If you were ever laughed at for being a scrawny geek, take heart. Brand new tech promises to get you back in shape At the very outset let me start with a disclaimer. That six-pack body image right on the top is not mine. That guy still needs to work out quite a bit more to come anywhere close to my super-buffed-eight-pack-prime-lean-all muscular ‘made with technology’ body!
Technology has taken great strides in almost every field – but unfortunately, not much has really happened in the tech and personal fitness field.
In our quest for true fitness, we’ve always been handicapped by motivation and real-time feedback. We all start well, with high motivation levels, hit the gym or the track religiously and are very careful about what we eat. The problem starts when we have to do this for a long period of time without any real feedback about how well we did each day. The holy grail of fitness and weight loss is actually pretty simple – the number of calories you eat should be lower than the number of calories you burn per day.
Gymming the wrong way
The classic mistake is to have a blinding two-hour workout and then lead a very sedentary day after that. Despite ‘going to the gym’, you will still pack on the fat because your total calorie burn was inadequate. Thus the key is to maintain an active lifestyle through the day. And keep a fair track of what you eat. And sleep well. What if there was a device that could do all that? That would be a great motivator and also a fantastic record of literally you and your life! And while we are at it, could we make sure the device was small, accurate and worked with no effort from our side? Done!
In the last year or so, the market has exploded with some serious new technology in this field. While there have always been pedometers and heart rate monitors, these have been pretty klunky and don’t track you 24x7. Enter the Fitbit and the Bodymedia Fit. While there are more like the Nike+ (not useful for whole day monitoring), Philips Directlife (expensive monthly commitment) the Gruve Muve (needs a lot of input), these two have got most things right.
This is a tiny little device that you clip onto your clothes. This ‘tracker’ contains a motion sensor (pretty much like what the Nintendo Wii has) and as you move, walk, run or work out, it tracks you in three dimensions and stores it as it happens. It can measure the stride level, calories burned, steps taken, distance covered and activity level in the last few minutes. Even better, it can also tell you how long you slept, how well you slept and the number of times you woke up.
The base station is intelligent enough to wirelessly upload all this data to a website the minute you are close to it, at which time the Fitbit website runs some pretty cool analytics on it. It pits you against friends and the entire Fitbit online community and makes sure that you keep on your toes. The graphs, charts and comparatives it churns out are awesome.
What doesn’t work: The website does need you to upload your food intake. But after you’ve done it four or five times, it’s pretty much automated and a quick drag and drop exercise. Some activities like lifting weights or swimming may need to be uploaded manually.
The BodyMedia Fit
This one takes technology to a whole new level by sitting on your skin and monitoring 9,000 (which seems a bit of an exaggeration) different combinations of data, like skin temperature, galvanic skin sweat, heat flux and muscle activity. You strap it behind your tricep and forget it’s there. But Bodymedia doesn’t let you forget a thing. It’ll tell you exactly what you’ve been up to – including if you walked up on an incline or worked harder on the lower half of your body. It needs to be plugged into a USB port to upload this information but it does give you a complete report of progress toward your weight loss and fitness goals, including the number of steps taken, time spent in low or vigorous activity and sleep efficiency.
What doesn’t work: You can’t swim with it, it needs a monthly payment for website usage and you have to keep it strapped on all day. FitBit and Bodymedia are perfect examples of the great strides technology has taken. Small devices that can do what a room full of computers couldn’t do a few years ago. They are great motivators, will give you info you can use, tweak your workouts and food intake, make you sleep better and give you the consistency you need to achieve your objectives. Now if only they could also monitor the food I put into my mouth and give me a bit of a jolt when I shove in the second piece of tiramisu! Maybe in version 2.0?
Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3
Follow Rajiv on Twitter at twitter.com/RajivMakhni