What are you doing to track your fitness in 2015?

For many the start of a New Year signals the opportunity to jump start a new healthy year. How are you tracking your progress this year? The Wall Street Journal has reviewed some of the devices to help you. Personally, I've got the Fitbit which tracks not only exercise but sleep patterns. 

Reposted from the Wall Street Journal (December 2014): 


Review: Best Fitness Trackers to Get You Up Off the Couch

The Smartwatch Hasn’t Killed the Fitness Band Yet: A Basic Device Is Still the Most Practical Option
Figuring out what fitness band to buy—if any—is harder than putting down the donut and getting up off the couch. WSJ's Joanna Stern tests 20 of the latest trackers. 

Dec. 16, 2014 3:13 p.m. ET

I need more Wednesdays and fewer Sundays.

On Wednesdays, I walk an average of 9,000 steps, burn more than 2,000 calories, and eat and sleep really well. On Sundays, I barely hit the 3,000-step mark…and I eat a bagel with bacon, egg and cheese.

Welcome to life with a fitness tracker. These wristbands strive to make us better people—or at least healthier, more active ones—by keeping track of our steps, our calories burned and increasingly much more.

But what’s even harder than getting up off the couch and putting down the breakfast sandwich is figuring out which device to put on your body—if one at all.

Fitness trackers are going through an existential crisis. There are now smartwatches which combine far more capabilities with basic health features. Then there’s the 40 percent of fitness-tracker buyers who have ditched them, according to The NPD Group, a market research firm. I even have anecdotal evidence to back that up. The only thing my mom’s FitBit tracks now is dust in her desk drawer.

So why read any further? Because, if you let them, fitness bands can improve your life. They’ve gotten me to take the stairs and subway more, and made me aware that it takes longer to burn off my morning latte than I thought. And when I made it my mission to lose weight earlier this year, they gave me a means to monitor my progress.

I tested more than 20 of the latest fitness bands to find out which one you should make room for on your arm or pants. The good news is, trying them out has never been easier or more affordable.

$50 to $100 for the Basics
Here’s the biggest secret of buying a fitness tracker right now: You don’t need to spend more than $50 on one that does the basics, counting steps and estimating calories burned. In fact, that’s exactly what I suggest you do if you are a first-time buyer.

You won’t get a screen on many of the options in this range—or at least not a nice screen—but they all sync with your phone via Bluetooth so you can check your stats in their corresponding apps.

Both Misfit and Jawbone sell $50 plastic trackers that you can clip to your pants or wear on a wrist. After wearing them side by side for two weeks, I prefer the Jawbone Up Move. It is a bit chunkier and harder to put in its small clip than the Misfit Flash, but it consistently synced the data to my phone faster.

Besides, Jawbone has the nicest Android and iOS apps of the whole lot. Not only does it present my steps and sleep data in a beautiful layout, but it translates that data into action items. It suggests going to bed earlier and trying new ways to hit my step goal before the day is up. I also really like its food-logging feature, at least when I remember to manually input my meals and snacks.

But while keeping a tracker off your wrist may be appealing, my problem with the Move and the Flash is that I lose them constantly. Seriously, they seem oddly attracted to my washing machine (I haven’t actually washed either one yet). The Move isn’t waterproof like the Flash, but it will survive a heavy downpour or sweaty workout.

You could wear the Move on your wrist, but the rubber enclosure looks as if you’ve stolen an 8-year-old’s jewelry. Instead, I’d suggest the wrist-worn $80 Jawbone Up24, which vibrates to nudge you when you’ve been sitting too long.

If a screen is what you want, the $80 Garmin VivoFit’s is always on. The band is dead simple to use and has a year-long battery life. However, the digital numbers, reminiscent of those old Casio watches, are an eyesore.

$100 to $150 for Better Design
If a sleeker band and a better screen are important to you, you’ll want to venture into the $100-to-$150 range, but you won’t get better data. You often get the same exact apps and features here as you get in that lower range.

Of the many I tested—including the Nike FuelBand SE, the Withings Pulse, the LG LifeBand and the Samsung Gear Fit—the one that worked best was FitBit’s new $130 Charge.

The Charge’s plastic band is one of the easiest to put on by yourself, the battery lasts all week and the small OLED display displays all the vitals—time, steps, floors climbed, calories burned, distance traveled—right on your wrist. If your phone is paired, it can also display caller ID.

And FitBit’s app is one of the simplest to navigate. However, with FitBit’s lead in this market and all the data it has amassed about me over the years, the app should be doing more to interpret my information and motivate me, the way Jawbone’s does.

Some users have complained that the Charge’s band has left them with a rash. The company says the instances are very limited and in no way similar to the FitBit Force, which was recalled last year for skin irritations. In three weeks of wear, I have had no such reaction.

$150 to $200 for Fitness Bands on Steroids
I have two sneaking suspicions about why some people have abandoned their fitness bands. One is that they want more or better data, especially when lifting weights or working out. The other is that they want to be told what actually to do with that data.

That’s where fitness bands are headed. Instead of basic activity monitoring, a new generation of pumped-up bands have sensors that track your heart rate, location, even your perspiration. And they’re beginning to have the smarts to make sense of all that and give you better health and fitness advice.

The $200 Basis Peak and the $200 Microsoft Band are two early examples of that future. But I can’t recommend either of them.

The Basis automatically detects when you are exercising, can go swimming with you and lasts four days on a charge. But it had a hard time reading my heart rate, and when it did the results were erratic. The device’s interface isn’t all that intuitive, and neither is the app’s.

I loved how the Microsoft Band can count reps in a weight-lifting session and heart-rate patterns during my spinning class, where basic trackers are useless. But the device—which looks like a prison tracker—is uncomfortable to wear, has a battery that lasts barely two days and gave me similarly inconsistent heart-rate readings. (Jawbone’s $180 Up3 and FitBit’s $150 Charge HR, which both track heart rate, won’t be available until early 2015.)

If you want to track your heart rate right now while working out, don’t use a wrist band. Chest straps that pair with fitness bands, like the $170 Polar Loop and H7 monitor, are far more accurate, as I found when I visited my cardiologist and compared those fitness trackers with an EKG reading.

Other bands in this price range blend fitness-tracking with smartwatch functionality, including email and text message alerts. The problem is that companies like Sony and LG don’t have the fitness and health heritage to provide as much useful data.

Of them all, I enjoyed the $200 Garmin Vivosmart most. You can glance at your email subject lines and text messages, and it even pairs with Garmin’s heart-rate chest strap for accurate beats per minute when you’re at the gym.

Fitness bands are shaping up even faster than we are, and getting cheaper, too. Technology that was $150 a year ago is just $50 now. It won’t be long before it is $25. This holiday season, a device like the Up Move is in the sweet spot.

For now, though, steer clear of more ambitious fitness bands like those from Microsoft and Basis. In the next year, they’re going to get better, while similarly priced smartwatches will give us even more health-tracking options.

The future of the wrist is almost exciting as my Sunday egg and cheese.

This article is from the Wall Street Journal. 

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