Healthy Living Magazine


This season’s must-have accessory is not a pair of skinny jeans or a Tiffany necklace, but a simple plastic bracelet. Have you noticed your friends sporting the latest FitBit, Jawbone or Nike Fuel Band, and wondered what it does and if it’s right for you? Tiffany Moffatt reveals the benefits of this latest fitness trend.

If you’re looking for a way to get motivated to exercise, a wearable device is a fashion and fitness must-have! According to a study by Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise, participants who tracked their activity wearing a pedometer took an additional 1,500 steps per day, while researchers at Indiana University found people who wore a pedometer daily walked 16% more than they did prior to the study and lost an average of 2.5 pounds.

The role of technology in promoting physical activity and changing exercise behaviour is not new: heart rate monitors and pedometers have been motivating us to exercise for several years. Today, however, technology is taking a front seat in the fitness industry in helping to promote healthy living, especially with new and increasingly popular ‘wearable’ devices. The functions and options in wearable devices that allow you to track daily steps, calories burned, heart rate and sleep are enough to get the most rooted couch potato moving!

What’s right for you?

Thanks to new leading edge technology, wearable devices can wirelessly sync to your mobile phone, track hours and quality of sleep and even alert you when you’re being lazy! Some of the forerunners in the wearable market include the FitBit Flex or Charge, Apple Watch, Jawbone, Samsung Gearfit, Garmin Forerunner and Nike Fuelband. Ranging from $69 to over $500, there is a device for every athlete.

Conner Titmarsh, Customer Experience Representative at Chapters/Indigo in Richmond Hill, which carries the Fitbit products, says he sees a lot of first-time exercisers purchasing Fitbits. “It’s interesting how it drives people to be active. It can be an activation tool for people. They see the numbers and are motivated to reach their goals,” he says.

Titmarsh says Fitbit is one of the few stand-alone fitness tracking devices. “Others such as the Apple watch or Galaxy are watches. The Fitbit is a tracking device and not a phone, so it is easy to understand.”

With the recent push towards active living and the competitive price point of Fitbit wearables, Titmarsh says sales are high. In fact, among fitness products, Fitbit is well in the lead, accounting for over 50% of the three million-plus sales of wearable fitness devices across a one-year period from 2013 to 2014.

And the trend is showing no signs of slowing down: sales of wearables are predicted to grow from 29 million in 2014 to 172 million in 2018, with a spike in 2015, largely due to the release of the Apple watch fuelling the market.

For every athlete, there is a device that best suits his or her individual needs and lifestyle. Fitbit, whose mantra is to make fitness part of your daily routine, has great appeal with first-time exercisers who want to track their data for motivation. The Garmin Forerunner 220 or 620 watch appeals to runners; it uses vibrating alerts to keep you on your ideal pace and automatically pauses when you stop at a traffic light.

Garmin’s slogan is ‘there is a coach in every watch . . . and sometimes a coach is a person who knows how well you should perform, even when you doubt.’ The Garmin 620 watch will display your suggested recovery time after your run, estimate your state of recovery immediately following a run, and operate in a countdown mode until the next effort. Recovery can range from six to 96 hours. Now that is a smart watch!

If you’re looking to add some friendly competition to your workouts, the Nike FuelBand SE syncs wirelessly to the app for sharing your progress with friends. The Jawbone wearable has a streamlined design, comes in six colours, and includes activity and sleep tracking, food logging and a ‘smart coach’ which gives you motivational and personalized insights you need to reach your goals – plus, it gets smarter over time: as Smart Coach gets to know you, insights and tips get better to help you get more fit.

The much anticipated Apple Watch has reminders to be more active. “If I sit too long, it will actually tap me on the wrist to remind me to get up and move, because a lot of doctors think sitting is the new cancer,” says Tim Cook, CEO of Apple Inc. This alone is sufficient reason to adopt a wearable device – to simply get moving!

Calling all couch potatoes!

Dr. Mike Evans, in his YouTube video, 23 & ½ hours, which has gone viral with over 4.5 million views, suggests that being active 30 minutes per day may be the most important thing we can do for our health, more than any other lifestyle factor. In his research, Evans references Lennert Veerman whose Australian study found that those who watched six hours of television per day could expect to live five years less than those who watch no television. Wearable devices have huge potential to change our habits and motivate us to get moving.

Stouffville Leisure Centre Fitness Instructor, Veronika Borovilos, is an avid Fitbit proponent. As a trainer, Borovolis thinks wearables are a great tool especially for those who want to get into fitness. She has had her Fitbit for over a year and uses it to track her daily steps, calories burned and kilometres walked.

“It really suits my personality,” she explains. “At the end of the day, I like to see that I’ve reached my goal of 10,000 steps. Often, I used to sit at home at the end of the day, and now I’ll go for a walk at night.” Borovolis also uses the GPS function on her FitBit to track her walks with her two-year-old son and brand new puppy.

A device for every budget

For the more budget-minded, some promising options are available as smart phone applications. For example:

  • MapMyFitness (Run, Walk, Ride, Hike, etc) offers GPS tracking of exercise sessions, voiceover reminders of pace and distance, as well as coaching tips.
  • My Fitness Pal Calorie Counter & Diet Tracker, which allows you to track caloric intake and fitness activities, has been rated the number one health and fitness app for four years. With a database of over five million foods, My Fitness Pal allows for fast and easy diet and fitness tracking – and it’s free.
  • Runtastic is the perfect app for runners as it features an integrated music player, live tracking, cheering and social sharing.

Universal appeal and benefits

To date, wearable devices and fitness applications have appealed to those who might need them the least: people who are already active. Younger, early adopters seem to be the main target market of wearable devices.
However, as new research suggests that wearable technology could be a booster for employee productivity and job satisfaction, we may see corporations and other groups heeding the call.

The American Medical Association advocates tying such devices more closely into healthcare programs, giving wearers incentives to reduce healthcare costs if they achieve a certain number of steps per day. Likewise, the heart rate monitor option combined with measurement of steps, distance and calories burned on many devices, including The Fitbit Charge HR, is beneficial for cardiac rehabilitation patients.

With so many applications in fitness and healthcare, a wearable device can serve as an excellent tool, not only motivating us to become more active, but also educating and inspiring us toward better habits and better health.
Now that’s a trend worth following!

Tiffany Moffat is is a certified Personal Trainer Specialist, Fitness Instructor Specialist, Pre and Postnaatal Specialist (Canfitpro certified) and freelance writer who has worked in the fitness industry for 25 years.

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