Alison K. Lanier
Credit: freedigitalphotos.net stockimages
With days of constant stress and bother about obesity, activity, and healthy living, the old-fashioned scale and measuring tape have been upgraded to fit the bill. Now a flood of helpful fitness gadgets are available to track calories burned and activity levels achieved. From FitBit Ultra—the handy, little thinking pedometer—to its newest incarnation, the thin, wearable Fitbit Flex wristband, a trend of activity trackers creatively keep track of everything from steps and calories to the best workout music.
BodyMedia Fit Link
Small, futuristic devices like BodyMedia Fit Link, which retails for $150, can be worn by a user to measure not only activity but caloric burn, according to its website. A watch-like device, it uses a conglomeration of measurements like skin temperature and perspiration to calculate a 95 percent accurate reported caloric burn, a tracker not to keep track of work out sessions but every day activity and the caloric deficit that should lead to eventual weight loss. However Wired’s reviewer stated that after a trial period, the caloric deficit reported by the device didn’t result in measurable weight loss.
Fitbit Ultra, at $150, is a smaller, simpler device, Wired’s review stated, that can be clipped onto a belt, pocket, or bra. Running through a series of encouraging messages, Fitbit helpfully uploads via Bluetooth the user’s number of steps and caloric burn, calculated via movement measurement on an accelerometer and an altimeter. The uplink transfers data to a computer within range of the little device. Fitbit is a bundle of encouragements: many users might not be thrilled by the prospect of working their way to an intimidating 5,000 steps, but getting another leaf on Fitbit’s tiny tree graphic that grows with daily activity is, according to Wired’s reviewer, much more likely to spur optimistic focus.
Nike FuelBand, which retails from $159 to $300, is slightly more expensive. Although the band is a gauge that is worn on the wrist, it does not deliver exact caloric measurements. Instead, it gives estimates summarized in an arbitrary Fuel Point total, Nike’s site describes. This total is only meaningful in comparison to other FuelBand users and other daily totals. The device looks sharp and even tells time—a nifty feature in an accessory worn on the wrist. A simple, cool gadget, it allows users to keep track of casual exercise while working their way toward reward badges, but the exact calories and step count is lost with this aesthetically-pleasing, little wristlet.
The most expensive of the simple, little fitness devices, the Motorola Motoactv comes in at around $300. But for that price, Wired’s review describes, users can enjoy 16 GBs of memory and an expansive set of exercise measurements. While the device measures daily steps and caloric burn, the central perk of this tracker is Motoactv’s ability to log over 40 types of exercise, upload data to Android phones, and graph workout pace, distance, and GPS mapping. The device, with a compact and striking appearance, will even measure which music you work out to most effectively.
The Jawbone Up is for users who need a bit more social encouragement. Linking fitness data to social sites as well as its own visually appealing app—although the list of supported devices does come in at a deficit—collects a huge, well-organized amount of data that can be sent out to third party social networking apps. However, it comes in short registering data that doesn’t involve stepping—like paddling, according to the CNET reviewer. Features like food logging made the Jawbone Up a comprehensive device, as it also includes a sleep tracker, all the data of which zooms off into the ether to become part of a sort of Twitter for activity.
Fitbit Flex, released in May, is a more futuristic rendition of the popular app and pedometer. Wired described FitBit Flex as a “super-wearable tracker” and “nearly flawless.” The device measures far more than movement. Fitbit Flex is an unobtrusive, rubberized wrist band that, rather than a clip-on, obvious pedometer tab, and keeps track of everything from activity to sleep patterns. Bluetooth connects this device to a phone, but can be used without its prescribed app, a more effective Bluetooth connection than the Jawbone Up. It serves as a wearable alarm too, vibrating to wake up the user and no one else. It’s a camouflaged tracker that there’s never really a need to separate yourself from, without multiple parts that threaten to pop off and go missing over time. FitBit Flex, at about $100, is just about everything a user could ask for in a simple, low-key, easy-to-use tracker.
The proliferation of tracker devices are for the most part available for $100 to $300, and most offer a similar basic function of keeping track of and recording activity levels and calorie burn. With this ever-expanding and advancing futuristic tech, there’s always a support system waiting to help keep an eye on you and your fitness aspirations.
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