04 Jul The changing face of fitness
I remember as a teenager pedometers becoming this massive craze, everyone had one (they were even given away free in cereal)! Back then, they were little plastic things that used a ball bearing to click against a switch. You could just shake them to clock up additional steps, to pretend you’d reached your step goal. They were also very inaccurate and could measure something such as bending to tie your shoe as a step. Since then, we’ve come a very long way: most modern pedometers use electrical sensors and there is only about a +5% margin for error for walking. In this blog post I’m going to talk about some of the different devices and apps available to the tech-savvy exerciser, though, I will mostly be focusing on those that count daily steps and activity.
The Fitbit is a modern pedometer with a twist. It measures steps, calories burned, distance traveled, floors climbed, and can be worn on the wrist at night to measure sleep. The cool thing about the Fitbit is when it is set up you enter your height, weight age etc., it uses this data to work out a stride length for both walking and running. This lets it track steps with amazing accuracy. This data is also used to calculate your calorie burn whilst sedentary and whilst exercising. The Fitbit syncs up with an app on your phone that shows you an activity breakdown and also allows you to log additional information such as: how much water have you drunk today and calories in food you have eaten. There is also a web interface that give you lots of graphs and comparisons week on week, month on month for your fitness profile.
The Fitbit is best suited for anyone who is interested in keeping an eye on their fitness but who doesn’t mind spending a bit of money as the trackers retail from between £30 and £80 depending on the type of tracker you want.
TheNike+ Fuelband was Nike’s update on Nike+ allowing not only activity tracking but live feedback of activity intensity. Designed more for athletes than anyone with a casual interest in their fitness level, the Nike Fuelband can send move reminders to the wearer to help them push themselves further, as well as using Nike+ Sessions to monitor your intense workouts. Like the Fitbit, the Fuelband also uses personal data to calculate how many calories are burned through an activity. The idea with the Fuelband is to push yourself harder and challenge your friends. It is probably designed more for someone who does a lot of regular exercise and retailing at £90- £110 its probably not an impulse buy kind of item.
The Jawbone Up may be the most sophisticated fitness tracker currently on the market. The Jawbone, in a similar way to the Fitbit, can track steps and sleep as well as using height and weight to calculate calorie burn and stride length, but, it also combines some of the features of the Fuelband. The Jawbone delivers a movement reminder if you are sat idle for a period of time, it allows you to log different activities through its app and also offers the wearer insight into their day to day activity and learns sleep patterns, allowing the alarm to wake you at an optimum time. The Jawbone also lets the wearer log a mood, which over time can be used to see what is connected to changes in your mood.
The Jawbone is also linked to “smart home” technologies such as the Nest thermostat meaning it can work out when you are about to wake up and turn on your heating. The app also allows you to set simple daily goals such as “today I will walk X number of steps.” The Jawbone up is good for either those really into their fitness and intense workouts and those just interested in their fitness in general. But with £100 price tag, again it’s not something you would buy unless you did have a genuine interest in health and fitness.
Ok, so, this is the odd one out on the list as its just an app (rather than a physical device linked to an app) but it definitely deserves a mention.
Human is one of the new generation of fitness app and is designed predominantly for the iPhone 5S but also works on the iPhone 5 (but with substantial battery drain due to the lack of the M7 chip) Human makes use of the accelerometer, gyroscope technology and compass built into the modern iPhones as well as locational data from GPS. Human, currently, just tracks the length of time a user has been active and doesn’t provide feedback on number of steps or miles. The interesting part of the Human app is its ability to calculate whether a user is walking, running, jogging or driving in theory eliminating most pedometers failings were driving over a particularly bumpy road can add steps.
Human also recently released a video showing graphical representations of their data for different activities in different cities and it’s quite interesting to watch.
The app is free to download and use and is definitely worth checking out if you have one of the newer iPhones.
The main thing that seems to have changed in the way we track our fitness is the smartphone, all of the devices I have mentioned above have some sort of app available for Android devices and / or iOS allowing their wearers to see exactly what they have achieved in a matter of seconds (bluetooth depending.) Both Android and iOS have had accelerometer technology built in but it is only recently that companies have begun using it accurately in apps. It is likely that in 5-10 years devices like the Jawbone, Fuelband and Fitbit may be superseded by smartphones in a similar way the old plastic pedometers were phased out by their modern counterparts.
* images courtesy of Fitbit, Nike, Human and Jawbone , video courtesy of Human