Wearable activity trackers: Financial Mail

Jawbone's UP 3 bandsI am  fascinated by the wearable technology that is flooding the market locally, so I pitched a piece to the Financial Mail asking if wearable activity trackers could really prompt behaviour change. It was great to compare so many trackers side by side — I usually have to do my reviews in isolation — and to look into the research coming out about these.

The full article appeared in the print magazine with a comparison table featuring wearables from Jawbone, Garmin, Sony, FitBit and Withings.

Here’s an extract:

IN 2010 The New York Times ran a column entitled “Stand up while you read this!” which opened with the line “Your chair is your enemy.”

The piece drew on medical research reports that warned readers about the inactivity-related ailments awaiting habitual sitters. It was the start of a wave of media reports along the same lines. Within a year the phrase “Sitting is the new smoking” appeared regularly in headlines — and the ripples continue.

It is technology that contributes to our sitting — in front of TVs, computers — and it is tech that we are told will save us. Enter the wearable activity tracker.

This category of gadget has boomed in the past few years. There are over 20 brands available in the SA market, many more globally, and new ones come out all the time.

There are two focuses: everyday activity monitoring; and fitness training. The latter focuses on data collection for serious exercisers and athletes, concentrating on metrics such as distance, personal bests and pace.

Still, researchers seem to agree that running (or gymming) every day doesn’t negate the sitting problem. Choosing to be sedentary for most of the day is what causes the harm, and movement at regular intervals should be the goal.

That’s why everyday activity wearables focus on lifestyle changes. Worn like a watch or as a clothing clip, they track steps against a steps goal, like a connected pedometer with extra functionality. Many of them default to the goal of 10 000 steps (though this is customisable) and most also encourage calorie-logging and are capable of monitoring sleep.

Some prompt you to move after a certain period of inactivity. Most synchronise with your phone or computer wirelessly. Some also monitor heart rate, both resting and working out, so as to log exercise that doesn’t involve steps.

Discovery Vitality Wellness head Dr Craig Nossel says Vitality is supporting wearable tech because it collects health data on individuals. “We believe that the ability to track and monitor one’s key health measurements … creates the potential for Discovery to help our members get healthier in a more personal and data-driven way,” says Nossel.

Read the rest here: http://www.financialmail.co.za/features/2015/04/07/wearable-technology-prodded-and-logged

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