As I write this article its the second week in January. In the fitness industry this can be one of the busiest months in the gym as people for good reason set themselves the goal of getting fit and losing some weight. With that in mind you may have dropped subtle hints to the people that love you that your in the market for a fitness tracker. Now if Santa was kind, you may already have one and you will now have a good idea about what they can do for you. However if your a bit of a technophobe and would like to know if its worth investing in one stick with me and I will do my best to describe the different types what they can offer and if its actually worth buying one. Now the market is full of them with the newest smartphones and watches incorporating them within the device itself. So if you have a recent phone you actually may already own one without realising it so before you go investing in one check the specifications of your phone or smartwatch.
So lets start with the basics what exactly are they?
The term "fitness trackers" now primarily refers to wearable devices that monitor and record a person's fitness activity. Electronic activity trackers are fundamentally upgraded versions of pedometers; in addition to counting steps, they use accelerometers and altimeters to calculate mileage, graph overall physical activity, calculate calorie expenditure, and in some cases also monitor and graph heart rate data and quality of sleep. Some also include a silent alarm.
You might not think so but the fitness trackers have been around since 2009 however its only in the last few years that they’ve become a normal wearable item. The majority of these are now linked by bluetooth to an application on your phone which allows you to monitor the data. I feel this is the most important part of the device. Because whats the point of having the data if your not going to act upon the information it provides. Linked with these apps plenty now allow you to export this data into say an excel spreadsheet and map your fitness over periods of years. I think when your data data is placed into a spreadsheet it allows you to understand it much easier. You can also add notes to your spreadsheet such as your fitness regimes at the time and what kind of diet you were following. By knowing this you can interpret your data with much more accuracy.
So now you have a basic understanding of what they are do you actually need one?
There are many fitness trackers around these days with prices starting from around £15 right up to hundreds of pounds. As with most technology the more you pay the more it generally does. So when considering your purchase work out what do you actually need it for.
The most basic fitness tracker will track your movements and equate this to calories burned.
So if all you want to do as part of your fitness lifestyle is achieve a minimum amount of steps each day then one of these will do the job. A standard recognised daily goal is 10,000 steps which equates to around 5 miles. The benefits of walking this daily distance has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease reduce high blood pressure whilst strengthening bones and muscles.
Not to mention burning around 500 calories a day. Ive mentioned this in other articles in that one pound of fat equates to 3500 calories. So walking 10,000 steps a day has the potential to burn one pound of fat a week.
If your goals are more in depth you may want a fitness tracker that constantly measures your heart rate and even your heart rate variability. These are handy if you want to measure your heart rate whilst training. Your heart rate when under load such as running is a good indication of your level of fitness. Therefore when tracked over several months under a training regime you should see your heart rate reduce under the same load several months later. This would show that your heart has to work less to achieve the same output ie your cardiovascular fitness has improved. Likewise your night time resting heart rate is also a good indicator of your level of fitness. When tracked over a period of time a reduction would be an indication of increased cardiovascular fitness.
Also your night time resting heart rate when elevated would be an indication that you are suffering from a fever.
One of the main reasons I have in fact two fitness trackers is to monitor my sleep patterns.
Now the importance of sleep is a whole article in itself which I will cover in the coming weeks but its safe to say that adequate sleep is one of the most important aspects of a healthy lifestyle.
Sleep trackers can provide a fascinating insight into the mysterious third of your life you spend asleep. It might not be as accurate as a professional assessment, but a sleep tracker can give you useful information about the quality of your sleep, and then help you take steps to improve it.
There are four stages of sleep: Awake, Light, Deep and REM. However not all fitness trackers will monitor sleep patterns and those that do will might not give you data about all four stages of sleep. However they will all give you total time slept which is good if you want to know your getting your daily 8 hours. The main reason for monitoring my sleep is an attempt to increase my ‘Deep Sleep’. My average used to be about an hour but now Ive managed to increase it close to 2 hours by taking various steps which I will cover in the sleep article.
Again tracking your sleep and exporting it into a spreadsheet enables you to add notes such as when you had your last meal what it was and when you last consumed caffeine. All these can affect your quality of sleep.
By doing this you will identify what works for you. This will enable you to achieve quality sleep which in turn will then affect everything you then do the following day. It has been clinically proven that the brain works best with optimum quality sleep.
Here at Peak DNA we don’t endorse any products but I have the following fitness trackers.
I first bought an Xiaomi Miband 2 which I liked and has since been replaced by a Miband 3. I think the current version is the Miband 4. Now you may not have heard of Xiaomi but they are the Chinese equivalent of Apple. They make quality products at much cheaper prices. My band cost around £20. It cover things such a steps walked calories burnt, heart rate and sleep patterns It also syncs with my Iphone and send my messages to my wrist along with the weather. It is small in size is totally waterproof and the battery lasts over a week. The sleep tracker measures my total and deep sleep cycles and scores me out of 100 against other Miband users around the world. You get marked down for having more than 8 hours of sleep. Again its proven that too much sleep is not good for you. It also has a silent alarm which vibrates on your wrist. This is great when you need to get up without waking your partner.
I also have a Motiv fitness tracking ring. This does mostly the same things as the Miband 3 but its all contained in a nice looking titanium ring. This also measures my night resting heart rate which for me is around 60bpm. When it rises to over 70 I know I’m coming down with some sort of illness. If I had to choose one I would choose the Miband as the ring needs charging every 3 days. Im am in the process of purchasing an Oura ring so will report back with that on my article about heart rate variability.
So if you fancy purchasing a fitness tracker do your research and pick the one that suits your needs.