As the weather warms and shadows draw longer on the ground, we find it easier to extract our bodies from the groove worn into the sofa by countless Game of Thrones/The Walking Dead/The Wiggles marathons, and throw on a pair of runners and a baggy t-shirt.
The good news is, you don’t have to do it alone. You can now strap a workout buddy to your wrist – one that will track your every move and help improve your fitness habits, all without judging you. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the world of fitness tracking. To dog-ear the cliché: Let’s get physical.
What Are They?
A fitness tracker is a device that records any number of exercise variables: From steps and distance covered, to heartbeats per minutes and sleep patterns. A few also incorporate GPS, so you can review and plan your routes according to training goals. The aim is to gain a better understanding of your exercise habits in order to set goals and measure improvement.
There are many fitness trackers and tracking apps on the market, all with varying degrees of capabilities, but here are the ones we think are guaranteed to get you off the couch and into a fitter you.
With the release of the new iPhone 5s, which now incorporates a dedicated motion-tracking coprocessor (the M7), it makes a whole lot of sense to look at a dedicated fitness tracking app. If you think about it, how often are you without your phone these days? Enough said.
Moves is an automatic activity monitor and calorie counter, which runs in the background of your mobile phone, all day, every day, tracking basic activities and keeping a GPS log of your travels. It’s appeal lies in its simplicity, something many people will find attractive. You can even throw it in your bag, or onto a bike mount, and forget about it; Moves will keep track of your every, umm, move.
An Android version of the app is also available.
Any smartphone with GPS is a race-ready fitness tracker. MapMyRun is one of the leaders in the field, providing you with live data on your run, and a record of stats from previous workouts. Want a map of your route? It’s there on your phone! Want stats on speed, distance and elevation? You guessed it; it’s accessible at the touch of a fingertip. Naturally, this data is then uploaded to your online MapMyRun profile, where you can view stats to develop a complete profile of your exercise and eating habits.
Available on iPhone, Android and Blackberry.
One for those who prefer their exercise on two wheels, Cyclemeter GPS is as much a coaching device as it is a stat tracker. It collects a myriad of stats from your ride – pace, distance, bike cadence, fashion sense … just kidding – providing a complete picture of your workout, either on your phone or iPad.
From here you can set new training goals and develop complete programs, including milestones along each route that the app will speak directly to your earphones. It’s a powerful app that for any level of cyclist.
Cyclemeter can also be used for running and walking.
Fitbit has made a strong name for itself designing simple, yet comprehensive fitness trackers. Fitbit One is a leader in their range, offering basic movement tracking – steps, calories, stairs climbed – with the addition of sleep monitoring. When combined with an exercise program, this tracker will give you the ability to really colour your overall progress. It will even vibrate to wake you in the morning.
All this information is transmitted wirelessly to your PC, tablet or smartphone – yes, we’re providing everything Skynet needs for Judgement Day. You can then log into your account and get stats and pretty graphs of your progress – input information about your meals and workouts for even bigger picture. Don’t worry; Fitbit doesn’t need to know about that Choc-Top you had at the cinema last week.
Nike+ Sportwatch GPS
The Nike+ series of sporting gadgets are all aimed at one thing: Making exercise fun. One of the easiest, and cheapest, ways to get fit is running. The Sportwatch GPS proves an excellent running buddy, with loads of features that will keep you reaching for greater fitness achievements every time you hit the road, jump on a treadmill or log onto your fitness records to set new goals.
One of a number of running trackers on the market, the Sportwatch GPS tracks your movements and provides a map of your route, as well as monitoring pace, elevation and calories burned. You can even set run reminders, so it will hassle you if you haven’t put down the Xbox One controller in a few days. You can also access training programs via Nike’s online community. Go you good thing!
Withings is the big kahuna of the tracking world, capturing a myriad of stats via a combination of devices, to give you a broad picture of your health. First up, Withings Pulse has made quite the impact on the market. Alone, it can track steps, distance and elevation, measure your heart rate, as well as analyse your sleep patterns. But the power of the Pulse comes into play when paired with the Withings Blood Pressure Monitor and Smart Body Analyzer scales. Both devices wirelessly transmit data to your smartphone and Withings online account, giving you data on your every waking and sleeping moment.
It may seem like overkill for the average person – indeed, you’ll feel like Tony Stark with everything strapped on – but the goal is to help you take a preventative approach when avoiding illness, while at the same time allowing you to improve your fitness routine. It’s the most comprehensive view of your health you’ll get outside a doctor’s clinic, and perfect for the fitness freak in all of us.
Where To Now?
Now that you’ve got a fool-proof way to track your every move and heartbeat, the next step is to actually do something with all that data. By developing a better understanding of your exercise (or lack there of) habits, eating and sleeping patterns, set yourself the aim to improve your routines, establish better habits and start living a better life. As the saying goes: It’s better living through technology.
As always, consult your physician before undertaking a new fitness program.