Posted on 16th May 2014 by Fiona
Following on from our last blog – The Magic 10,000 steps – I thought it would be useful to write a little piece about how to actually monitor your daily activity.
The most simple way of monitoring how many steps you take a day (and therefore how active you are) is a pedometer. You can pick up a basic pedometer for under £5 (as cheap as 65p) and the function is to count how many steps you are taking by measuring the motion of your hips. Reliability will vary – but these devices will certainly give an indication of your step number.
As with everything now, technology has progressed significantly and there has been a surge in the last couple of years of ‘Activity Monitors’.
Did you know by the way, that there are now more mobile connective devices on the planet than people – scary!
I have owned a FitBit for some time now and I can honestly say it was a significant turning point for me in increasing my general activity levels and changing my lifestyle.
Basically, what the FitBit (and other activity bands) do, is similar to a glorified pedometer. But it goes way beyond that. They can also measure:
- Sleep patterns
- Heart rate
- Activity intensity
Each brand of device measures a different combination of measurements and they can also be integrated with other apps such as My Fitness Pal or Garmin Connect. So, if you’re looking to buy an activity monitor, it’s worth doing some research into what factors are most important to you.
This sort of thing suits me – I like a challenge, I like numbers (and measurements!) & I like to have a goal. So I found the FitBit really motivated me.
More recently, I purchased a Garmin VivioFit (not that I was unhappy with my FitBit, but a kind friend of mine works at Garmin!). So, what follows is my personal experience of using these 2 devices.
I have the FitBit Flex.
- Syncing is easy, basically open the app on my iPhone, make sure the FitBit is nearby and it syncs.
- I love the ‘Active Minutes’ figure. You can read more about this here, but basically it measure how many minutes a day you are ‘very active’ – a good tool to measure against the recommended 30 minutes/day.
- You can set alarms. The wristband buzzes gently, a nice way to be woken up or reminded of something. These are set on your app or web based dashboard.
- The buzz it gives you when you reach your goal.
- The scales – measure & track your weight and % body fat and sync automatically.
- The dashboard & app are really easy to use and interpret.
- My wrist band has broken once (although FitBit did send a free replacement). I have heard of others breaking too.
- Having to charge it up – it doesn’t take long but is annoying having to take it off not charge.
- Minimal band information. You only get illuminated dots on the band, so need to check your app for further info. There is due to be a FitBit Force released which will display more info on the wrist band, but no UK date as yet as far as I’m aware.
The Garmin VivoFit
- You can see the time, steps, calories etc. all on a clear digital display on the wristband.
- You don’t have to charge it – it comes with a 1 year battery apparently.
- It adjusts your goals according to your activity – always pushing you a bit!
- You can sync it automatically with a Garmin heart rate monitor.
- Syncing takes a little longer and isn’t automatic – you have to press a button on the device.
- Straps aren’t interchangeable, i.e. you buy the device in 1 colour and ca’t change the strap.
- It doesn’t monitor ‘very active minutes’.
- No compatible scales/body fat monitor that I’m aware of.
Both have bits I really like and also not so keen on (but nothing’s perfect!). For now, I’m veering towards the Garmin, mainly due to the display and not having to charge the battery!
You can read full reviews of the many activity trackers online – there’s loads of them, here’s just a few I found Time.com, The Wire Cutter, PC Mag – although it’s work noting a few of these were written prior to the release of the Garmin VivoFit.
There’s no doubt that such devices are in their infancy, who know’s what we’ll be wearing or writing about in a year’s time. They’re no longer purely the domain of ‘techy’s’, wearable technology is set to become a part of everyone life!
Written by Fiona, goPhysio’s Non-Clinical Director (all views are her own)