The ultimate guide to the Fitbit app

What you need to know about all things Fitbit

So you got yourself a Fitbit or maybe someone gave you one as a present. Congrats on bagging yourself one of the most popular wearables on the planet. Whether it's a Fitbit Charge 3 or maybe the Versa smartwatch, you're no doubt trying to get to grips with all things Fitbit right now. What can it do? Where do I find my data? How do I pair it to my phone? Well, these are all good questions we can help you out with.

It's fair to say we've spent a considerable amount of time getting to know all the Fitbits over the years, and that has meant spending a good time getting to know the apps, the fitness trackers and smartwatches and how they work together to monitor your health, fitness and much more.

Essential reading: Choosing the best Fitbit for you

If you're starting with Fitbit for the first time, or you just need to freshen up or still don't know how to get to a certain feature, this is our beginners guide to the Fitbit world. Any questions? Let us know in the comments section below.

Fitbit guide: Downloading the app

Okay, so you've got that Fitbit fitness tracker or smartwatch, you've charged it up, tapped on it. That's great. But before you can experience its potential, you need to download the Fitbit app to your smartphone. Why? Because this is where you will be able to sync over and store the fitness data that your wearable records. It's also where you'll be able to adjust settings, like seeing notifications from your phone on your tracker or smartwatch (depending on if your device supports that), to ensure you're getting the best and most complete Fitbit experience.

Essential reading: How to sync your Fitbit

Fitbit currently supports iOS, Android and Windows devices, but support can vary by device depending on what version of that companion app your phone can run or whether it can run it at all. If you're not totally sure, you can check Fitbit's supported devices page to make sure you are properly equipped. Once you've downloaded, you'll need to create a Fitbit account or use an existing one before you can start getting to know the app.

The beginner's guide to Fitbit

You can actually use Fitbit's trackers without a smartphone, too, and instead sync them to a computer usually by using the charging cable provided with your Fitbit to plug it into your computer and sync. From there, you'll be able to many of the things you can do on the phone app including viewing and logging data in Fitbit's web browser-based dashboard. The guide below will focus on the ins and outs of the Fitbit app first.

Got questions about the web version? Let us know in the comments below.

Fitbit guide: The dashboard

The beginner's guide to Fitbit

This is arguably the place where you will spend most of your time when you launch the app. It's where you'll get a snapshot of your day, displaying information such as step counts, distance covered and exercise minutes. If you want to see you data across a period of time, simple tap on the tile to see more data.

Essential reading: All your Fitbit questions answered

If you scroll down the dashboard screen you'll see other small tiles that are dedicated to other information that can be displayed from your day. What you see here is dictated by what Fitbit wearable is paired to the app. So if you have a Fitbit Versa, for instance, that includes a heart rate monitor and can take resting heart readings, you will see that data inside of a tile that includes a beating heart icon and bpm (beats per minute reading).

You may also see tiles that indicate weight or cups of water or food tracking. Now, no Fitbit has the ability to automatically track weight, monitor how much water you drink or log meals you eat. But you can connect other devices and apps to pull that data into the Fitbit app. So for weight measurements, you can pair your Fitbit with a smart scale. If you want to better track your nutrition then Fitbit does allow you to log meals picking them out from a database or scanning barcodes from meals you've eaten. For water logging, you'll have to manually add when you've had a drink of water and how much.

The beginner's guide to Fitbit

If there are some tiles you don't want to see you'll find the edit button (inside of a pink box), which will allow you do move tiles to different places by dragging them with your finger. Or you can add or remove tiles too.

There's a few other useful things you can do from the dashboard worth knowing about. If you want to see how you performed the previous day, look for the two arrows either side of the daily step count (that's the big circle at the top) to skip back and forth through days. There's no calendar mode view right now, but hopefully this is something that Fitbit will consider adding in the future.

Read next: Best fitness trackers 2018

Sticking around the top of the dashboard, the you'll also see an icon below the one that will display your paired device. This icon is the one that will let you share your data for gloating to purposes. It will let you share the snapshot of your day letting you change the colour of the display. From here you can post to other friends who use a Fitbit (more on this later) or you have the option to share to contacts or third party apps, social networks and messaging services like Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp.

Account settings

The beginner's guide to Fitbit

Before we move away from the dashboard, we should to talk about account settings, because this is a good place to get to know to make sure you get your Fitbit properly set up. Along with hosting personal details like height, weight, gender it's also where you can do things like set up family accounts (if you buy a Fitbit Ace, the company's kids fitness tracker) but also where you can set your goals. So if you have a specific how many steps you want to manage a day or hours you'd like to sleep, this can help Fitbit personalise the tracking experience to ensure you stick to your goals.

