Most of us are familiar with Fitbit’s range of fitness trackers.  With Fitbit, I started with a very simple but sleek version that did what I thought I needed. That was just keeping track of my daily steps and monitoring heart rates. A few years later and I graduated to the Versa and quickly learned many of the features that complimented my lifestyle. With that discovery I soon realized Fitbits were made not just for fitness gurus but made for anyone at any level of activity. But this year’s release of a new Fitbit caught my attention. This year the company introduced Fitbit Sense that offers another level of very useful technology. It’s not just a way to keep track of exercise and be inspired to get on your feet and go, but it’s the most Advanced Health Smartwatch that has even more benefits not just for physical health but also mental wellness.

With stress levels soaring and a strong interest in mental health and wellness, this new device is a welcomed addition, especially in today’s environment. This next-level Fitbit and it’s innovative technology and sensors has been helping me understand how my body responds to stress by capturing data in real-time. And with that information, I can better understand how to manage and reset to be calmer and more focused. It’s has helped me adjust my daily activity no matter how hard and fast or slow and steady I go.

When we talk about stress we often think about how we are affected mentally (anxiety, panic, that feeling of just shutting down) but there’s also physical stress (increased heart rate, sweating).  There is also good stress that keeps us motivated.  Listening to our own bodies and the understanding that we’re constantly evolving, adjusting and changing is a step forward. How to manage ourselves is important because let’s face it, stress will never go away completely and this year has been throwing us challenges not stop.

I’ve been testing out the Fitbit SENSE paired with the accompanying Fitbit app on my iPhone for over a month now to get an understanding of how it works and how it fits into my lifestyle. My “workout” lately has been walking the dog and additional brisk walks with hubby. Add in a few yoga moments, a hula hoop or just let loose free-style dancing to shake off the day. No gyms right now (although Libby has inspired me to find a jug of maple syrup to use as a makeshift kettle ball). I did also notice a variety of workout options on the Fitbit app that have been calling out my name.

There are hundreds of workouts and programs to explore not only from Fitbit (app/premium) but also from popular fitness houses like POPSUGAR and Daily Burn. Whether you want to strengthen, tone, let off steam, run like hell, burn calories, or meditate there are many options. There are also programs to help with better eating habits, sleep, and meditation to bring calm into your day or night. Some programs are free but I admit that the Premium subscription has helped to keep things exciting and fresh — ideal since I love variety. LOTS of variety.  One of the newest is Physique57 that offers a unique program that combines the barre method with low-impact strength training and cardio. The workout sessions range from 10 to 60 minutes. Down Dog is another great one that offers a variety of yoga sessions – including a 10 Minute Rise and Shine session to wake your body up.

Worth noting as well is  several clock face options that are available. Beyond style, there is an Oxygen Saturation (Sp02) face that is important and worthy to load on – our oxygen levels generally hovers around 95 to 100 normal range — not gonna lie, with COVID 19, I’ve been keeping an eye on this just in case it dips and have it as my clock face. More about SpO2 tracking here. However, you don’t need install the actual specific clock face to track Sp02. Both Fitbit Sense and Versa 3 with track regardless. So, how do you interpret the information? The app offers some helpful tips and insights.

Quick swipe on the face allows you to access key info throughout the day like tracking specific exercise (bike, Bootcamp, spinning, running, swimming, weights, walks, and more) – you can even set goals, receive heart zone notifications and count laps. You can also swipe to check what’s on your agenda, use Fitbit Pay (if you’ve set that up on the app), the weather, set timers and alarms, access Spotify and even find your phone. You can also just pause and go through a 2 minute guided breathing session.

Here are some more features on the Fitbit Sense that I’ve found useful so far…

On-wrist EDA Scan: feeling stressed? This feature is activated to detect your electrodermal activity (EDA) or how your body is responding to stress in real-time. The scan is activated while secured on your wrist and then covering the face of the SENSE with the palm of your other hand for two minutes. The scan gives you an overview of how your body responds to stress so you can better track and manage. The app keeps an ongoing record of your scans over time.

On-wrist Skin Temperature Sensor: I was keen on this feature when I first heard about it. Once the Fitbit Sense establishes a baseline (your body’s natural temperature) it will be able to detect and track any significant changes at night. Fitbit had mentioned that with this information you also be able to detect the possible onset of a flu, as one example. However, it’s not going to tell you if you’re sick or having hot flashes but it will offer the information so you can decide if it’s something that you want to pay closer attention to. Now that I’m starting to see early signs of menopause I was curious how this would play out – waiting for a hot flash to flare up but so far I haven’t experienced one.

