Fitbit Charge 2: Essential tips and tricks

How to get the most out of your new Fitbit Charge 2
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The Fitbit Charge 2 isn't as smartwatch-esque as the Fitbit Blaze, but it's got the leg up as a fitness tracker thanks to advanced features, such as VO2 Max.

And despite its sleeker form factor, it's no slouch when it comes to fitness data, either, with the same dedicated modes, SmartTrack automatic exercise detection and ability to leverage GPS from a connected smartphone.

But there's also a lot more to figure out compared to the Fitbit Alta HR.

Essential reading: Which Fitbit should you buy?

If you'd like a helping hand learning the ins and outs of your new Fitbit Charge 2, here's a handy guide with plenty of tips and tricks along the way.

How to navigate the Charge 2 interface

Fitbit Charge 2: Essential tips and tricks

The Fitbit Charge 2 main menu shows your steps taken, floors climbed, distance traveled, calories burned, heart rate and real-time exercise stats on your wrist. Tapping around the tracker's screen on the actual band or the body of the tracker - because it's not a touchscreen - will bring up the different stats.

Pressing the button takes you into specific menus where tapping will show you more options for each. If you're still not sure what all the tapping does, here's a cheat sheet:

Heart rate - Shows your current heart rate. Tap to switch to your resting heart rate.

Exercise - Tap to move through your exercise choices, then press and hold the button to start the specific exercises. Press and hold the button again to end the exercise. Options include run, weights, treadmill, workout, elliptical, bike and interval workout.

Alarms - Tap to scroll through any alarms you've set. Press and hold the button to disable or enable any alarms.

Stopwatch - Press and hold the button to start the stopwatch. Press the button to stop and resume the stopwatch. Press and hold the button again to reset the stopwatch.

Relax - Tap to choose a guided breathing session. Press and hold the button to start the session.

Notifications - Tap to turn your notifications on or off. Simple.

Amazon PA: Fitbit Charge 2

Customise and add sports

Fitbit Charge 2: Essential tips and tricks

Out of the box, the Charge 2 has dedicated modes for running, weights, treadmill, bike, elliptical and interval sessions – but you can add a host of new activities through the web dashboard. Modes to track spinning, hiking, yoga and circuit training – among many more – are all not selected by default.

Coming soon: The Fitbit smartwatch

Head to the web dashboard and login. Click on the cog icon and choose the Charge from the list. In the next screen, scroll down to Exercise Shortcuts and choose Edit. You can then select new workout types from the list.

On the subject of intervals, you can fine tune the length of sessions and rest breaks from the same menu.

Silent alarm

One feature of the Charge 2 is the ability to gently wake you with a vibrating alarm, rather than your usual loud wakeup call. It's a more pleasant morning experience, and much more considerate for your partner.

To set one up, head to the accounts tab on the Fitbit app choose the Charge 2. Select Silent Alarms and set up the time. If you're a snoozer you can get nine minutes of extra slumber by tapping the screen.

How to change the Charge 2 face

Just like the Fitbit Alta and Blaze, there are several clock faces to choose from. Unlike Alta, all eleven of Charge 2's faces are vertical, but you can find the customisation page in the same place.

Tap on the account tab again to find the various faces then pick whichever one you prefer, then tap the back arrow. Selecting one will automatically sync it and the next time you turn your wrist over, and the face should be changed.

Switching Charge 2 bands

Fitbit Charge 2: Essential tips and tricks

Fitbit has a decent selection of sport and fancier special edition bands to choose from, should you wish to switch up styles.

The Classic band comes in black, plum, blue and teal. There are also sport bands, priced at , come in blue, orange and black. The special editions include black with gunmetal body or lavender and rose gold, which are pricier at . Like the Alta HR, the Charge 2 will also get Luxe leather accessory band options, in brown, blush pink and indigo, which cost .

Changing the Charge 2 band is once again very similar to Alta HR. On the back of your device there are latches that, when pressed, release the tracker from the band. Slide your choice of band into the same slot and it will snap into place.

See your battery at all times

A recent update has added the ability to see the battery gauge at all times; surprisingly this was missing from the start. However, to enable it, you'll need to go into the app, hit Account, Charge 2, and then tap Menu Items. There you'll be able to tick a checkbox to enable the battery meter. Then, all you need to do is sync the Charge 2.

Using connected GPS on Charge 2

Like the Blaze, the Charge 2 doesn't have GPS on board, but it will work with the sensors on your nearby smartphone to track GPS data (known as connected GPS).

Running and biking are the two that will track your GPS data. To double check, you should see a phone icon at the top, meaning the exercise offers connected GPS and your device is connected to a GPS signal.

Unfortunately, the Fitbit Charge 2 doesn't use its real estate to display your route like the Samsung Gear Fit2 or Microsoft Band 2. You'll instead have to sync your tracker with your mobile phone to see the route, along with additional stats from your workout.

Understanding Charge 2's VO2 Max

Fitbit Charge 2: Essential tips and tricks

To see your VO2 Max/cardio fitness score, head to your Fitbit dashboard and tap the heart rate tile. Swiping on the graph will bring you to the cardio fitness graph where you'll see your VO2 Max/cardio fitness level.

Typically, VO2 Max is measured in labs and includes running on treadmills with a mask strapped to your nose and mouth to gauge the amount of air you inhale and exhale. Some tests also require pricking your finger to measure the oxygen in your blood. It's far more accurate of course, but not everyone can measure their fitness levels this way.

Fitbit is only estimating your score based on the data it has collected from you including your gender and age compared to other people in your gender and age group.

