Technology isn't replacing the personal trainer anytime soon, but even the best workout coach can't instantly calculate the number of steps we've taken or calories we've burned in a 12-hour period.
With smartphones and wireless capabilities, the wizards of tech have taken us far beyond the pedestrian pedometer. When it comes to fitness, there really is an app for that — or an armband, wristband or watch — to measure and calculate our activities. Technology that started with a simple step-counting pedometer has now evolved into some very sophisticated devices that can calculate calories, workout intensity, provide instant heart rates, monitor sleep patterns and function as a global positioning system (GPS).
With a plethora of brands to choose from, deciding between style, functionality and price can be overwhelming. Devices range from small clip-on units to wristbands, armbands and watches. Capabilities vary from the most basic pedometer (costing around $25) to sophisticated GPS tracking features (closer to $400).
Whatever your fitness goals, these little workout gadgets are not just for die-hard athletes anymore. Here are just a few examples of some of the most popular options:
After three decades as a competitive runner, 70-year-old Lathan Brinkley, a member of Southern Oregon Runners, is enthusiastic about the convenience and accuracy of his GPS-enabled Garmin Forerunner. "I think it's one of the best things I've ever bought for running," he says.
Not at all intimidated by this new-fangled technology, Brinkley finds the assortment of features invaluable. "Before, we'd kind of guess at the distance or drive a car around the route, but this keeps track of the exact miles. After a long run, I plug it into the computer and it will map my route, give the elevation and the speed of each mile," Brinkley says. "I think they are absolutely super."
Sharon Bruce of Central Point has used her Fitbit Zip, a clip-on device that measures steps, distance and calories for nearly a year. "It's very motivational," explains Bruce. "It inspires you to go that extra distance and to keep up your streak of days where you meet your goal."
In addition to the basic Zip, Fitbit makes the Flex which is a stylish wristband with a series of small lighted dots that indicate progress during the workout. It measures steps, calories, distance and sleep, but the exact data must be accessed through a mobile app or on the Web. Their top-of-the-line model, the small clip-on One, does it all. With wireless capabilities, it tracks steps, distance, calories burned and stairs climbed. It also measures sleep quality and has an alarm feature.
New Balance LIFETRNr Watch
Nick DeAngelis, sales manager with Medford's REI, says for customers who want a heart rate monitor but don't want to deal with the chest strap, he recommends the New Balance watch. "It has an instantaneous heart rate feature where you can put your finger on the top and it gives you a reading. I use it for running," he says.
Sportline offers a complete line of men's and women's heart rate monitors. When synced to a smartphone, some models use a cardio-connect feature to provide a combination of fitness tracking, including heart rate, speed, calorie burn, distance and timer functions, while at the same time transmitting ECG-accurate heart rate data to both the phone and watch.
Exerspy, available through dotFIT, is an arm band containing multiple sensors that measure motion, body heat, skin temperature and conductivity. The online subscription collects the data and delivers precise information on activity, steps and calorie consumption and expenditure. Komoki Lamp of Medford, a personal trainer, is fan of the product. "I track my food intake," she says, "so I know where I stand with my calorie overages or my surplus for the day. You can use an app or log onto the computer and download the information to give you a graph of your day, your energy expenditures, your active times and your sleeping patterns. I love knowing where I'm at every day."