One recent morning, I woke up at 6:45, spent 20 minutes preparing for the day, and then strolled down the hall to my home office. In that time, I’d walked only about 400 steps and burned about 200 calories, and things went downhill from there. According to a log created by Fitbit, a tiny gadget that hooks onto my belt loop and tracks my activities, I had only tiny spurts of movement the rest of the day.
Although Fitbit doesn’t explicitly acknowledge this in its marketing materials, the gadget makes you feel bad about yourself. The device ($100) is a super-powered pedometer; it monitors movement while you sleep as well as counts your steps, and it sends all the data back to Fitbit’s web-based tracking programme, which displays your lethargy in precise graphs that economists use to monitor recessions.
Fitbit is one of the best of several health-related gadgets I’ve tested recently. They run the gamut — a few were modern versions of old technology, including a novel body scale, blood-pressure monitors and a thermometer.Take, for instance, the MyTrek, a wireless pulse monitor made by Scosche. The $129 workout device, which will go on sale this fall at Apple, Target and 24 Hour Fitness stores, slips around your arm, where it tracks your pulse and your movements.
The MyTrek connects to an iPhone or iPod Touch, which displays and remembers all your workout statistics. It shows a graph of your pulse rate throughout the exercise session, the number of calories burned, and the distance travelled. But I was disappointed that the MyTrek data can be viewed only on an Apple device. The company plans an app for Android phones to be released next year, and a representative said it was considering offering ways to view your pulse data on the Web or other devices as well.
I also tested the Withings WiFi Body Scale ($159), which in some respects works like every other bathroom scale: You step on it, it displays your weight. But then it transmits the data over your home Internet connection to your computer or your phone (it works on Macs and Windows, as well as Android phones, the iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch). The software displays a graph of your weight over time and calculates your fat percentage and body-mass index.
Withings also makes a blood-pressure monitor that works with the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. It sells for about $130, while another Apple-friendly blood-pressure monitor, made by iHealth, sells for about $100.
Each worked the same way: After connecting it to my phone, I slipped the cuff around my arm and pressed Start. Within a minute, my reading appeared on my phone. Each app saves your readings, so you can see how your blood pressure changes over time.
Of all the gadgets I tried, my favourite is the Exergen TemporalScanner, $33 on Amazon. Place the thermometer on the forehead, hit the scan button and slowly slide the thermometer across the skin. The temperature reading appears instantly. Who can resist?
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