This is also a place where you can find Fitbit compatible apps that work with the platform, which currently includes Amazon Alexa, MyFitnessPal, Runkeeper, Strava and more. When we say work with Fitbit, we mean that if use those apps already, you can pull data in across into the Fitbit app to contribute to your overall daily scores. So, you continue logging food in MyFitnessPal and instead of using the features that Fitbit offers for food tracking, it will automatically go towards you calorie count.

If you care about privacy and security, this is where you'll need to visit to check what information you are sharing and who you are sharing it with. If you have a Fitbit smartwatch, you can also take control of the notifications that Fitbit sends to your watch. If your Fitbit has a heart rate monitor, it's also here where you can set up heart rate zones, to ensure you are making the most of your workouts. Fitbit does a pretty good job explaining just what a heart rate zone is, but if you don't what your zones are, you can read our guide to show you how to correctly set up heart rate zones.

Fitbit guide: Getting to know Challenges

The beginner's guide to Fitbit

Challenges is a relatively new addition to the Fitbit app setup and feeds into that idea that sometimes you need a little push or motivation to keep you up and moving. One of Fitbit's ways of doing that is you can take on virtual challenges on your own with others, unlocking facts about famous landmarks, new Fitbit badges and 180-degree views of destinations. Most of these virtual challenges are based on US landmarks, but anyone can take advantage of them.

The beginner's guide to Fitbit

Once you've seen an adventure of challenge that takes your fancy, tap to select and it'll break down the number of people who can participate and steps the challenge will amass. You'll also be able to invite Fitbit-owning friends as well. Most challenges will start the following day and you can view a map of your virtual trail to see where you are going to be heading. From that map screen, you can view gameplay and rules and choose whether to receive notifications while the challenge is active.

Fitbit guide: Guidance

The beginner's guide to Fitbit

Guidance is your route to accessing Fitbit Coach, which is Fitbit's personalised fitness platform that's all about providing a range of different exercises and workouts that are tailored to what you want to achieve - whether you are runner or a yoga fan.

What's important to make clear here is that Fitbit Coach requires a separate app and a monthly or annual subscription service to access it. If you have a Fitbit smartwatch (Blaze, Ionic or Versa), you will find a handful of workouts from Fitbit Coach that you can follow on your watch screen. Ultimately, though, you need to pay money to use Fitbit Coach.

The beginner's guide to Fitbit

Once you've subscribed through the app or the Fitbit Coach webpage, you'll be able to download workouts and view them on your smartphone or tablet.

Fitbit guide: Community

The beginner's guide to Fitbit

Fitbit's community is without doubt one of its biggest strengths as platform. It's the place where you can join a host of groups from runners to people who are all about talking heart health. The Community tab inside of the Fitbit app is also the place where you can add friends and see a feed of activity to see what everyone else is getting up to.

If you want to add a friend to Fitbit, the easiest way to do this is to go to the Friends section in the Community page and look for the + friend button. From there, it will search your contacts that own Fitbits, you can connect Facebook to try and find FB friends that also own or use Fitbit and even email someone directly to ask if they want to be added.

Joining a Group is really easy to do, simply hit 'join' on the group you want to be part of and then you'll be able to visit those groups so see what other users have to say. The Feed will also pull any of the latest posts from those groups you've joined and from friends to give you an update on what's been posted most recently.

Fitbit guide: Finding your fitness data

Chances are, you've bought your Fitbit mainly to track your fitness, and the good news is that all Fitbit's do a pretty solid job of it. But once you've tracked a treadmill run or a swimming session with your Flex 2 or Ionic, you probably want to know where all of that data lives and what it all means. Well we can help with that. We've broken down the key areas we think you'll be most concerned about. Got questions about any of the other data? Hit us up in the comments section below.


The beginner's guide to Fitbit

Let's start with the most basic one. Fitbits, just like pedometers, can count your steps and is front and centre in the Dashboard section. Once you've seen a snapshot of your day, tap the big circle with the feet in to dig deeper. Here, you'll a graph displaying step counts from across the week and below that you can scroll from all previous days and weeks that you've been counting steps. If you spot a green star next to one of those days, that means you smashed your goal. If you feel you need to adjust that goal and make or what that step goal is measured by, look for the little cog icon up in the right hand corner of the screen and from there you can adjust steps, distance, calories, active minutes, floors climbed and even hourly activity goals that can be influenced by steps.

Track exercise

The beginner's guide to Fitbit

If you're more about steps, you like going to the gym or throwing on getting on your bike, this is your key domain. It's here you can see any activities you've logged with your tracker or any activities that Fitbit's SmartTrack technology has automatically picked up. As a reminder, most Fitbit's support SmartTrack but not all, so do check that is a feature supported before assuming your Fitbit is getting on with the tracking. Above the feed of workout history you can see your workouts plotted on a calendar, workout duration/distance over the past 30 days (in minutes) and break down exercise by time spent in specific heart rate zones.

