Searching for a perfect health-related holiday gift for a friend or relative, or perhaps yourself? You might want to consider an activity tracker — an electronic device that monitors everything from your caloric intake, to exercise, to quality of sleep.
Activity and fitness trackers are becoming increasingly popular among consumers looking for new ways to boost their health, experts say. An estimated 19 million devices were in use in 2014, and that number is expected to triple by 20187, according to a recent report by Juniper Research.
Until recently, many people — especially older folks who did not grow up with computer gadgetry — have shied away from them because they seem complex to use. But today’s health and fitness “wearables” have become so user-friendly that even technophobes love them.
A study for the American Council on Exercise found that fitness tracker users are up to 40 percent more active than when they don’t use them.
Popular fitness trackers, most often wristbands, range in price from around $60 to $250. Higher-priced models have more features, such as sleep tracking, a GPS, or
the ability to control your phone. Virtually all gadgets work with iPhones and Android phones.
Most trackers need to be in the vicinity of your phone to work properly. Fitness body belts are designed to hold phones, keys, and other small objects while you’re running, hiking, or doing other exercise.
Here are a few of the latest gadgets and smartphone apps to consider.
This fitness tracker is inexpensive ($60) and easy to use. It simply clips to a pocket, belt, or bra, and records steps, distance, calories burned, and active
minutes for the day.
The Zip has a display that shows daily progress and, by connecting wirelessly to a smartphone, tablet, or computer, enables you to enter information about food.
This free health-tracking smartphone app can be used on its own or in combination with other wearable devices (like Fitbit) to help you monitor the calories you consume.
The Lose It! app allows you to gauge the calories, fat, sugar, salt, and nutritional content of an enormous variety of foods by tapping into a vast database of common restaurant dishes, supermarket foods, and packaged foods with bar codes that can be scanned in with a phone.
For homemade food, you simply enter the recipe and the number of servings you ate and the app tells you the calorie content. Physical activity can be automatically transferred from a wearable fitness tracker, like the Fitbit Zip. The app continually calculates and tracks your daily calories, consumed and burned, and you can see where you stand for the day and over a longer period of time. Equally important, Lose It! has an online community to keep you motivated.
Similar apps — all free — include My Fitness Pal (myfitnesspal.com), and Nudge (nudgeyourself.com).
This wearable tracker ($250) monitors heart rate, exercise, calories burned, and sleep quality. You can configure it to send yourself email, text, and calendar alerts on your wrist.
The Jawbone line of “UP” trackers look more like jewelry bracelets — in black, gold, and silver — than fitness devices. Ranging in price from $50 to $130, the monitors track activity levels, sleep, calories consumed, and heart health.
This company’s “Shine” trackers ($69 to $169) look like sleek wrist watches and monitor sleep, fitness, and other vital signs.
The company whose name is synonymous with GPS tracking has rolled out a series of wearable monitors ($99 to $449) to track exercise levels, heart rate, dietary factors, sleep, and other vital signs.
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