The newest hotness in the fitness industry is wearable tech to help you keep tabs on weight loss, steps taken throughout the day, your heart rate, sleep patterns and flights of stairs traversed. They are a really cool way to keep track of your daily constitutionals.
On top of the above mentioned, most of them also let you challenge friends to see who moves the most in a day, a week or a weekend. I’m on board with this movement big time at the moment with a recently purchased Fitbit Charge HR and its become a nice tool in the exercise arsenal.
I am really like the Charge HR. It has made me more mindful of how much I’m moving every day, which includes parking further away when I’m out and about, and opting for the stairs instead of an elevator. Also, for a former competitive athlete, the challenges are a great way to get in a little healthy (see what I did there?) competition and reignite that spark to some extent.
Is it the ultimate fitness tracker? No, not by any stretch. However I feel Fitbit has nailed what the user experience should be for a wearable device.
The hardware is incredibly easy to use right out of the box, the web experience is superb, and the iOS app is silky smooth further enhancing the experience that much more. Plus, it auto syncs to my +3Network (take the best aspects of social media, and add in a fitness component allowing you to raise money every time you exercise) account. That’s a pretty rich feature set that should appease the most ardent of exercisers.
With all of that being said, there are still things I’d like for it to do that it doesn’t. In a perfect world it would measure heart rate variability, count reps and a more touch oriented device UI.
The good news is this area of fitness is only getting more refined as future iterations of these devices are launched. With any luck, here’s what’s showing up at CES (Consumer Entertainment Show) 2016 to match my fitness wearable wishlist.
Before we get going further, I need to add in that getting call notifications, text alerts or email access on my workout wearable isn’t important to me individually. My phone handles all of that nicely. I want pure fitness enhancement features in my exercise tech.
1) Accurate heart rate measurements without a chest strap
I’d love to see this tech further evolve. One of the things I liked the least about race training was wearing a chest strap HRM (heart rate monitor) when I trained (didn’t wear one racing because I knew I’d be red lining and didn’t need proof to distract me!). I ultimately ended up ditching it opting to use a “Am I getting faster from point A to point B” approach and rate of perceived exertion to gauge my training benchmarks.
I want something on my wrist that is no more than 5 points plus or minus of a chest strap HRM. From what I’ve read, the Mio line of fitness trackers do a good job measuring up well against chest strap HRMs.
UPDATE: I’ve recently started using a Garmin Vivofit paired with the chest strap that came bundled with it in my workouts. I thought I wouldn’t like wearing one again, but it grew on me quickly. The accuracy of my heart rate measurements while I trained was enough to quickly hook me in. Especially when it started telling me what heart rate zone I was in on the fly (higher or lower) as I worked out.
If a more training oriented experience is what you’re looking for, the Vivofit delivers in a big way (a newer version, the Vivofit 2, is out and offers a few more features than its predecessor). If you want a more robust fitness with friends/social experience, I feel a Fitbit would be a better option.
2) I want pinpoint Heart Rate Variability (HRV) readings
HRV is an amazing way to keep tabs on how you’re body is ready (or more importantly, not ready) to workout. HRV is the interval variability between heart beats and it is one of the best ways to measure potential performance levels (1). The higher your HRV, the better, yes higher.
The reason being is it indicates that your parasympathetic nervous system is at the helm. Translated, it means the system that promotes recovery, rest, digestion and sleep is doing its job and you are ready to rip. A lower score means a sympathetic nervous system response and you are more prone to being stressed, over trained and susceptible to an inflammatory response from exercise.
Measuring HRV is a way to stay on top of this. To do my part, I’ve ordered the BioForce Precision Performance HRV System to help me track this. It comes highly recommended from industry experts and I’m pretty excited to see how this helps my training.
3) I want something to count reps
As a trainer, this would be invaluable. A device that measures the amount of work done in a given period that answers can you do more work in less time? This would be an invaluable tool to measure fitness gains.
Couldn’t you just count your reps? Yes, the old fashioned way is still effective. And if you work with a trainer, that’s a lot easier.
However, when you are doing self induced HIT (high intensity training) workouts, the last thing you want to do (or are able to to do for that matter) is count. Give me a tracker that does this for me to make my life a lot easier when it comes time to not only measuring progress, but programming how many, how much and how often.
Companies like Atlas Wearables and Amiigo have released trackers that do this, and I’m really interested to see how they advance the segment. Ultimately, what I;d like to see is a tracker that not only counts reps, but can count alternate and single arm/leg movements as well without needing to be mummified in tracking sensors.
4) Give me all of this with a top notch hardware AND software experience
Again, this is where Fitbit has it dialed in. Its very easy to figure out and every component from hardware to software makes the experience that much better. Micro USB charging would be a nice addition instead of their proprietary charging USB cord, especially since its a lot easier to find an extra micro USB cable laying around if you lose the original.
The Charge HR’s one button use system allows you to access the tracker’s information easily and I feel that gives it virtually zero barriers to entry in terms of going from opening the box to using the device. The only other feature I’d like is a swipe gesture to scroll through the various metrics it tracks.
You better also give me something I can challenge other people with too for a more well rounded experience. There are a ton of benefits to working out with other people, and wearables do a good job of bringing the communal aspect to fitness. Most trackers have this facet and it makes using them that much more enjoyable.
It also needs to have a no brainer sync system as well. The easier it is to get the info from the device to the app, the better. Make the experience engaging, fun and add in an element of competition and I’m in.
5) I want it to look cool
Let’s be honest, design is an important component to this whole thing. It better look cool so I want to wear it. So give me multiple color options in a great band that is durable with a visually appealing display. This adds to the experience and makes it less likely you’ll be one of people (upwards of 50%) that stop using fitness trackers after buying one (2).
Let’s not forget comfort either. If the tracker isn’t comfortable, you won’t wear it.
This is another thing I like about the Fitbit Charge HR, its has a sleek design on top of set it and forget it comfort. Two big components if you’re going to wear something for long periods of time.
The Bottom Line
Wearable fitness tech is only getting better, more advanced and coming with richer feature sets to choose from with each device generation. This is good news for us because it means more variety to choose from to match up with what you need out of your fitness wearable to motivate you to lead a healthy lifestyle.
Do you use a fitness tracker? What would you like to see in one? Chime in with your thoughts below!
1) “Why You Should Check Your Heart Rate Variability,” Mark’s Daily Apple
2) “Why You Stopped Using Your Fitness Tracker,” Kimberly Weisel, Inc.com