Sleep Score: I was never that person who wanted to wear any device to bed but for the sake of reviewing I was willing to test it out. What I discovered was that wearing this particular model was comfortable and barely noticeable. The sleep data captured is fascinating. Once the information is transferred to the app, I can get an overview of my sleep patterns and how long I’ve been sleeping – also if there were any disruptions in my sleep. Since wearing the Sense, I’ve learned keeping track isn’t only about the quantity of sleep, it also helps you understand the quality of sleep you’re having. REM stage of sleep occurs late a night and that’s when we’re having more vivid dreams, we breathe a little faster and our heart rate is elevated. But my “a-ha moment” was discovering how important Light Sleep is.  It actually makes up most of the night and helps promote mental and physical restoration. Within the app, I’ve also been able to compare with “benchmark” insights for women in my age range.

Electrocardiogram (ECG) App: coming soon to Canada. You’ll be able to monitor and record your heart rhythm using this app along with the Fitbit Sense. Sensors in the frame captures the heart’s activity simply by placing your fingers on the corners. Worried about atrial fibrillation? Heart skipping beats and feels like it’s beating out of control? I definitely have had that in the past. But of course, when it happens it’s hard to capture as you would need to get into to see a doctor and then wear a monitor for a couple of days.  This app will give you the opportunity to capture any concerning heart activity right when it happens. Another benefit is that you will be able to save this data and share it with your healthcare professional quickly and efficiently and have that conversation to help determine if further investigation is needed.

Built-in GPS: When I’m out for my walks, I don’t always bring my phone along but I am curious to see how far I’ve gone in real-time. On my wrist, I can see not only how many steps but also the distance travelled. Handy for those who ride bikes and run, of course. Even swim! The device will also sync automatically within the app when it’s in range.

Active Tracking/Active Zone Minutes: Aside from counting steps, the Sense also tells you when you’re in “Active Zone”. It tells you when your body is doing work like fat burning. This has been one of the most motivating features. I was surprised to learn how quickly I would get into that zone and that’s the right encouragement to keep going just a little farther and a little longer. Health and fitness stats are offered in both the free app and premium subscription.

Voice Assist: the Sense can be helpful by helping to control smart-home connected devices just by speaking to it. For example, I can turn down the volume on my Echo Show (Amazon – Alexa) or ask it to turn off a Ring light right from my wrist when paired. I can also ask for weather, play my spotify favourite playlists, check the daily top news, and more.

Battery life: one of my concerns with any smart watch is the battery charge. On the Sense I was relieved to discover that it holds for much longer than expected. In settings, I’ve programmed the Sense to not have the display on all the time. Instead, I’ve set it to only activate when I lift my wrist. This model has lasted 6 to 7 days from a full battery charge. And even when it needs to be recharged it seems to happen very fast so it’s way more convenient to continue on with my day.

Fitbit Premium Subscription: For a while on previous models, I avoided subscribing to the premium mode on the app. I just didn’t think it was necessary but  Fitbit Sense comes with a trial subscription so, why not? What I discovered, and really loved, was access to a rich library of content including guided mindfulness and meditation sessions to help with focusing, relaxing, prepping for sleep, productivity and more. The sessions vary in length so if you feel like you just need to take five minutes or longer there are options.  I’ve also been enjoying some of the relaxing music and sounds for when I seriously need to keep me calm and focused – not so easy when everyone has been home for months now working and studying. Now I find the soothing sounds have helped. With Premium you also get the most out of sleep and stress scores in daily and weekly summary reports.

And like my previous Fitbit models, one of my favourite social interaction is participating in challenges (hello, Weekly Hustle) with my friends and family. A friendly competition that really keeps me motivated.

The key is to give this device time and to give yourself time to learn how your body responds to stressors – good or bad. Then assess what you want to do about it. The tools are there. Even after over a month I’m still discovering new useful and interesting features with this device.

There are so many amazing features built into the Fitbit Sense and it’s definitely one worth keeping an eye on during this holiday season (pssst…watch for promos happening now). It’s something that can help us get through the rest of 2020 and move us positively forward into a brand new year. You can learn more here.

Here’s an overview…