Activity Trackers….the best winter time accessory?

As winter moves on, it can be easy to get tired of getting wet on your morning walk, spend more time sitting……and not even realise.

An activity tracker is a wearable device that monitors sitting, standing, walking and quite often sleep or other activities. These devices provide accountability to daily movement and subtle real time reminders to get out of your chair, stand up, move around and keep a consistent level of activity day to day. Having feedback and a daily report provides the reason to look for opportunities to move, whether it is to post a letter, use the toilets on the next floor or choosing a car park furthest from your door.  There is plenty of research indicating that continuous periods of sitting are worse than smoking for overall health and even small breaks can lessen the negative impact:

An Australian study indicated that adults who sat for more than 11 hours a day had a 40% increased risk of dying within 3 years compared to people who sat for less than 4 hours per day (Arch Intern Med. 2012;172(6):494-500)..

More Australian research estimates that for every hour we sit to watch TV, it decreases 22minutes from our life (Br J Sports Med 2012;46:927-930)

Despite hearing this research and regularly incorporating planned physical activity into my days I found using an activity monitor a great reminder to limit sitting time. Nothing like accountability to get you up and about!

There has been some recent negative press declaring ‘my activity tracker made me fat’. When reading the finer details, it revealed that some people tied activity too closely to intake and ate according to the estimated calorie burn on their trackers. Our advice is to use the trackers to keep accountable to move and for motivation to increase incidental activity. Consider the health benefits of this rather than focusing on calories burned which has a large margin for error. If you have weight loss goals, consider food separately and seek help from one of our dietitians if you need extra accountability and guidance.

Chantel Venn and Tanya Lewis review 2 popular models of activity trackers:

Polar Loop (Tanya)
RRP: $159
Sync via: Bluetooth to IOS or Android App or via USB to computer display
Battery Life: Needs charging every 4-5 days via USB charger

Best Bits:

  • Lightweight, easy to wear and waterproof to 20 metres.
  • Provides the time so no need to wear watch and activity tracker
  • App display is succinct and easy to use, graphically shows outline of activity over the day
  • Automatic inactivity alerts (LED display) after an hour of inactivity
  • Automatically switches to sleep mode
  • So easy to use, after an online profile set up, just put it on
  • Can integrate with polar heart rate monitors for improved summary of daily activity, particularly for activities such as cycling which otherwise, is not picked up as exercise.

Frustrating Parts:

  • Frequently recharging battery
  • Comes with an oversized band that must be cut to size and a bit fiddly to get right
  • Poor accuracy when used pushing a pram, some days I walked over an hour with the pram but this failed to be counted as walk time

Who it suits:

Someone who wants an easy to use, neat looking activity tracker without colour options and does not mind charging 1-2 per week. Great option for people using polar heart rate straps and would like to include non-step activities (such as cycling) into daily activity summary or working mainly sedentary job and walking for exercise. Not for mums with prams.

Garmin Vivofit (Chantel)
RRP: $159
Sync via:bluetooth to IOS or Android App or via USB to computer display
Battery Life: 1 year

Best Bits:

  • Measures your steps/kilometres of movement for the day
  • Heart Rate Monitor data – pair it with you HRM and you can have heart rate data from your workouts
  • Move Bar – the dreaded red bar appears after an hour of inactivity and continues to grow until you actually get up and move.
  • Sleep Mode – simply by pressing a button when you go to bed turns the Vivofit into sleep mode. You get some great data the next morning about just how well you slept that night.
  • Water Resistant – you don’t have to take it off when you shower.
  • Goals – you can personalise your activity goals or set it to auto and have them set for you.
  • Garmin Connect – you can wirelessly sync your data to your phone or computer as often as you like and analyse away. There are plenty of graphs etc showing you when you are most active your sleep patterns etc. You can even enter online challenges & compete with friends or virtual friends.
  • Colour – it was so hard to choose a colour so I was thrilled to see you can buy a pack of 3 coloured bands so you can match every outfit!

Frustrating Parts:

  • Instructions – I found them not to be too detailed but I did manage to fumble my way through in a few days of trial and error.
  • Distance – it’s not 100% accurate but it’s not a GPS so do not expect high performance outcomes.
  • Calories burned – yes it shows a calories burned during the day figure, I would just hate to think any of my clients would think they could go eat that number of calories …so view with caution.
  • Fashion Statement – I can’t take it off my wrist because I don’t want to miss out on any data … but it just doesn’t look that cool next to a Tiffany’s bracelet.

Who it suits:

Anybody that would like to take more note of their daily activity. Great for office workers to remind them they have been sitting down for way too long.

 

We have a Lifetrak Zone C410 to give away. This activity tracker has a full screen, heart rate function and automatic sleep detection.

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