Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Tracking fitness

Fitness Tech......

Activity trackers and fitness trackers are all the rage these days. It seems like every other day there is a new device on the market. Are these wrist worn devices worth your time and money? My answer to this question is yes. In my last post I said I would be reviewing some of the devices that I have used, but first I wanted to make a post about why you should get one, if your thinking about it.
Let me be clear in saying that fitness trackers/watches offer just estimates. There is no device on the market today that will give you exact numbers of calories burned. If you are using a tracker with no heart rate monitor you are just basing your calorie expenditure on an algorithm, as opposed to actual heart rate data. Heart rate data will offer a much more accurate figure in terms of calorie burn.

Why would you want to purchase one? 

The best answer to this is that you would be able to trend your own data over time. You can see how many days of the week you are active, at what time of the day you are most active, least active, etc. I like to record specific workouts and use a heart rate monitor to see how my endurance is improving... this leads me into the next section:

What type of tracker should I purchase?

I do see the value in counting steps if you are a couch potato. For me, that doesn't really matter. There have been days that I have taken less than 1,000 steps and burned over 600 calories in a workout, doing hundreds of heavy kettle bell swings. For me, the most actionable data comes from measuring your heart rate during activity over time. Trending this type of data will show you how you are improving over time.

Optical heart rate or chest strap?

There are a lot of new devices coming out with on board optical heart rate sensors. Unfortunately, they all suck (except for one, review coming soon -stay tuned!). I do a lot of strength training, including  kettle bell work, and unfortunately optical hear rate sensors do not do well when there is a lot of dynamic arm movement during exercise. For cardio based workouts (running, elliptical machine, stair master etc) most sensors work just fine.
I love the idea of an optical hear rate sensor, if it is accurate.
The benefits of optical sensors are many:

1. less equipment to carry to the gym, or wherever you work out.
2. You can virtually track a work out anywhere , anytime if you are wearing your wrist worn device.
3.No uncomfortable chest strap!

The good news is that the technology is improving quickly. At the moment I am not ready to give up accurate data for comfort, so I will continue to be married to my chest strap.

Here are a few reasons to jump into this fitness wearable tech frenzy:

It will keep you accountable:

Let me explain... the device itself will probably not keep you accountable, but every time you think about ho much money you spent on the device it should motivate you to be active, these things aren't cheap. I remember when I was not so motivated to work out, remembering that I was paying $75.00 / month for my gym membership always motivated me to get up and work out.

A tracker will give you a better estimate of how active you are and how many calories you are burning. If you couple this data with a good food tracking program like Myfitnesspal (review coming soon) you will be able to meet your goals with a lot less guess work, whether you are trying to gain muscle or lose a few pounds.

Trackers will motivate you:

Literally.. a common feature in a lot trackers is a move reminder. If you are sedentary for too long you will get a light vibration and message asking you to get up and move.

Social pressure (peer)

Some of the current platforms, for example fitbit, offer a lot of opportunities for friendly competition. So if you and your buddies have the same tracker you can compete to see who takes more steps, or burns more calories in a week.

I hope this brief snap shot of a very broad topic helps to shed some light on what type of tracker  suits you best. I will be posting information about the device that I am currently using and ones that I have used in the past. Like always, we thank you for supporting our site and podcast! Look out for a new podcast episode, coming this week!!!!

-ef


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