Fitbit recommends doing long runs - that last about 10 minutes or more - on flat terrain to help improve the accuracy of the score. Higher intensity runs also provide better estimates.

Improve accuracy

With Fitbit's readings affected by which wrist you strap the device onto, making sure you input the more dominant is a solid step in order to ensure more accurate data.

And if you're really looking to go all in on the tracking, linking your device to MyFitnessPal will allow both apps to understand what you've been taking in during the day. Once you're synced up, Fitbit will use the data to make your readings offer a combined look at your calorie input and output.

As far as running setup goes, it's important to understand how Fitbit calculates your strides. The default setting will see this based on your height and gender, but if you're the kind to take Usain Bolt-esque strides when you're shifting, the companion app allows you to manually adjust this.

In order to work this out yourself, find the exact distance between two spots and walk up to 20 steps. Your stride length will be the total distance divided by the number of steps taken.

How to use the guided breathing Relax app

Fitbit Charge 2: Essential tips and tricks

The Fitbit Charge 2 measures the beat-to-beat changes in your heart rate, known as heart rate variability (HRV). As you inhale, your heart rate increases, and as you exhale, your heart rate decreases. Your tracker uses these changes in heart rate to recommend a personalized breathing pattern during each guided breathing session.

To start Relax, press the side button until the icon pops up. The two-minute session is the first option or you can tap again to choose the five-minute session. Press and hold the button to start then follow the prompts to stay still and breathe deeply during the calibration period - which lasts about 20-40 seconds; you'll see the phrase 'sensing your breathing' on your tracker's screen.

Once calibrations are set, follow the circle on your screen by inhaling and exhaling in time with the animation - the more sparkles you see, the more in sync you are with the guide. Or alternatively, thanks to a new update, you can close your eyes and feel the vibrations signalling when you need to inhale and exhale.

Two minutes feels like a long time, but after using it I started to see why the five-minute option was added - it actually flies by pretty quickly. If you're still not used to it, quit the program early by holding the button down. To help keep you stress-free, all notifications and alarms are also muted when doing the breathing sessions.

Do not disturb

If you fancy a break from your notifications, you have the ability to turn them all off. Simply hold the side button while on the main clock face, or tap the button until you hit the notifications screen and then hold the button to switch all notifications off/on.

Setting hourly step reminders

Fitbit Charge 2: Essential tips and tricks

Step reminders first arrived on the Alta and have since been made available on all the Fitbit devices except One and Zip. Rather than just standing for a bit, the reminders encourage you to walk 250 steps per hour - which really is just a few minutes of walking.

The minimum steps can't be changed but you can customize the default tracking that's set to 9:00 am - 6:00 pm, seven days a week.

There are two ways to change this. Open the Fitbit app and select Hourly Activity (the one with the red figure with its arms up). Then tap the settings gear in the top right corner.

Or once again in the app, go and tap on the Fitbit Charge 2 icon twice to see "Reminders to move". From there, you can also adjust the number of hours per day and set the days of the week where you'll be reminded to reach your step goal.

If you happen to hit your goals and nail all your hourly step reminders, you'll actually unlock a secret game called Fitbit Flight. It's pretty much Flappy Bird, but it's a neat little reward. And trust us, it's hard to get.

Set your sleep goals

First debuted on the Alta HR, the Charge 2 now has some pretty cool sleep powers you can take advantage of - and you should. When you wear the Charge 2 to bed and wake up in the morning, it'll let you know how long you spent in light, deep and REM sleep.

Over time, you'll also be able to get Sleep Insights, which are actionable pieces of advice that Fitbit relays to you as it gets to know your sleep patterns. At first, these are pretty no-duh. However, eventually it starts to give you interesting statistics into how the overall Fitbit community is sleeping, which may help you get a better night's rest.

Read this: Why sleep is Fitbit's new obsession

If you head over to your account in the Fitbit app, then go down to 'sleep' under 'goals' you can set your, well, sleep goals. How many hours are you trying to get a night? You can set it in the app, and when you hit that every night you'll get special stars in the app next to your sleep data for the night. You can also set a targeted sleep schedule so that your Fitbit knows about when you plan on going to bed each night.

Finally, you can set bedtime reminders. So you're avoiding sleep thanks to a YouTube binge or got lost in the black hole of information that is Wikipedia, your Charge 2 can remind you that it's time to hit the hay.

Linking with Alexa

Fitbit Charge 2: Essential tips and tricks

If you're already connected to an Amazon Echo and ask Alexa for daily news reports, you might as well ask about your Fitbit stats, too. For this tip, you'll need an Echo account. Head to the Skills tab to download the Fitbit Skill, then enable it by allowing all the permissions.

After that's all set up, you'll have to say prompt the smart assistant with something like, "Alexa, ask Fitbit how many steps I've taken today."

Alternatively, you can ask about your total distance, calories, stairs climbed or battery life.

How we test

Hugh Langley


Now at Business Insider, Hugh originally joined Wareable from TechRadar where he’d been writing news, features, reviews and just about everything else you can think of for three years.

Hugh is now a correspondent at Business Insider.

Prior to Wareable, Hugh freelanced while studying, writing about bad indie bands and slightly better movies. He found his way into tech journalism at the beginning of the wearables boom, when everyone was talking about Google Glass and the Oculus Rift was merely a Kickstarter campaign - and has been fascinated ever since.

He’s particularly interested in VR and any fitness tech that will help him (eventually) get back into shape. Hugh has also written for T3, Wired, Total Film, Little White Lies and China Daily.

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