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What is Everybody Wearing? Fitness Tech Gadgets


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Originally published for US News Eat+Run

Not long ago, the only electronic gadget worn by runners was a watch. If someone was a gadget geek, they might have the Timex with a lap feature to keep up with mile times for a training run. Today, wearable fitness technology is growing exponentially. With the advancement of smart phones and apps, we’re seeing a huge increase in wearable fitness device users. Everything from a pedometer to a heart rate monitor to an effort/intensity monitor is showing up at local 5K races. But wearable fitness technology gadgets do not belong to just the running crowd. Anybody who wants to know how their body is moving or resting can wear a wrist unit or heart rate strap. And not only are these gadgets available, but they’re also affordable. Let’s take a look at a few that I’ve used:

Garmin Forerunner

This was my first running tech device — specifically, the 305 with a heart rate feature. I now use the 610 with additional features like Garmin Connect. With its GPS function, it keeps track of pace, distance, miles, elevation and heart rate. It has a virtual partner and virtual racer feature to help keep you on pace, and the wireless sync and upload through Garmin Connect makes keeping stats effortless. To this day, this is the one device I almost always use. It’s a true workhorse that has survived rain, heat, cold, ice and my tumbles on the trails.

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Fitbit One

I have owned a few One devices. This is a combination pedometer, calorie tracker and sleep tracker. It clips on clothing, close to your body, providing a more accurate measure. You can press a button to see your progress through the day. It tells you the distance walked, the stair-climbing equivalent and the number of calories burned. At night, you wear a light wrist sleeve that holds the device. While it’s in sleep mode, it monitors the amount and quality of your sleep. My device had to be replaced a few times because of sweat. Since developing the One device, Fitbit has released a few new devices, such as the Force, Zip and Flex. The Flex and Force are wristband devices and may be more sweat-resistant than my four One devices.

JawBone Up 24

This is a fitness and sleep tracker wristband device. The band stays on my wrist. I don’t have to remove it for sleep, shower or rain. It has a very slim profile that works great against my regular watch, and it has wireless sync when it’s within range of a smart phone app via Bluetooth. It works with a vibration feature that lets me know I’m too idle, and it wakes me up when I’m in "light" sleep instead of a deep, restful sleep. I can set a "power nap" mode to gently wake me after a certain amount of time. I can enter meals and water for a more holistic snapshot of my day. The smart phone app is user-friendly and always connected with the 24 version of Up. The JawBone app works with other app,s such as RunKeeper, My Fitness Pal and Map My Fitness.

jawbone up

Polar Loop

This is another fitness and sleep tracker wristband device. It has a slightly larger surface profile than the Jawbone Up 24 due to its band screen, which scrolls and displays data. It monitors steps, calories, distance totals, sleep and sleep quality, as well as several other fitness details. An optional heart rate strap is available for more detailed training options. As with other trackers, the Polar Loop uses Bluetooth to communicate with the Polar Flow smart phone app. The Polar Loop really goes into detail about your active and inactive times, and emphasizes that little steps add up to bigger results.

polar loop

Armour 39

Armour 39 from Under Armour is a heart-rate monitor and fitness evaluation device. It comes with a chest strap that holds a quarter-sized transmitter, which communicates with a free app or separately sold watch. After a baseline fitness assessment through running on a flat surface, the app is ready to measure the intensity and effort of your workouts. If you’re not within range of your smart phone, it will hold your data until you are within range. All syncing is through Bluetooth. During your workout, the app will monitor your heart rate and duration of workout to give a "Willpower" score from one to 10. Before your workout, you can set your Willpower goal, and the app will display that score on the home screen during your workout. After your workout, you can scroll to a screen to see your heart-rate graph, the highest and lowest rate, and the number of calories burned. This device is a huge source of motivation no matter if I’m using it for running, walking or cross-training workouts. The strap is very comfortable and easy to use with the transmitter.

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These are just a few of the wearable technology devices I’ve recently used. The most common features among all of them are the ease-of-use, social media sharing capabilities and instant motivational feedback. When you’re dragging at the end of your run and know you’re close to a Willpower score, or so close to meeting that Jawbone goal, you might go just a little harder, faster or farther. Each step, minute or second adds up. Whether your goal is fitness, health or just plain curiosity, join the tracker crowd and see what happens!

All devices used with the Verizon network. For more information on the latest from Verizon, check out this post.

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