By Elyssa Ganser 2015-12-23 20:24:20
As sales of wearable fitness technology rise, check out if this practical fashion accessory is right for you. If you want to get fit and look fashionable these days, it seems that all you need to do is strap an activity tracker on your wrist. However, if you think this fitness fad is just that, think again—market-research company CCS Insight predicts that the sale of wearables will grow from $29 million in 2014 to $172 million in 2018. And, despite the trends, these wearable fitness accessories—including said fitness trackers, along with smartwatches, advanced pedometers and heart-rate monitors—serve the greater good in motivating you to live a healthier life. How so? Accountability It’s easy to assume that you get in enough movement during the day, but these wearable fitness devices force you to be accountable and learn the truth about how active you are. Sharing that information on social media or in group challenges allows you to be accountable to others, too. Motivation It’s energizing to see your fitness progression in real time, perhaps going from taking just 1,000 steps in a day to logging 5,000 steps daily and then, eventually, reaching that 10,000-step goal day in and day out. Goal-setting Whether your main health goal is to take a certain number of steps each day, walk or run a certain number of miles or get a certain amount of shuteye each night, there’s a wearable tracker that will help you set, work toward and meet those goals. Of course, the ability to set goals, be accountable and stay motivated has been around for a while in the form of a basic pedometer; however, the new generation of wearable fitness technology takes it one step further. If you’re a member of the older generation, this new industry might be confusing—and even a little intimidating. New fitness technology is created every day, but here’s a starting point for learning what’s on the market and what these high-tech devices actually do for you. KNOW AS YOU GO For years—decades!—you could simply clip a pedometer on your belt to count your steps, but now wearable fitness trackers can do that (much more accurately), plus monitor your heart rate, calculate the number of calories you’ve burned and even analyze your sleep patterns, all while storing the data on your computer or smartphone and displaying it in easy-to-understand charts. Before you run out and buy one, though, there are a couple things to take into consideration when it comes to fitness trackers: First, what, exactly, does it track? Many trackers have similar features, but not all do the same thing. Second, what type of tracker is it, and what sets it apart from others on the market? Note: All prices are manufacturer’s suggested retail prices FITNESS BANDS Look around—how many of your coworkers have a bracelet on their wrist that doesn’t really look like jewelry? It might be a fitness band, which straps comfortably around the wrist and can be worn all day or just for a workout to track steps, calories burned, miles walked or ran and more. If this interests you, which one should you invest in? According to a study from market research group Argus Insights, Fitbit has about a 68% share in the fitness tracker market, making it the obvious front-runner in the industry. One example is the Fitbit Charge HR ($149.95), which tracks steps, floors climbed, sleep, heart rate during workouts and resting heart rate. As of November 2015, a new software update, SmartTrack, for the Charge (as well as its tracker brother, the Fitbit Surge) means that the tracker now automatically recognizes activities such as the elliptical machine, outdoor biking, basketball and Zumba. Although the Fitbit Charge HR is pricey, it’s also easy to use, making it appealing for beginners who are new to the fitness technology world. Along with the Charge, the Fitbit family includes the Zip (we’ll talk about that in a bit), One, Flex, and Surge; they differ in features, so try them on and test them out to see which one is up your alley. Another top-selling fitness band on the market, the Jawbone UP2 ($99.99), tracks steps, calories burned, hours slept and quality of sleep. The Jawbone family line extends to the UP, UP3 and UP4, which vary in both size and capabilities. Both Fitbit and Jawbone come with apps that can be downloaded on your smartphone to sync your data to and keep yourself on track. SMARTWATCHES While activity bands focus only on fitness and health data, smartwatches manage a lot more—including emails, phone calls, texts and web surfing, making the health aspects of the gadget a bonus. The most popular (and the most expensive) smartwatch on the market today is the Apple Watch ($349), compatible with iPhones 5 and up. It’s essentially an iPhone all on its own, but when it comes to fitness, one unique feature of the Apple Watch is its three-ring snapshot. This application monitors your fitness level across three different categories: The “stand” ring monitors how often you’ve stood throughout the day; the “move” ring tracks how many calories you’ve burned; and the “exercise” ring shows how many minutes of “brisk” activity you’ve completed. The goal is for you to complete all three rings every day to live an active lifestyle— and reminders will pop up to make sure you’re staying on top of it! The Pebble Classic ($99) is another high-quality smartwatch, which also happens to be affordable, and flexible with its ability to sync with iOS or Android phones. Like other fitness trackers, the Pebble Classic can track distance, sleep and steps, but it’s also waterproof—a feature not all trackers have. If you want a smartwatch that tracks more than just steps and sleep, the Microsoft Band 2 ($250)—just released!