By Marc Saltzman
IT’S A BRAND-NEW YEAR—following an indulgent holiday season, perhaps—so how are those
resolutions coming along?
If you’re human, you might’ve fallen off the
wagon already, especially if your goal this year was
to lose weight and get fit. Fortunately, technology
can help give you the kick in the pants you need.
You’re probably aware of those trendy fitness
bands that can count steps, stairs climbed, calories
burned and total distance traveled. Many of these
inexpensive high-tech bracelets display data on
the device itself, and can send information
to an accompanying app on a nearby
smartphone, tablet or computer, via
Bluetooth. Consider them the modern version of the pedometer.
These gadgets can help you
meet your fitness goals. Here’s a look
at several key features of the latest
Utilizing a free companion app or website, many of today’s activity trackers let you set
personal goals, such as walking 10,000 steps per day
or perhaps losing weight over a period of time (say,
a certain number of pounds in four weeks).
Therefore, you’re not just measuring your physical
activity, but working toward a target.
As extra incentive, many activity trackers let
you earn trophies, badges and other accolades that
serve as motivators.
Tracking your sleep
Activity trackers measure motion such as
walking, jogging and running, and, in some
cases, cycling and swimming. Most of them
can monitor your sleep, too.
If you wear one of these devices while
sleeping, the sensors can detect if you woke
up during the night, when and for how long.
The information can be seen in chart and
graph form on an app or website, which you
can use to track your own fitness plan or share
with a physician for further analysis.
Monitoring your heart rate
Some activity trackers have an optical sensor on
the underside that touches your skin and detects
your resting and active heart rate (measured in beats
per minute). Some work with an optional chest-strap monitor for more accurate readings.
Many exercisers like having a heart-rate monitor to ensure they’re in the “sweet spot”—where
Costco carries Fitbit and
Jawbone fitness bands in
the warehouses, and an
additional selection of fitness
devices on Costco.com
their body is being pushed just hard enough without the risk of injury. Also, some exercise programs
are developed around exercising in certain heart-rate zones.
On the flip side, those with a pre-existing condition can benefit from seeing their heart rate to
avoid entering the danger zone. Check with your
doctor if you have questions.
They can be social
Many fitness bands come with a
social media element, an opt-in feature that lets you share your fitness
progress with people on Facebook
and Twitter, for example. (Yes,
you can have your milestones
blasted out as a status update or
tweet without having to manually type in the info.)
Of course, weight-loss and
fitness goals are a very private
matter to some, so it’s all optional.
Others, however, might find it motivating to share their progress with select
friends, so the option is there for those who want it.
Caloric intake, too
Finally, a few of the leading activity meters can
also help you manage what you eat, usually via the
companion app or website.
Fitbit devices, for example, work with several
third-party apps ( fitbit.com/apps), which can
leverage the data collected by the activity tracker.
One such supported app is Lose It! Instead of
typing in your daily activities (with estimated calories burned), you can sync your Fitbit to the Lose
It! app to automatically import your exercise information. You will still need to manually type in what
you’re eating, however.
Looking for new apps isn’t for everyone,
though. The free app that works with a fitness
band is usually enough for most users.
Bottom line? Activity trackers are a great starting tech tool to help you track your fitness goals.
More complex options are available, such as smart
watches with built-in GPS and heart-rate monitors. A little research and a look at your budget can
help you find the right device for your needs. C
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Q&A with Marc Saltzman
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activity, but wo
a leading high-tech
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Using tech for new year’s goals