Whether you’re buying a fitness tracker for yourself to jumpstart a New Year’s resolution or as a gift this holiday season, the options are plenty.
Wearable fitness-tracking technology has gone beyond the low-tech pedometer. Several devices now offer the capability to track everything from activity levels to calorie intake to sleep levels.
“It’s good to be able to track your progress, track calories taken in and put out, so I do think devices that can do that are beneficial, if you pay attention to it,” said Andrew Porter, a sports and family medicine doctor with Via Christi Family Medicine and Specialty Clinic and team doctor for Wichita State and Newman universities.
According to PC Magazine, the market for activity trackers has skyrocketed in the past year, with new ones showing up almost monthly.
Fitbit is probably the most well-known manufacturer of activity devices. Other brands include Jawbone, Nike, Garmin and Misfit.
More smartwatches are also becoming available. The watches go way beyond telling time, with the ability to keep you connected to digital and social media and run apps.
Trackers aren’t just for adults, either.
According to pediatrician Amy Seery with the Via Christi Family Medicine Residency Program, there’s been an explosion of fitness trackers and healthy apps for kids. Several use a “storyline” feature, Seery noted, that can encourage kids to get moving and earn rewards.
For example, with the relatively low-cost kids’ tracker LeapBand ($29.99 at Wal-Mart), the wearer can create games and activities for a virtual pet as the child increases his activity levels.
“A storyline ... can be real motivating,” Seery said. And so can a healthy competition among family members to see who has taken the most steps, she said.
What to consider
If you’re thinking of buying someone a gift to get fit, there are several things you’ll need to consider, ranging from cost to functionality to versatility, when it comes to fitness trackers.
Also be sure it’s something that fits the person’s lifestyle, said Porter, the sports medicine doctor.
You may also want to keep in mind that about a third of wearable technology owners tend to stop using them after six months, according to a recent survey by Endeavor Partners, a technology consulting company.
Some of the options to consider include:
▪ How it is worn. Wrist-worn devices can range from slim, bracelet-like shapes to more bulky watch-like trackers. Clip-on devices are also available.
▪ What it will track. Less-expensive trackers may track just physical activities, while others can track heart rate and sleep levels. Some, like the Garmin Vivofit, can remind you with a digital display to get up and move. Check whether the tracker is waterproof or water-resistant, if the ability to do water activities or shower with the device is important.
▪ Battery life. The battery life on trackers can vary from four days (Nike+FuelBand) to a year (Garmin Vivofit) before they need recharging. Others, like the Fitbit Zip, have a replaceable battery. Check the length of battery life and how expensive it is to replace, if necessary.
▪ Costs. Trackers can range from an inexpensive, clip-on pedometer from a neighborhood pharmacy to track steps to a smartwatch that combines all the technology of e-mail, apps and other digital functionality with apps. Some manufacturers like Fitbit and Jawbone, for example, offer various models at different prices, ranging from about $50 (Jawbone UpMove) to nearly $250 for a high-end tracker like the Fitbit Surge, which the company calls a “super watch.”
▪ Usability and connectivity. Some trackers come with a display on the device, while some, like the Jawbone, do not. Find out whether it has an associated app or website to load the data. Check whether the device has Wi-Fi capabilities, uses Bluetooth or has to be plugged into a smartphone or computer before accessing the data. Confirm the compatibility of your fitness tracker with your smartphone, tablet or computer.
▪ Social media integration. Friends, family and co-workers who use the same brand may want to use an online platform to help motivate one another or even set up fun competitions. Seery, the pediatrician, says to take caution in the use of social media integration for children’s devices, for cybersecurity reasons.
The latest personal fitness gadgets will help you smash your personal record, break you out of your fitness rut and persuade you to get sweaty.
Garmin Edge 500
This is all the intelligence gathering you need when you cycle. It records your distance, speed and time; it pinpoints your location; and it tracks your elevation so you will know when the hill will finally end. The Garmin Edge 500 also allows you to create custom routes and workouts online at garminconnect.com, which you can follow as you cycle. $199 at garmin.com
JayBird Reign Activity Tracker
Feel like skipping a workout? You’ll need to place your finger on your JayBird sensor for two minutes first. It measures your heart rate variability, and it will give you a score that will tell you whether you’re actually too fatigued to work out. This tracker, which looks like a modern bracelet, goes beyond the regular fitness-tracking stuff to even tell you how much sleep you need tonight to be ready to work out tomorrow. The tracker was released this month. $199 at jaybirdsport.com
Recon Snow2 Ski Goggles
When you pop these on, they will provide you with onboard performance stats, navigation info and buddy tracking. They have a dedicated graphics-processing unit providing brightness and contrast along with screen readability, so
If you’re looking to give a gift to encourage getting active, trackers aren’t the only options, said two area doctors.
