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Busting five fitness band myths

Your fitness band is the poster boy of wearable devices. Here’s what you should remember when wearing one, says Rajiv Makhni

brunch Updated: Dec 10, 2016 18:47 IST
Rajiv Makhni
Rajiv Makhni
Hindustan Times
Fitness bands,Fitbit,Pebble

‘Fitbit to acquire smartwatch maker Pebble.’ Fairly innocuous headline but within it lies a dark and damaging story about the lofty highs and the spiralling lows of the smartwatch and fitness band world. Misfit was sold to Fossil, Nokia bought Withings, Jawbone wants to be sold quickly, most smartwatch makers are holding off launching new devices (LG, Huawei, Motorola) and brands that were going to launch smartwatches have mostly abandoned the idea completely. Even Fitbit stock valuations have had a meltdown of epic proportions. Not the best report card for what was supposed to be the poster boy category for the wearables market.

The problem lies in expectations. People expect a lot out of fitness bands assuming that the device is a magic wand that will make you a bundle of health and beauty on its own. When these expectations aren’t met, users abandon their device in droves, losing out on a fantastic guide towards much better fitness and health benefits. Time for a surgical strike on wrongful expectations around a fitness band.

Fitbit is considered as one of the most popular fitness bands

A fitness band will make me lose weight

It may well be the opposite and make you put on some. People tend to get carried away with the data a fitness band generates. Specially the calorie burn numbers. At best, it’s a general number that is calculated based on steps taken, active amount of exercise done in a day, your height and weight that you enter into the app and some more doodah algorithms. No band has a sensor that is scanning your body to calculate your real calorie burn. Stick to a nutrition plan, use the calorie burnt number as a general guideline, achieve your daily step and active movement goals on the band and don’t gorge on every time your band tells that you had a good calorie day.

The band even adds steps when I’m in a car

Yes, it will. It will also add some when you’re sleeping, sitting, having a bath or generally living. That’s because the step counter isn’t really counting your steps. It’s an accelerometer that is sensing all your movements, not just your feet. It then converts these movements into steps because that’s a universally understood term. Most people tend to abandon their fitness wearable as inaccurate due to some additional ghost steps reports. Stop nitpicking. The step count is extremely accurate and an additional 50 to 100 steps isn’t going to make or break your fitness goals.

Despite the success of smartwatches like Pebble, several brands have now abandoned the idea of launching them

The heartbeat monitor is inaccurate

Really? What were you expecting? A hospital level ECG in a band that thin and light? Most devices are actually quite accurate and work well for the intended purpose. If your band starts to show strange fluctuations when you start hitting peak cardio levels, then it’s not a very good one. Most good fitness wearables will give you a pretty good idea of your heart beat plus/minus five per cent. Think of it as a guideline for you to work out at a particular heartbeat band, not a medical grade monitoring home kit on your wrist.

Fitness trackers like GOQii also offer the services of a personal coach

The sleep feature is useless

Bands that need you to manually switch to sleep mode and then switch it off, are completely useless as you’ll never remember to do it every night! Bands that have a heart rate monitor and auto switch in and out are priceless. Even on bands that don’t have a HR sensor, the auto sleep mode is getting quite accurate. Monitoring your sleep is as important as getting a good workout. Don’t ignore this feature. Check your sleep reports for a full week by noting down your actual sleep and wake up time and comparing it against the bands. A few minutes here or there don’t matter.

My run distance is reported wrong

If it doesn’t have a GPS in it, then it’s not going to be precise. Yet again, if you input your stride length accurately into your app, your fitness band will do a surprisingly good job of telling you how much you walked or ran. It’s not important whether you ran 2.8 km or 3.2 km, what’s important is that you did run about 3 km, ran it five days a week and have a device on your wrist that inspires you to do it.

Lastly, all of them need to dispense better knowledge about what their devices are really capable of and how to get the best use out of them. Else, the fitness band industry may find itself adding a lot to the garbage industry!

Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3

From HT Brunch,December 11

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First Published: Dec 10, 2016 18:47 IST

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