We know that an active lifestyle and healthy eating habits are the key to wellbeing. Yet we have become adapted to a lifestyle where we take care of our physical fitness by driving by car to the gym after a day of sitting in meetings and classes.
It’s just that by itself that is not enough to keep me fit — or feeling well enough. This seems to be the case for everyone.
How much is enough?
For those wanting to lose weight, a study in 2009 shows that the amount of exercise needed is in the range of 200-300 minutes a week. As 50 minutes sessions this means five times a week: as 42 minute sessions, it’s six.
For many this poses a challenge, with our lifestyle become more and more hectic all the time. We can work around this by focusing on what happens around these sessions.
50 minutes of intensive training (such as going to the gym, bodypump or yoga class, for example) in an otherwise sedentary lifestyle is not as effective as that same training session in a somewhat active lifestyle.
An “active lifestyle” may not seem doable for everyone, but what if we have a motivator? What if we get actual data of how active we are outside the gym or yoga class?
Turn it on
Both smartphone apps and heart rate monitors need a bit of preparation to get them going. The app needs to be started, claiming the device’s screen: the heart rate monitor requires you to put the strap on and start it. In other words, we are giving them the go-signal, telling us and them that we’re starting to exercise.
This limits them somewhat, pushing them to “move with a purpose” category. In other words, they tend to suck for tracking our daily life.
Realizing this, a few companies have rolled out various fitness devices, designed to improve and track our overall activity. This has created a whole new category of wearable gadgets.
Jawbone Up, Nike FuelBand and FitBit are examples of wearable fitness gadgets. All of them work towards the same goal: they track your daily life automatically, and collect their findings to a service for you to browse later on.
Essentially these devices are enhanced step-meters, with accelerometers to help them deduce what’s happening. Their key lies both in their automation and the services they are tied to.
These kinds of trackers you just put on: the FuelBand and Up go to your wrist and FitBit goes just about anywhere (according to sales material, women tend to wear it on their bra). There are no power buttons for starting. You just go ahead with your day, and the thing tracks everything. On FitBit and FuelBand you can easily check your progress by pushing a button: boh have a screen which shows you statistics.
The collected data is uploaded to the relevant service, each unique according to the device. Some of these services can be interlinked with other services, such as FourSquare or Facebook.
The result is a non-intrusive device which turns our entire day into an exercise, instead of just that 50 minute spurt. Easy to use, as they need no actions from us to actually work.
To my mind, these are exactly the sort of devices that benefit those who have a hard time being active enough during their daily lives. When faced with pure data, the facts become undeniable.
The Jawbone Up has had a rocky road, with the first batch of devices not living up to promises. Both the Up and FitBit can also track your sleep, while the Nike FuelBand focuses almost purely on activity.
The FuelBand is not yet available here, but I managed to get a FitBit few weeks ago. I’ll write more detailed post about it later.