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10 tips for your new Fitbit

Get the most out of your step-counting fitness tracker.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Welcome to the wonderful and compulsive world of counting steps. If you are starting the New Year off with a new Fitbit, then here's your guide for getting up and moving with your fitness tracker.

1. Set up Fitbit with Fitbit app

Before you can start counting steps, you first need to connect your Fitbit to the Fitbit app for iOS or Android (or use the Fitbit Connect app on your computer). And before you do that for the first time, you'll probably need to charge your new Fitbit a bit so it has enough juice to make the connection. After charging your Fitbit and installing the app, you'll then follow the instructions on the app that will have you choose your Fitbit model and enter information about yourself -- height, weight, gender, date of birth -- to improve its accuracy. With your account created, make sure your phone's Bluetooth is turned on, and follow the app's instructions to pair your Fitbit with your phone.

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Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

2. Choose clock face

Depending on your Fitbit model and the size of its screen, you'll be able to see a variety of information at a glance -- some combination of time, step count, heart rate -- based on the clock face design you choose. To select your clock face, go to the Dashboard of the Fitbit app and tap the account button in the top-right corner. Next, tap your device's name at the top to access its settings page and then tap Clock Face to scroll through the various options for your model and make your pick.

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Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

3. Customize display

In addition to choosing a clock face for your Fitbit, you can also choose which screens you'll cycle through when you tap on your Fitbit's display. Head back to the settings page for your Fitbit model and tap Customize Display. Here, you can select and reorder the screens you want to appear when you tap on your Fitbit's display.

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Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

4. Add battery life to display

My Fitbit Charge 2 ($149.95 at Dell Home) lasts four to five days on a charge, but since it also tracks my sleep, I like to be strategic about when I charge it. I try to avoid charging it overnight because I'll lose a night's worth of sleep data. Plus, it takes only two hours to charge fully, so charging overnight isn't necessary. Therefore, I like to keep an eye on its battery life so when it gets low I can charge it in the evening when I'm sitting on the couch watching Netflix or the Boston Celtics. In the settings page for your Fitbit model, tap Menu Items to select which items you want to appear, including Battery, which wasn't selected by default on my Charge 2.

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Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

5. Set daily goal

There are two areas you need to visit to set your exercise goals. The first is on the app's settings page for your Fitbit model. Tap Main Goal and you can select which goal you want to strive to hit each day. The default is Steps but you can change it to Distance, Calories Burned, Active Minutes or Floors Climbed. Next, back out of the settings page for your Fitbit model and return to the main Account page. In the Goals section, tap Activity and you can change the default amount for your main goal. For example, the default is 10,00 steps for the Steps goal, but you can raise or lower this depending on your activity level.

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Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

6. Set reminders to move

By default, you'll get a reminder in the form of a little pulse at 10 minutes before the top of each hour if you haven't reached 250 steps for that hour. On the settings page, tap Reminders to Move and you can disable these reminders or change the hours in which they'll appear as well as the days (if, say, you get enough exercise on the weekends and don't need reminders to get up and walk around as you might at your desk at work during the week).

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Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

7. Manually log an exercise

If you went for a walk or run without your Fitbit or ran around playing a sport you didn't want to wear it in, you can still get credit! To manually log an exercise, tap the Exercise tile (the one that shows how many days you've hit your exercise goal) on the app's Dashboard and then tap the stopwatch in the top-right corner. (On an iPhone ($1,099.99 at Best Buy) with 3D Touch, you can just 3D Touch the Fitbit app icon and then select Track Exercise.) Make sure the switch at the top is set to Log (and not Track) then search for your exercise type (swim, basketball or whatever) and enter how long you engaged in your sport. You'll get credit for burning calories, but a manually logged exercise does not count toward any badges you are trying to earn or challenges you are trying to win.

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Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

8. Set sleep goals

I know that the sleep data my Fitbit collects is dubious at best, since it's based solely on my heartrate, but I still love to see what it thinks of my sleep pattern each night. From the app's Dashboard, tap the Sleep tile and then the gear icon in the top-right corner to set your sleep goals. Tell your Fitbit how many hours of sleep you want to get each night and it can send you a reminder of when to hit the hay each night, and also send you a little pulse each morning when it's time to rise and start counting steps again.

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Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

9. Choose what to share

You can choose to share your stats with friends or the Fitbit public at large. From the app's Dashboard, tap the account button in the top-right corner and then tap your name at the top. Next, tap Personal Stats and then choose the privacy settings for each: Private, Friends or Public.

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Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

10. Add a friend

My wife got me a Fitbit for Christmas and got herself one because she knew I wouldn't use it unless I was competing against someone. If you've got a friend or competitive spouse, you can loop them into your compulsive step-counting ways to urge each other on. From the app's Dashboard, tap the + button at the bottom and then tap Add Friend. You can find friends from your phone's contacts or Facebook or you can shoot them an email. After they accept your invitation, you can keep tabs on them on the Community tab of the app.

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Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

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