Garmin Forerunner 310XT that I hadn’t used since 2013. Honestly, I didn’t use it for very long. I’d used a Polar heart rate monitor to track calories for my workouts since early 2011, and then later got the Garmin when I started doing a lot more run-training, since it had a GPS. But there was something about the Garmin that I’d forgotten since I last used it. Chest-strap heart monitors suck, and the one for my Garmin was built in a way that caused it to chafe against my ribs to the point of blisters. The latter would be manageable if I wrapped the connector in cloth, but really, I hate wetting chest-straps and trying to get them all set up before I go out exercising.
I started looking into something new. My Fitbit is okay – though I highly preferred the One before it went bad – but it doesn’t do any of the GPS or pace tracking for my walks. That’s Garmin’s specialty, so I looked into what they had available. I came across the Vivosport, which seemed to be exactly what I needed. Unfortunately, it cost $170 and I just couldn’t afford that! Only then I found a refurbished model for $80, guaranteed to work, and decided that was worth it (especially because then Jason could have my fitbit, which he really wanted).
The Vivosport showed up on Saturday. I was immediately impressed by the fit, which is about a thousand times better than my Fitbit, and didn’t irritate my skin. Then I did a cross-comparison of the Fitbit vs Garmin in terms of steps, elevation, calorie estimation, etc.
Steps and Elevation
The Garmin seems to be fairly identical to the Fitbit in terms of steps. It’s a bit less sensitive on the wrist, so it doesn’t measure steps when I’m just turning my wrist or waving my hand, but it also doesn’t pick up every step I take. The two seem to balance out to roughly the same amount. Elevation works differently, though. The Garmin doesn’t convert hill elevation to floors climbed. It only counts flights of stairs, and it doesn’t seem to be as accurate in this regard (I get one flight for about every two I do). This is a less important measure to me, though. I have yet to test the Garmin while, say, pushing a grocery cart (when steps don’t register on a Fitbit), but I imagine as any wrist-pedometer, they won’t count.
This is a mixed bag. Fitbit seems to be better at measuring when I’m actually asleep, and it certainly gives more data. The Garmin doesn’t record a resting heart rate for sleep only, but instead works on a rolling resting heart rate including those times that you’re sitting during the day. (Therefore it changes throughout the day and makes it hard to get an accurate idea.) On the plus side, I can put the Garmin in Do Not Disturb mode, so it doesn’t flash light in my eyes coming on every time I move my arm in the night, and this is a HUGE advantage.
Fitbit doesn’t have a GPS function, so it estimates the distance I’ve walked based on the number of steps I’ve taken. The Garmin of course does better than this. As long as I turn on the GPS function before my walks, I get fairly accurate distance and pace information. The GPS isn’t quite as good as the phone GPS – it seems to measure just slightly more or slightly less distance than I actually walked (by a small amount, about .05 miles per mile). [Example photo is of four laps around an outer lane of the track, but the GPS recorded it as inner lane and even further in sometimes.] The GPS is very close, though, and I can see my changes in pace over distance (and over hills), and the data I can overlay (elevation, heart rate, pace) helps me to get a fuller picture of my workouts. In non-GPS workouts, the Garmin seems to be the same as the Fitbit in recognizing when I’m exercising or just being generally active. It also calculates distance during indoor walks without the GPS, based on your GPS cadence/stride estimate.
Like the Fitbit (when worn on the wrist), the Garmin calculates your daily calorie expenditure based on heart rate and activity. Also like the Fitbit, the calculations seem extremely high! I have a hard time believing that I burn an average of 2900 calories every day. If I did, my daily calorie deficit would be a LOT larger than I think, and you’d think I’d actually lose weight! In general, I think the Garmin overestimates the same as the Fitbit, so I won’t take its estimates very seriously. I’ve actually decided to try something a bit different in terms of calorie-tracking, but that’s a subject for a different post.
Altogether, I’m really happy with the Vivosport. There are a couple things the Fitbit does that are better, but I don’t mind the tradeoff, and I think I’ll get far more from the Garmin in the long run.