fitbit charge.jpgOne feature that can be particularly fun with activity trackers is social interactions, which let you keep up-to-date – and even compete with – your friends.

Typically with models that include this option, you can add your friends through the app, then receive notifications on progress, rewards, and other data that can motivate you to get moving and not fall behind the pack.

Fitbit: aim for the top of the leaderboard 

For instance, with the Fitbit, you can connect with friends through Facebook and Fitbit accounts to send an invitation, or fire off an e-mail invitation to other Fitbit users requesting they connect with you. Then, the action begins. A leaderboard shows how you and your friends rank on a 7-day step total (assuming everyone is keeping their devices consistently synced.) If desired, you can widen your active social network by adding friends of friends. That makes it even more challenging to top the leaderboard, thus pushing you harder to compete. It’s a great way to bring out the competitive nature in users, and help you realize how your activity levels compare to a group of peers. That said, don’t worry, you can hide your step count from the view of others if you want. But where’s the fun in that?

misfit flash activity tracker.jpgMisfit Shine & Flash: tells you when a friend is beating you

Similarly with the Misfit app, which works with both the Shine and Flash activity trackers, you can add friends by searching by username, or via your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or phone contact list to see who else has the same device. Once added, you’ll see how many points your friends have achieved compared to you at any time in the day (again, providing they’ve synced their device), and even receive push notifications to let you know where you stand. These might advise that, for example, a friend has just stolen the lead and surpassed you in points, urging you to get up and walkabout, or go for a quick jog. You can also peek into your friends’ best streaks, personal best, and the number of goals they’ve hit.

Runkeeper: send couch potatoes a virtual nudge to get up and walk!

jawbone up activity tracker.jpgRunkeeper is actually an app that works with a number of activity trackers, including Fitbits, the Garmin Forerunner GPS watches and Garmin Connect, Jawbone Up, and others. Once synced, it uses a leaderboard to help you stay fit with friends. Add friends to your list, then see who’s in the lead and who’s falling behind over the previous one-month period. The cumulative nature of the data collection over a 30-day period means every little bit of activity – and inactivity – counts. It’s colour coded: dark green for the most active folks, light green for those who are moderately active, yellow for the lightly active, and red with an embarrassing icon of a couch for those who are reaching potato status. Ouch! Twisting the knife even more, your friends can send a push notification nudge to tell you to get off the virtual couch by tapping on a megaphone icon and yelling for you to “go for a walk,” or bike ride, or run. Anything but park your butt in front of the TV. If that doesn’t motivate you to get up and get active, what will? You can also when last each friend was active (three days ago or three hours?), and how many activities they partook in that month.

Bottom line

In some ways, activity trackers are very personal devices. But in the same way that you might hire a personal trainer, or peek over at how much faster your friend is going on the treadmill beside you, you can use a complementary app and connectivity to add that social competitive and motivational element to the experience. That might result in you signing up for the next 5K run, or simply going for a quick walk around the block before you grab the popcorn and boot up Netflix. Either way, it’s a good thing, and adds tremendous value to such devices.

Check out the complete selection of activity trackers available at Best Buy Online