—might be for you, as it monitors activities such as cycling, weight lifting and playing golf. It’s one of the most advanced fitness trackers out there and happens to have smart-watch capabilities, too. ADVANCED PEDOMETERS If you’re looking for a way to track movement that’s a fraction of the price of a fitness tracker or smartwatch, let’s talk advanced pedometers—they’re not the old-school accessories that you might recall. What’s the difference between these new-school devices and the higher-priced trackers? Advanced pedometers track just steps or distance rather than heart rate, sleep and the other health data that “techier” devices offer—but that might be all you need. CNET highly recommends the Fitbit Zip ($59.95), which clips onto your belt (or other piece of clothing) and tracks steps, distance, calories burned and the number of minutes you were active during the day. As mentioned previously, though, it doesn’t offer the features of the higher-priced trackers in the Fitbit line. As a plus, though, the Zip has up to six months of battery life before recharging is necessary! Another recommended option, the Yamax EX510 ($34.95), counts steps, distance walked or ran, calories burnt and can store up to 30 days of data. The Yamax also has a dual display screen, so you can see your calories burnt and distance ran simultaneously. YOU CAN’T STOP THE BEAT Heart rate monitors (HRMs) have been around since the late-1970s, you might be surprised to learn, but the technology and varieties available have, naturally, come a long way since then. (In fact, many of the aforementioned fitness trackers, such as the Fitbit Charge HR, also monitor your heartrate, so the category these devices fit into is blurry). The main goal of an HRM is to help you maintain a proper level of intensity while exercising by continuously monitoring your heart rate. They’re most useful to those following a training plan—such as marathon runners—who use HRMs in order to reach their target heart rate. However, heart rate monitors aren’t just helpful for the potential Olympian; they also work for people who are trying to lose weight by pushing them to reach a higher level of intensity during a workout. On the other end of the spectrum, there are people who would benefit from staying at a lower level of intensity, such as someone who has suffered a heart attack. There are two types of HRMs: chest straps and strapless. CHEST STRAP MONITORS As the name indicates, this type of HRM requires a strap to be fitted around your chest; the monitor detects your pulse and sends it to the smartphone (or other compatible device), which then shows changes in your heart rate throughout your workout. Although it’s not considered the most comfortable way to work out, chest strap monitors are much more accurate than the strapless variety. For some chest strap models, a separate device needs to be purchased to view data—simply adding to the cost—but most of the newer models on the market are smartphone-compatible. Check out products from Garmin and Polar, two top-rated companies, such as the Garmin Soft Strap Premium HRM ($69.99) or the Polar H7 ($79.99). STRAPLESS MONITORS Thanks to the fitness technology revolution, HRMs no longer necessarily require straps. A watch-like device detects your heart rate through your wrist and shows changes in your pulse throughout your exercise. The Bluetooth-enabled Mio Link Heart Rate Wristband ($79) is one type of strapless heart rate monitor on the market. However, the most-notable monitor manufacturer is arguably Garmin, which produces both strapped and strapless devices. Its Forerunner 225 ($299.99), a fitness watch/HRM hybrid, was named as one of the top running products by Wareable.com (and has the price tag to prove it). TRACKING POWER Wearable fitness devices can work for people of all shapes and sizes—from the power walkers to the Olympic athletes. Not everyone needs the same type of device, but once you decide which type of technology works best for you, it can help you stay the course and achieve the goals you set. Get out there and track it! BONUS WEB CONTENT If you’re the type that needs music to get through a workout, check out the details on fashion-forward and functional sport headphones on the market. Visit www. schoolnutrition.org/snmagazinebonuscontent. APPS THAT ASSIST If you’re not big on the wearable fitness technology or want a more affordable way to stay on track, check out a few of the hundreds of free fitness apps available for your smartphone. ENDOMONDO Free for basic use. Available on Android, BlackBerry, iOS and Windows phones. Tracks runs, bike rides and other outdoor activities with precision. Provides a workout summary that includes your average pace, duration, maximum pace, calories burned, heart rate and more. With a premium subscription, you gain access to training plans and coaching features. Similar apps: MapMyRun, Strava Running and Cycling FITSTAR Free for basic use on iTunes, but only available on iOS. This app contains basic workouts that don’t require any equipment, so they can be completed anywhere. When you set up the app, it requires you to complete a fitness test; once you start your workout plan you’ll be at the appropriate intensity level. Choose to get a premium subscription to gain access to more program options, such as “Get Strong” and “Get Lean.” Similar apps: Fitness Buddy, Full Fitness THE JOHNSON & JOHNSON OFFICIAL 7-MINUTE WORKOUT Free, only available on Android and iOS phones. This app is helpful for people who don’t have time for the gym, but want to squeeze a workout into their schedule. All that’s needed is a chair and seven minutes. This app works for people of all intensity levels. Similar apps: 7-Minute Workout Challenge, Instant Fitness LOSE IT! Free. Available on Android, iOS, Kindle, Nook and online. This app is designed for counting calories and logging exercises to help with weight loss. Lose It! provides you with the number of calories you’ve consumed, and how many calories you still need to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It also takes into consideration the amount of calories burned when exercising. Similar apps: MyFitnessPal, Weight Watchers Elyssa Ganser is a senior at the Pennsylvania State University (University Park), majoring in public relations, and a former editorial intern for School Nutrition. Photos courtesy of Fitbit, Jawbone, Apple, Pebble, Microsoft, Yamax, Polar, Garmin and Mio.
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