In business they have a saying, “What gets measured, gets improved.” Over the holiday period I decided to take that to heart and have made a handful of purchases that I’d recommend to anyone who wants to get a better snapshot of their health.
I was a bit hesitant to spend $99 on what is basically a glorified pedometer but I have to say it is worth it. The fitbit one, a small bluetooth device that you put in your pocket and forget about, has been well worth it. The device will track your activity level throughout the day including steps taken, floors climbed, calories burned, and the distance walked. Throughout the day the fitbit syncs to your smartphone via bluetooth updating your activity on the fitbit website.
The device also comes with a wristband that you wear when you sleep. This allows the fitbit to track how well you sleep every night in addition to waking you up with a silent vibration alarm.
Realizing how inactive you are on certain days of the week or just how awful you’re sleep quality was the other night is fascinating. But it’s even more fascinating once you introduce your peers. Not only did I buy one for myself but I bought one for my direct family members (Merry Christmas). Just being aware of your activity is incredibly insightful and motivating, but having visibility of yourself in comparison to your peers keeps you involved.
There are a handful of products in this space but fitbit is the most established in my opinion. You could opt for a nike fuel band or a Jawbone’s UP but both more expensive and don’t track as much information as the fitbit. If you’re afraid the fitbit is too easy to loose then check out the new fitbit flex which is a wearable band like the two competing devices. Myself? I prefer the fitbit as I prefer to keep the tiny device clipped in my pocket rather than wearing a wristband everywhere.
Tagging along with the fitbit’s activity tracker is the Aria wi-fi smart scale. It will set you back $130 but it’s really cool. It extends the power of the reports I get back from fitbit to include a history of how my body weight and BMI are changing over time. Your bodyweight fluctuates so being able to track your long-term history is key to ensuring you’re actually making progress. The Aria connects to my home’s local wifi network and uploads data directly to fit bit’s website as soon as I weigh myself. It’s also smart enough to know it’s me and not another member of my family.
Polar H7 Bluetooth (BLE) Heart Rate Monitor
Tracking how active you are is one thing but when you’re working out you should really be tracking the intensity of your workout in relation to your heart. I’m personally more concerned about overloading when I workout than not working hard enough. A bluetooth heart rate monitor is awesome because it works with nearly every fitness app out there including Strava, Digifit, Endomondo, etc.. HR monitors such as Polar’s H7 BLE use an open source API so you could even build your own mobile app to do whatever you’d like with your HR data.
Another benefit of buying polar and not another brand is that it will automatically sync to polar equipped gym equipment. That’s not too shabby as polar is nearly ubiquitous when it comes to cardio equipment. As soon as I hop on a treadmill my heart rate shows up on the LCD display. No need to hold onto the steel panels on the safety bar.
For me the main thing about actually tracking my heart rate is that I can correlate the distances I run (which I track on my smartphone) with my overall heart rate. Rather than setting goals for time and distance, I’m now setting goals for time and heart rate. As my fitness improves I should theoretically be able to maintain the same heart rate levels over time while increasing my distance. This is a healthier way to do cardio training in my opinion. You can get one of these devices for $70.
Garmin Swim Watch
So this is the most specialized and expensive device I bought. I’ve always loved to swim laps but I’m terrible at keeping count or tracking how long I’ve swam for. This watch, simply called the Garmin Swim is fantastic as I simply set the length of the pool (25m in my case) and hit go. The watch tracks your time and distance automatically. It even detects the type of stroke you’re swimming with during each lap. Now I can just swim as much as I’d like without worrying about how far I’ve gone. When I’m done the swim watch will give me a breakdown of how long it took me to swim each lap, how many strokes I used per lap, and more. To view your performance analytics in detail you can sync the watch to your laptop using an ANT usb stick that is included with the watch.