Fitness gadgets help motivate when a scale just isn’t enough

  • Tue Jan 17th, 2012 7:24pm

<b>YOUR HEALTH | </b>By Katie Murdoch Herald writer

Tracking results and measuring progress could be the ticket to nudge exercisers to keep pushing.

Fitness gadgets run the gamut from GPS-equipped watches to iPhone applications that track calories consumed and burned and measure one’s heart rate.

Technology is becoming the nervous system of personal health management, with a new crop of genius gizmos coming to market as fast as new apps. It’s not surprising manufacturers are targeting the tech-savvy who are seeking to improve their workouts.

Pairing with cellphones, these tools are taking a leading role in monitoring and health management. The flexible and convenient gadgets are offering everything from securely storing doctor’s prescriptions and X-rays to keeping an eye on diet and exercise.

Trainers at private clubs recommend these gadgets and gizmos – however, it depends on the person’s personality.

Items that motivate people versus “magic pills” promising drastic weight loss are something she can get behind, said Nichole Sargent, trainer and fitness instructor for the city of Edmonds and various health clubs, including Harbor Square Athletic Club in Edmonds.

Some of her clients use social websites offered by Weight Watchers, MyPyramid.gov and MyFitnessPal.com to log meals, calories, exercise time and type of exercise.

These trackers are great for people starting a fitness program as it helps them see their results, Sargent said.

For someone already fit but needing an extra push, the Nike application through iPhone and watch are ideal. Sargent, who uses the Nike watch, pointed out how it tracks calories and how she can program the length of her workout so a reminder motivates her when she’s halfway through. Some of Garmin brand’s GPS-enabled training assistants offer a heart rate monitor to ensure people stay within a targeted heart rate.

“If they’re not meeting with a trainer regularly, it’s a great way for accountability,” she said.

Such gadgets gained momentum after pedometers were launched, as well as through pop culture, said Megan Wood, fitness director and trainer at Harbor Square.

Reality shows such as “Biggest Loser” showed contestants using gadgets, like the Bodybugg, which prompted people to try them.

Tracking calories burned and heart rate can signal when someone is working too hard and no longer burning fat.

“You have to train your body to know which fuel to pull from,” she said.

Wood uses gadgets to track her heart rate during spinning classes and while running. She has learned at which heart rate she sees the most results. Her Polar-brand monitor has helped her determine how high to work her heart up to and how low to drop it down safely before pumping it up again.

Group fitness classes remain popular, but people have incorporated their gadgets while swiveling in Zumba classes.

“It gives people a focus, especially those starting out,” Wood said.

Herald writer Mina Williams contributed to this report.

Gizmos galore

Sleek gadgets, strapped to your belt or worn as an arm or wrist band, track both walking and running movements 24/7.

• Bodybugg, Fitbit and BodyMedia are just a few that give real-time access to daily activity through smartphones or when attached to a computer. These doohickeys take the guess work out of tracking activity and calorie burn.

• Released last fall, Jawbone’s Up bracelet has a GPS feature and can also be set to vibrate as a reminder that the wearer has been inactive for too long or to serve as a gentle wake-up alarm.

• For the small set there are activity meters, including the Zamzee designed for tweens. When the kids return home, they plug the device into the computer and upload their record. Activity is transferred into points that are redeemable for virtual goods.

• The emWave2, using body pulse, gauges the user’s stress level and suggests breathing patterns for a better biorhythm.

• The BrainAthlete purports to help users boost concentration and meditation capabilities through monitoring sensors in a visor.