The start of a new year is brings about the tradition of setting a resolution(s). One of the most popular resolutions revolves around health and wellness. It is either about losing weight or getting in better shape. The last five years has seen a rise in wearable fitness gadgets to help in this endeavor. The industry has come a long way from the tiny step counter you wore on your belt. Gadgets can track your calorie intake, take your pulse, and even encourage you to keep up the good work. Not only that, the gadgets allow you to connect with others to form teams or participate in challenges. Even smart watches are getting on board by creating their own apps. I am a gadget fiend in general. I have tried a couple of the gadgets and the following opinions are my own. I haven’t received any form for compensation from any company I will mention. I have tried Body Media, Fitbit, Garmin and Withings.
The good news about most of the fitness gadgets is that they are affordable. Most companies offer products at various price points from $30 to $250. They are simple to use and can be managed through your smart phone and online. The bad news is they don’t really go with your outfit most days, unless you’re using a smart watch such as Samsung Gear or Apple iWatch. Fitbit does have the ability for some of its gadgets to swap out different color bands. Additionally, they partnered with Tory Burch to accessorize the fitbit. Those products start at $38 for the rubber wrist band up to $195 for metallic jewelry to mask the fitbit. It’s a bit pricey for my taste. And here’s one more bit of bad news, or should I say realistic news. Most people abandon wearing their device within a few weeks. Despite how big the industry is growing, only about 15% of consumers own a separate fitness device.
Guide To Choosing Wearable Tech
If you have set a weight-loss or fitness goal for yourself and are considering buying a device but not sure which one, this post is for you. I’m not going to recommend one over the other. Instead I’m going to give you guidance on what to look for when choosing a wearable tech fitness gadget. Pull out a sheet of paper, we’ve got some work to do.
1. Determine your purpose. This is a great place to start. Their is so much marketing and hype around these devices you almost feel compelled to buy one. If you’re on the fence don’t let curiosity get the cat. No need to spend your hard earned dollars on something you don’t believe in. If you have a solid goal and this device can help, great. At the top of the paper write down your goal, e.g. release 30 pounds in six months; or improve my run time from 2:00 minutes per mile to 1:50 minutes per mile. If you have more than one goal write them all down.
2. Assess your needs. I am the gadget gal. I don’t need much of a reason to buy technology. But if you’re not techy, buying one of these devices can seem intimidating. Still have that piece of paper? Underneath your goal(s) make a list of must haves for the device. For example track steps, monitor heart rate, wearable on the wrist or arm, connects to your smart phone, track sleep, etc. In a separate list write down nice-to-have. If monitoring your heart rate isn’t a big deal for you but sounds cool, but it on that list. These are the things you’re probably not willing to spend extra money on.
3. Figure out your budget. Pay attention now because some of these companies have a tricky trick. Write down on that sheet of paper how much you are willing to spend on your wearable tech. Now, write down how much you’re willing to pay per month for services. Some of these fitness gadgets require a monthly plan to access the data stored on the device or to use the website. When I used BodyMedia the device is worn on the arm and it collected great data, however at the time I had to pay to see that data. There was no free basic plan. Other devices such as Fitbit and Jawbone, which now owns BodyMedia, include basic data for free and more advanced data for a small fee. Decide if you want this or not and write it down. I opted to not pay the extra fee for additional data.
4. Where to wear. Almost all of the devices now are worn on your wrist, but there are some clip-ons still around. This is where you decide if you want a smart watch with multiple functionality or just the fitness device itself. I opted for a Fitbit but I also own a smart watch, Samsung Gear to be exact. However, I don’t use my smart watch to track my fitness because I felt that it wasn’t designed for that purpose. I wanted a device that was specifically designed for the purpose of tracking activity. Another factor to consider is fashion. Some of these devices are just not cute. If you work in an office they can stand out against a nice suit. You wouldn’t wear many of these with a club attire either. Chances are whatever you choose can’t be modified once you own it, so pick the style and color you can live with the most. Not sure what’s right for you? Keep reading.
