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One of the latest developments in electronic devices, fitness trackers, called fit bands, activity bands, or wearables, can help you achieve fitness goals by prompting more activity throughout the day, streamlining workouts, counting calories you burn, and even monitoring your sleep.
An NYPD Officer’s Story
While in training as an NYPD police officer, Frances Caro wasn’t an exceptional runner, barely passing a required fitness test. And then with shift work on the job, known to disrupt metabolism and contribute to weight gain, her weight hit an all-time high—until a robbery changed her life.
After a fellow officer was shot and killed, his very fit partner outran the perpetrator and enabled his capture. Knowing she could not have done the same, Caro had an epiphany.
“I realized that it is essential to maintain a healthy and fit lifestyle—not only for myself, but for my partner as well,” she recalls. So she began running, slowly at first, learned more and more about exercise and food, streamlined her workouts, and over the course of about two years, lost 52 pounds.
“As I learned the mechanics of the body, I also learned the importance of training efficiently and effectively,” says Caro. A fit band, the Mio Fuse in this case, helped her make a breakthrough.
“Knowing your target heart rate, and training based on your heart rate zones, supports efficiency and effectiveness,” says Caro. It assisted her in not only losing weight, but also in becoming exceptionally fit. Today, she is a physical training and tactics instructor for the NYPD, and a personal trainer and partner at Superiior fitness (superiiorfitness.com).
When running boot camps and other fitness programs, Caro encourages her clients to use fit bands. “They have been motivated and inspired by how many more calories they burn simply by monitoring their heart rate zones,” she says.
The Fit Band Breakthrough
The features of today’s fit bands are a convenient blend of earlier, more primitive gadgets: somewhat cumbersome heart rate monitors used by athletes for years, and pedometers that clipped onto belts and measured daily activity in steps. Heart rate monitors weren’t very convenient, and pedometers weren’t all that accurate, and certainly lacked a ‘cool’ factor.
The technology behind today’s fit bands solves these problems and adds many more features, such as counting calories burned, tracking goals, reminders, and connecting with smartphone apps to display information in useful and interesting ways.
Types of Devices
Fit bands are generally designed for three types of users:
- Athletes and fitness buffs who want to maximize their workouts or sports performance
- People who want to be more active in the course of day-to-day life and perhaps get inspired to start an exercise program
- Those who exercise moderately and want to improve results and lead a healthier lifestyle
How can they help? A study for the American Council on Exercise found that when people use them to monitor activity throughout the day, they are 30 to 40 percent more active. Another study, by the Consumer Electronics
Association, found that among people who own fitness trackers, 87 percent agree that the devices prompt them to be more active, and many use them to monitor progress toward fitness goals.
Fit Band Features
Different fit bands offer different combinations of functions, and may or may not include a watch. As a rule, the more they do, the more they cost. Depending on your preferences, these are some features to look for, but not every product includes all these:
- Measure activity throughout the day, in steps
- Remind you to get up and move
- Estimate calories burned
- Measure sleep time and whether or not you move around or wake up during the night
- Remind you of fitness goals
- Show you how close you are to achieving your goals for the day
- Monitor heart rate during various types of exercise
- Alert you when heart rate goes above or below a preset range while you work out
- During a workout, measure distance and time
- Work with a variety of apps to enable you to see progress and set new goals
- Navigate and track locations and distance with a GPS
- Interact with a smartphone to control music and other phone functions
Smartwatches vs. Fit Bands
Smartwatches, such as the Apple Watch, are extensions of smartphones, designed to control many features of a phone from your wrist, including calls and texts. Many include the same features as a fit band but not surprisingly, they cost much more. Prices of fit bands start around $100, whereas a smartwatch may run several hundred or more. If you’re trying to decide which type to buy, consider your own goals: Do you want to control your phone from your wrist, or is fitness your priority?
FITNESS AT YOUR FINGERTIPS
Take your workout high-tech with one of these sleek fit bands
Fit bands that monitor all-day activity and calorie burning, and connect with a smartphone, include the Garmin Vivofit, which also measures sleep and, with an optional chest strap, heart rate; the Mio Fuse, which measures heart rate directly on the wrist and is designed for both sports and everyday monitoring; and the Mio Alpha, which doesn’t measure heart rate but is also a watch and tracks and shows activity on its own display.
Fit bands that are designed specifically to monitor heart rate during workouts include The Polar FT7 (not shown), with a built-in memory but no smartphone connection; and the Magellan Echo Sports Watch (not shown), which works with a smartphone and can control music and apps.