“In the end, I’m a fan of kinetic toys that get you moving and challenge motor skills,” said Amy Seery, a pediatrician and faculty member with the Via Christi Family Medicine Residency Program. Jump ropes and bicycles with helmets can keep kids moving as well.
Some people really enjoy working out to DVDs, whether they are actual workout DVDs or entertainment DVDs, said Andrew Porter, a sports and family medicine doctor with Via Christi Family Medicine and Specialty Clinic. Last year, for example, Porter purchased the entire set of Jack Ryan movies to watch while he cycled indoors.
Here are just a handful of wearable technology devices that are on the market. All the models listed are both activity and sleep trackers that use a free app installed on a smartphone or tablet. Food intake and calorie use are also tracked. Users sync the data to track activity and progress.
Fitbit Charge: The Charge is the latest model from Fitbit, the 7-year-old company that popularized fitness trackers. This model costs about $30 more than the the Fitbit Flex, but it also functions as a watch. (A heart monitor will be available on the Charge HR, set to roll out in 2015.) This water-resistant tracker will track steps taken, stairs climbed and monitor your sleep. Its memory feature will track seven days’ worth of detailed motion data and will track daily totals for the past month. It features a back-lit LED display that will display stats and a silent, vibrating alarm to wake you up. It also displays Caller ID for incoming calls with compatible phones.
Cost: $129.99 at fitbit.com
Jawbone Up Move
One of the least expensive and more colorful trackers, the Jawbone Up is a clip-on tracker with an optional strap for those who’d rather sport a wrist device. Among its selling features are its vibrant colors and its accompanying Smart Coach software, which tracks a user’s progress and makes healthy lifestyle recommendations. It is splash resistant and has an LED display for time and at-a-glance progress.
Cost: $49.99 for the clip-on and about $15 for an optional strap at jawbone.com.
Billed by its manufacturer as “an elegant” tracker, this device can be worn in a variety of ways and on practically any part of your body. It is interchangeable as a wrist or pendant device, or it can be slipped in a pocket. The device itself is a metallic orb that comes in 10 colors. It also can be used as a watch. The Misfit Shine is one of the few waterproof trackers, allowing it to be used by swimmers. Its halo of lights indicates activity levels.
Cost : $99.99 for the device, with accessories ranging from $29.99 for a pack of three sport bands to $79.99 for a stainless steel pendant at misfit.com
The Peak model, just released in November, is replacing the Basis Carbon Steel Edition and still features a heart rate monitor and skin temperature and perspiration sensors. With all its functionality and data insights, the Basis Peak is among the larger-sized wrist-worn trackers. It has a Gorilla Glass touchscreen and is water-resistant. According to promotional material, Peak is the only fitness and sleep tracker that automatically detects sleeping cycles, including REM and deep sleep. It also detects your type of activity, whether it’s biking, running or walking. A free, future upgrade will provide customized smartwatch notifications and alerts.
Cost: $199.99 at Amazon.com and Best Buy
An upgraded model to the Garmin Vivofit, this tracker became available this fall. The Vivosmart has more functionality than the Vivofit, offering autosyncing; notifications about incoming texts, e-mails or calls; and a touchscreen. Like the Vivosmart, in addition to telling the time, it also tells you to move with an alert bar that activates if you’ve been inactive for an hour. You can swim or shower with the device. It can be paired with an optional heart rate monitor and bike speed sensor.
Cost: $169.99 at garmin.com
Compiled by Amy Geiszler-Jones
there’s virtually no blur along the screen’s edges. The vital info is there when you want it, and it’s out of sight when you don’t. You will be able to see everything from your speed to your jump air time, navigation, distance using the goggles’ built-in precision GPS and an integrated suite of sensors so you will always know how fast you’re going, how many vertical feet you have descended and how far you went. $549 for the Snow2 HUD & UVEX G.GL 9 Bundle at reconinstruments.com
Withings Smart Body Analyzer
Step onto this scale, and, in addition to your weight, it will give you your body-fat measurement and your body-mass index. You can also take your pulse every time you weigh yourself, and the scale will check the indoor air quality through its temperature and carbon dioxide measuring app to let you know when to clear the air. It can recognize as many as eight users, so everyone can have his or her own user profile and can access it independently. $149.95 at withings.com
Wear this with or without a helmet, and it will log the total number of impacts you get. The motion sensors will alert the athlete, coach and parent to the severity of the impacts, and it’s designed to help them figure out whether they need to get further assessment of a possible concussion or injury. $150 at reebok.com
Schwinn CycleNav Smart Bike Navigator
The CycleNav attaches to your handlebars and syncs with your smartphone via Bluetooth. It’s the perfect accessory for the cyclist who wants to explore without getting lost. After you enter the destination, the CycleNav will provide audio commands and visual light indicators to get you there. At the end of the trip, it records stats from your journey, including distance, duration and calories burned, and you can share these stats on social networks. $60 at shop.schwinnbikes.com