5. Do your research. You are now ready to look at the various devices. Keep that sheet of paper handy, you’ll need it. First, ignore all of the fancy marketing images and language. Stick with your list. This is why you decide first what you need before looking at devices. Second, read the technical specs such as battery life, display type, does it have what you require, and how much does it cost. Be sure to check on the interface – can you use it through your smart phone and/or website, and does it cost anything? Another great added benefit which is typically free is being able to connect with your friends. Some of the apps allow you to connect to Facebook so you can add friends. This allows you to create challenges or just check in with each other from time to time. Fitbit has a really great component for doing this. One thing to note here is that most of these platforms are proprietary, meaning that someone using Fitbit can’t invite a Jawbone user to be friends. That bites, but there are third party sites that can help with that.
6. Narrow your choices down to two or three. There are a lot of great choices out there. The major manufacturers are Fitbit, Jawbone, and Garmin for the standalone devices. Samsung, Apple and Garmin also have cornered the market on smart watches. Each company offers several different models. If you’re not sure which one to go with there is a cool service that can help you out, Lumoid. This site allows you to try devices for a small fee or deposit. If you don’t like it, send it back. If you do like it, buy it and Lumoid will include the deposit in the final cost. Psst…they don’t just do wearable gear. They also have a rent-to-own program. For wearable gear you can order up to five gadgets for a $30 deposit for two weeks. Pay for what you like, if anything, and send the rest back.
7. Wait before you buy. Unless you are going with Lumoid, once you’ve decided on a gadget wait a few days to be sure it’s the one you want. Also, do a little research on rumors of new devices coming. When I bought my Fitbit Flex the very next day, I kid you not, Fitbit announced the availability of Fitbit Charge. #whompwhomp. Just do an internet search on any announcements or rumors of announcements coming out about new devices. Save yourself the anguish.
Currently I am using Fitbit Charge HR and have used a Fitbit Flex in the past. I also own and use the Garmin Forerunner for runs. I like this device because it uses GPS to track my exact path. When I upload my device’s data to the website I get additional information about the weather, etc. This device tracks inclines and other information I can’t get from a Fitbit or Jawbone UP. By the way, I’ve owned the Forerunner for about 12 years, prior to the wearable tech craze. I also had a BodyMedia armband device which I believe is no longer manufactured. I loved that thing. It was originally designed for the TV show Biggest Loser.
I do like the Fitbit Charge HR and especially the accompanying app. The downside of this fitness gadget has been two things – 1) I can’t download my own data even though I own it and 2) I had to stop wearing it for a while because it caused a massive painful rash in which my skin literally turned bright red, bubbled up and peeled off. I wasn’t wearing it too tight I promise you. I used emu oil to heal the inflammation and rash followed by applying cornstarch (J&J Baby Powder brand) to the band and my skin. This seems to help, but has to be reapplied several times a day. I bought my sister a Jawbone UP device, don’t recall which model, for Christmas 2014. A few weeks later she got it slightly wet, didn’t submerge it or shower with it, and it stopped working entirely. I was right there when it happened. She then bought a Fitbit Flex. We’ve had fun challenging each other and other family members. My mother recently purchased a Jawbone UP device, we’ll see how it goes.
Other devices you may find helpful in your weight loss and fitness endeavors are smart scales. I use Withings, but others make scales as well, such as Fitbit. The scale captures my weight, BMI, body fat % and uploads to the website. It can connect with other platforms such as Fitbit and Jawbone to automatically track your weight. Withings has standalone apps which I haven’t found to be very good. You can store multiple profiles in the scale so the weigh-in goes to the right person’s app. Withings also manufactures a blood pressure cuff that connects to Apple iOS systems. They also have devices to that simulate the sunrise, a baby monitor and of course they have their own wearable fitness tracking devices.
The last step is just to put it on and keep it on. Unless, of course, it causes some sort of horrible disfiguring rash. Do you have a question or a recommended device? Comment below, we love to hear from you.
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