As many move to make physical activity a more engrained part of their lives, technology is keeping pace. The latest crop of wearable gadgets can track your every move, the amount of calories you burn and even the quality of your sleep.
An activity tracker can help you see how much you exercise (or don’t), and can motivate you to make small changes to your daily routine to get out and moving more. At the very least, they will make you more mindful of where your present activity level is, which is the biggest first step in getting fit. Finding the right one will be based on your individual needs. Whether that’s step counting, sleep tracking or around-the-clock heart rate monitoring, there is something for everyone on the market. It’s all about finding the right fit for you.
If you are new to the world of fitness tracking and technology, your smart phone is a great place to start. Apps such as Moves, Runtastic, or Apple’s Health program run in the background and use your phone to figure out what you’re up to. These apps provide a great way to tackle your basic tracking, whether it be daily steps, daily nutrition or nightly sleep activity.
The biggest secret in buying fitness trackers? You don’t need to spend a small fortune to land yourself a tracker that does the fundamentals. The more inexpensive clips and bands are a good place to start to track your basic steps and estimated calories burned in a day. While you may not have a screen, these fitness trackers will still sync to your phone via Bluetooth so you can easily check your status in their corresponding apps. Both the Misfit Flash and Jawbone UP Move sell more inexpensive trackers that you can clip to your pants or wear on a wristband.
If a sleeker looking band and a better screen are on your list of must-haves, there are many more options available at a slightly higher cost. For the most part, these trackers provide the same features, with possibly some upgrades such as sleep tracking and heart rate monitoring. The Nike+ FuelBand, FitBit, Runtastic Orbit, Mio Fuse and Garmin Vivosmart are a few such options.
One of the downsides of fitness trackers is that they are great at generating a lot of data, but often don’t give much guidance on what to do with that data. This is where fitness bands are headed. Instead of merely looking at basic activity monitoring, the next generation of bands have sensors that can track your heart rate, location and even your perspiration. These will begin to make sense of all of the incoming information to provide you with better health and fitness advice. The Basis Peak and Microsoft Band are two early examples of that future. For a steep price, you can get all of that technology right on your wrist.
Fitness trackers and technology seem to be shaping up even faster than we are. The sheer number out on the market today is staggering. However, concentrating on the basics and starting small is the best place to begin. Focus on your daily patterns and where you can make small improvements. Then, as you begin to widen your physical activity and health horizons, your technology can begin to evolve right along with you.
Sarah Dreifke is a freelance writer based in DeKalb, IL with a passion for nutrition education and the prevention of chronic disease. She holds a Bachelor of Science in both Dietetics and Life Sciences Communication from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Currently, she is working towards a combined Master’s Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics as well as a dietetic internship at Northern Illinois University.