If you want to set some specific exercise goals, like walking for 15+ minutes of getting a 30 minute swim in, look for that settings cog icon to set that up. Alongside the cog lives the icon that unlocks the ability to track exercises like a run, walk or hike from the Fitbit app. It uses your phone's GPS and will keep a record of the mapped route too. So if your Fitbit doesn't have GPS, this is an alternative way to log your outdoor activities.


The beginner's guide to Fitbit

Fitbit has been making big improvements on the way its devices track sleep and the data it provides. Most Fitbit's automatically track sleep, so you all need to do is wear it to bed and it'll get on with recording the data. When it's time to review that data, you'll need to hit the sleep tile on the Dashboard.

Read this: Spending some quality time with Fitbit's new sleep features

Like reviewing step counts, sleep data is organised similarly. You've got your feed of sleep tracking history and above that graphs to display hours sleep you sleep schedule versus your target sleep schedule (the time you should go to sleep) and hours in sleep stages. Those sleep stages are REM, Light and Deep, while you'll also get a look at the time you spent awake. If you want to know more about what those mean, definitely go give our sleep metrics explained feature a read.

Tapping the little cog icon in the top right hand corner launches your Sleep Goals settings. It's here where you can tell the Fitbit app what time you want to sleep, set up bedtime and wake up times and even get a reminder nudging you to get ready for bed. It's also here where you can turn on Fitbit's Sleep Insights, which appear above your sleep history feed offering you personalised information about the sleep patterns and how it can impact on other aspects of your health and tracking.

Heart rate

The beginner's guide to Fitbit

Fitbit wearables like the Charge 2, Ionic, Versa and the Alta HR include heart rate monitors that enables these devices to do a variety of things related to the heart. They can be used to measure how hard you are working when you're exercising but it can also provide insightful resting heart rate readings, which can provide an indication of your current health and fitness levels. Tapping the heart rate tile on the Dashboard opens up the data screen where you can view resting heart rate dat from the last 30 days along with time spent in heart rate zones and you cardio fitness level. This cardio fitness level is generated based on your user profile and resting heart rate.

Keep moving every hour

Most Fitbit devices now offer inactivity reminders where you'll get a nudge every hour to make certain number of steps to keep active on small scale as minimum. You can find out how well you did by searching for the tile with the red man standing up where you can see how many hours you managed to meet that goal. You can change when those hours start and end and pick the days you want it to run, just in case you fancy having a nap or two at the weekend.


The beginner's guide to Fitbit

Fitbit's wearables will not automatically log your weight everyday, but it does support the ability to do it manually or to pair it to the Aria smart scales to make that happen. Once you do that, look for the dashboard tile that includes the scale to view weight-related data. As long as you've manually logged your weight or connected it to a smart scale, you'll be able to view a host of data weight trends, lean versus fat comparisons, BMI and body fat percentage. Some of that data is reliant on the scale that can provide those insights. It's this page where you can log data and set goals to lose, maintain and even gain weight. As you record the data, it'll keep track of your progress.

Food and water tracking

The beginner's guide to Fitbit

Racking up great daily step counts or exercise is just one part of staying healthy. You need to put good stuff in your body too and Fitbit does enable you to track what you eat and drink water. For the latter it's a simple case of selecting the water logging tile on the Fitbit dashboard and either entering the amount you've drunk or using the quick add feature.

For food tracking, things get a bit more comprehensive. If you read Mike's food tracking diary, you can get a sense of the Fitbit food tracking experience. From here, you can see graphs displaying calories in versus out and a breakdown of your macronutrients. When you need to log meals or food items, you have a number of options here. You can scan barcodes from meals you've eaten and you'll need to allow Fitbit to access your smartphone camera to do this. It will then attempt to match it to Fitbit's own database to correctly record the nutritional data. Another option is to hit the + icon to search from Fitbit's database to log items. You can add custom items if they're not included in the food library and can add quick calorie counts for different meals of the day. So if you know you had 500 calories for lunch, you can add that in without breaking it down by individual items.

Female health tracking

The beginner's guide to Fitbit

This is the latest addition to Fitbit's companion app and sees the company venture into the world of women's health tracking for the very first time. This will record information, including menstrual tracking, and you'll now be able to log your cycle and record symptoms such as headaches and cramps. Fitbit analyses this data to predict where you are in your menstrual cycle and when the next one is coming. There is also user guidance for ovulation, fertility and tips to debunk common misconceptions.

If you're struggling to find out how to access these features, you might need to add it to your dashboard. To do that, scroll down to the bottom of the dashboard and select edit, you should see the female health tracking tile appear and you can simply add to the page. You'll then have to answer a few questions to ensure the features are set up correctly for each user.

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