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How to use your smartphone to monitor your health!

Updated on June 18, 2015
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Ready, steady.....not so fast!

I've written a couple of articles about smart phones and thought I would broaden my devices to a couple of health and fitness gadgets that I was lucky enough to test out. I also penned an article about my losing weight around the concept of: meaningful, manageable and measurable. This article goes for the latter: measurable part of the plan.

I tested out two different unit that are designed to measure your steps and thus your calories burned during the day. These gadgets are smart enough to know how to count stairs your have climbed as well as how well you are sleeping during the night and both offer a web based dashboard to show you the collected data and help you meet your target as well as smartphone apps that displays data collected via the web and one of the units allow you to sync your data via bluetooth directly to your smart phone. You caloric intake can be entered via the app or via the web.


BodyMedia FIT Link

This unit comes with an arm band and uses bluetooth to synchronize the data to your phone to the web as well as directly to your computer when you plug it into the computer for charging. The units collect a lot of data about your activities and even stores your skin temperature - so it knows you are doing a hard workout or whether you are shopping in the mall. It is intended to be worn 23 hours of the day and 1 hour off so that you can rince the armband and charge the unit up as well. After about a week I started to have an allergetic reaction to something in the band and was told that I must be the 1 in a 1000 user with that issue as most people have no problems with it. I kept it on for another week or so just for the trial purposes and I wanted to see how accurate the unit is.

Having the ability to directly sync with my smartphone is great as the unit does not have it's own display. This way I can keep track of my activities as and when I wanted - very nice! The web is well designed and very easy & pleasant to use. Only slight issue - and this is not only with BodyMedia was the way you enter your caloric intake for the day. The selection of food options is not great and I understand it's being improved all the time but I did have to "make do" with something similar and that bugs me a little as it makes the calories less accurate.

The web site is called the Online Activity Manager and costs $6.95/month (1st 3 months free) but it is very informative and if you are serious about losing some weight and/or maintain your fitness level it is well worth looking into to see if it suits you. The unit has been clinically tested and used by many weight loss organisations as their main daily device to gather the necessary data.

Overall the unit for me was comfortable to wear but my allergy came back and I stopped using it to test the next health and fitness gadget.

Fitbit Ultra Wireless Activity Plus Sleep Tracker

Wow, that's a mouth full! The unit itself is tiny and that the biggest problem I've heard about it - people tend to loose it ;-) For me this was the perfect unit. It's about the size of a wooden clothes peg but slightly shorter. Has a bright and clear display that tells you your steps taken, activity level, calories burned (based on the number of steps taken and a base burn rate and the time. I wear the unit on my belt and it's virtually invisible and you forget it's there. I noticed I started looking for it when I go out and really started to notice the number of steps I take everyday. Like BodyMedia, FitBit offers an app for your smartphone and it also has a web site for viewing your collected data. It comes with a charging/synching stand with you connect to your computer to charge/synch your data. The web access if free to use - which is a real bonus as it's very nice to use and looks well designed.

Similarly the caloric data input caused me some issues so either I have a strange diet or both of these food databases need to improve ;-) I really liked this unit as it is so small and for me I really just needed to have an accurate step counter with the ability to track stairs climbed and via the app see my calorie usage.

Conclusion

Both of these units have been on the market for a number of years and have done extremely well in their respective niche. For seriously looking into controlling your weight the BodyMedia FIT Link have been seen on the market as the unit to get. For the other folks who work out and just want to maintain their level of fitness and activity the FitBit Ultra seems to be more popular. I must say having the display - although tiny - on the unit was very motivating and I even started taking the staircase at the office rather than the elevator just to try to reach my "steps" target for the day - which is BTW 10,000 steps :-)

Both of these units are very much due for an update especially since the smartphones are now coming out with a better version of Bluetooth 4.0 called Bluetooth Smart or BT LE or Low Energy. This means these future devices will be constantly connected to your smartphone for realtime data display and may even add features such as your rate and blood flow.

With the release of the Apple Watch I will update this article once the dust settles. As it's a version 1 we will expect to see a lot of new apps and usage scenarios coming forward. Monday June 8th 2015 will no doubt be more news on the forward march of this new device and being Apple we will see an improving product as time goes on.

Whether you use these gadgets or not it is important to keep healthy. For me I believe that in testing and using these health gadgets I understand a lot more about what I eat and how much exercise I need to take in order not to gain weight. Over time you will strike a balance and when that happens you won't be needing these gadgets to tell you how you're doing. But before that time, these are very helpful health tools for the everyday person to use and start taking care of your own health.

If you have any questions on the products in the article, drop me a line and I'll be happy to help!

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