Did you realise that we are now better poised than at any time in history to achieve our health and fitness goals? We now have access to more tools and knowledge than ever before.
Key influencers of this is the growth of mobile & wearable technology to track every moment and movement of every day. With the increase of social media, a new willingness of experts to share nutrition & fitness knowledge and our own interest in our minds and bodies, we have never been more motivated to achieve optimum performance.
Historically our primary focus was on cardiovascular activity and calorie counting, without a wider approach to understanding how everything links together. Science now tells us that it is a wider understanding that will take us towards achieving our goals. We now know that food, exercise, sleep, hydration, stress levels and daily routine are all influential in moving us towards or away from optimal performance.
The last 5 years has seen a growing understanding of how different types and levels of physical activity achieve different results, how the quality of our nutrition is just as important as calorie counting, and more recently just what a huge impact sleep (read more here) and our everyday activity levels (read more here) have on our energy requirements and body fat levels.
So, knowing the importance of all these factors, we now have the addition of technology that can help us measure all of these variables to lead us to greater physical fitness and overall health. Below YMCA Club PT Rich Allsop explores some of the tools we have at our disposal for this management and how they can benefit us.
Rich Allsop’s Wearable Tech Roundup
Wearable Technology is the one if the latest trends in the fitness industry. Using clever compressed sensor technology within devices like watches and wristbands it is possible to monitor not just heart rate but movement, sleep and energy levels. This has many benefits depending on what you are wanting to achieve.
Anyone can benefit from Wearable Tech! Be it getting more rest, working out more often, burning more calories, being more consistent with the effort levels in your workouts.
As a personal trainer I often tell my clients that numbers and data are integral to success. Anything that can be counted or tracked can be improved on. Have a think about your current exercise program, your sleep and your nutrition. Do you currently track these variables? If not, maybe it’s time you did. With lots of different Wearable Tech brands on the market all doing slightly different things it can be data overload so which one is right for you?
First things first when choosing the right piece of tech for you: Identify your training and lifestyle goal and make it realistic.
- Do you want to run faster for longer?
- Do you want to lose fat?
- Are you wanting to workout harder with more intensity?
- Do you want to maintain your general health and fitness levels?
- Are you wanting to simply become more active and want to keep track of it?
Once you have your goal, think about pricing and budget. Devices can range from around £50 to £1000 so think long and hard about what you need the device to do.
To help you decide which device is right for your budget and goal I've consulted my wearable-tech-using clients and combined that with my own user experience to compile you a super useful pro / con checklist to help you decide.
1) Fitbit Charge HR (£60-£160)
- Worn continuously throughout the day so gives you a full picture of daily activity
- Daily step target motivates you to be more active
- Measures your heart rate continuously through the day
- Can track your sleeping patterns
- Syncs with nutrition tracking apps such as MyFitnessPal
- Allows you to compete with friends who also use Fitbit Charge HR
- Provides you with a weekly data roundup via email.
- Has to be charged regularly
- Motion-based so won’t capture steps that are done when arms are stationary
- Heart rate can be inaccurate compared to a heart rate monitor
Best for: Those new to exercise or with a particular fat loss and nutrition goal or those who want to improve general activity levels and sleep patterns.
2) Myzone: MZ3 Monitor Band and Phone App (£50-£100)
- Specific to you and your fitness level
- Myzone effort points and leader board (MEPS) to keep you motivated
- You can ‘see’ a simple visual of your effort level when exercising by using the Myzone app
- Connect and compete with friends using Myzone, helps to keep you engaged and on track
- Syncs with apps such as Runkeeper and with running machines and spin bikes
- Battery lasts for a long time
- Only measures heart rate
- Doesn't integrate with many apps
- Bluetooth connectivity can occasionally ‘drop’
Best for: Fat burners and exercise improvers who want to know how hard they are working during their sessions
3) Apple Watch (£349 - £1000)
- It monitors heart rate, steps and calories
- You can set your movement and calorie goals
- It works as an extension of your phone allowing you to take and receive calls
- You can use it as a remote control for your phone
- Combined with Bluetooth headphones you can listen to music from the watch itself. No need to take your phone on your run.
- You earn badges for milestones achieved, helping to keep you engaged and on track
- Helpful reminders to move more if you have been seated too long
- Battery can run down quickly if you use it frequently
- Doesn't provide analysis of the data you record
- Doesn’t tell you how hard you are working.
Best for: technophiles, iPhone connectivity, office workers who need a reminder to stand up, fat burners and runners.
So that's your activity levels and your sleep covered in addition to this, there are also various apps for tracking and improving your food and nutrition knowledge. Continue reading for a roundup of my favourite.
One of the easiest to use and most comprehensive apps out there for logging food intake with large searchable databases. It also syncs with FitBit and MapMyRun, The app is now owned by Under Armour, with free and a premium version - so likely to lead to a lot more features in the future.
As the name suggests this apps has a focus on your macros (carbohydrate, fat and protein). This app enables you to have different macro-nutrient goals for different days depending on your goals and activity levels.
Less comprehensive than MyFitnessPal, with more of a focus on encouragement and knowledge to change behaviour, than purely tracking food intake and calories.
For me, real, sustainable and long term success only comes from knowledge and a willingness to invest time in your goals. Whilst food and activity tracking apps offer some great benefits, the fundamental change will still come from an increase in knowledge and understanding about the right foods to eat for your specific goal. Along with the time set aside to plan, buy, prepare and consume these foods. The data from your tracking apps is one way of being more certain that you are on the right path.
On your journey to greater health and fitness it is important to keep in sight that we are all different. We all have different metabolisms, builds and digestive systems that function at different speeds and sometimes to varying levels of effectiveness. So let's not get obsessed by every calorie and gram that goes into the body. With your improved knowledge, some additional guidance and confirmation from the tracking data, you have every reason to have a very confident spring in your step that 2016 will be the year you achieve your goals.
(With some additional insightful techie opinion about Fitbit and Myzone from Rich’s client and YMCA Club member Lianne Warnell)
Nick Owen Nutritional Advice - www.what-food.co.uk
Rich Allsop Personal Training - www.richallsopfitness.com
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