You can’t fool Mother Nature and body monitors don’t let you fool yourself.
FitBit, UP by Jawbone, BodyMedia and other monitors collect physiological data to track and/or measure body activity to aid in wellness, weight and fitness programs.
Via contact with the wearer’s body, the ultrasensitive movement monitors can measure how many steps the wearer has taken, his/her heart rate, blood pressure, the amount of calories he/she has burned, the distance walked or run, and both the amount and quality of sleep.
Some monitors do it all; others are programmed for certain tasks
The devices, which range in price from $50 to $200, are worn as wrist bands, or either pinned or clipped on to contact with the body.
“I definitely recommend them all of my clients unless they aren’t computer literate,” says Kelly Devine Rickert, a registered dietitian and the health coach for Franciscan WELLCARE employees.
“They’re great for people who want as much information as possible and who want to use that information.”
The devices are used in weight loss and weight control programs to accurately assess how many calories are being consumed and how many calories you should be eating to establish or maintain a desired weight, she says.
“If I ask a client how much and what they are eating, they often don’t have the amounts right,” says Devine Rickert, who is a spokeswoman for the Illinois Dietetic Association. “If they use FitBit (or another device) we both know what’s really going on. And for a dietician it’s helpful to see precisely what activity clients are doing and how many calories they’re consuming.”
The original body monitors appeared on the market almost a decade ago that usually monitored movement to help guide fitness programs.
BodyMedia is used by those featured in the Biggest Looser TV show.
The newer more sophisticated devices have a continual-tracking feature.
Data, including information you add on what you've eaten, appears on a phone or computer screen offering data analysis and sometimes plans based on them. The online component is normally, but not always, included in the price of the device. There can be a monthly fee.
Jaime Wojtczak, wellness and exercise specialist at Community Hospital’s Fitness Pointe, says she would recommend body monitors or sensors to those who want to keep track of their activity levels, their exercise routines, and their caloric output.
“They’re a good way to monitor your progress,” Wojtczak said. “They give you back data to see how well you’re doing. “
Some of the devices are better than others depending on how the wearer wants to use them, Wojtczak says. Some are more user-friendly and some, such as the NIKE Plus, are especially good for someone who wants to motivate themselves.”
Wojtczak currently is looking at different monitors to determine which model to use in the center’s employee wellness program. Employees receive points for certain activities and activity and exercise levels and use the points to earn money back on next year’s health insurance premium.
“We’re trying to find a few options,” Wojtczak says. “Some are better for different things. All have different purposes. We need options for all different types of employee groups so all the employees can earn their points.”
Like the older devices, the latest models sync wirelessly to a smart phone, tablet or computer via Bluetooth or using USB connection to a computer to transfer data, and sometimes to receive fitness programming.
“I like them because it makes you increase your activity,” Devine Rickert says. “It tells you so much in a fun way and attracts people to move more. Everyone likes the latest thing. They’re very in right now.”
Yet, Mario Daklala, owner of Chicago Health & Fitness health club in Hobart and a body builder and fitness enthusiast, doesn’t believe the devices are for everyone.
“I see people getting sick of them after a while,” Daklala says. “I can’t see many body builders or people who are really tuned to their bodies using them.
“I know my body and how much I need to eat or how much cardio I need to do,” he says. “I do it on my own. I don’t want a machine to tell me what to eat. If you know your own body you don’t need it.”
But that’s the problem, says Barb Ferrari, a nurse, Heart Health coordinator for Ingalls Hospital Wellness Center and for its online heart and vascular program.
“Someone that feels they know their measure their activity and intake because it’s part of their training, but most people often don’t know what a portion is and what it takes to burn what they just ate,” she says.
Even some of Ferrari’s fellow fitness instructors aren’t aware of the devices, and how they can be used, she says.
“When you actually have people log what they’re eating, they’re more accountable,” Ferrari says. “But many of those who need them the most don’t even know about them."
Ferrari gave her husband, who works from home, a FitBit as a gift because she was concerned about his lack of activity. He was quite surprised when he saw his actual activity level and took steps to increase it, she says.
“I see value in them, and we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg with weight management,” Ferrari says. “I think there are more many more places where we can incorporate it and use tools like these.”
In fact, Ingalls fitness center’s diabetes education staff is starting to recommend them to clients so the clients can log food and activity level.
“It’s a way of helping them understand fuel in and fuel out,” Ferrari says.
The information tracked and recorded by the devices also can be used by physicians and medical personnel after patients electronically input it to their medical offices, she says.
“For folks who need to meet certain medical standards, it would be a way for them to send us their records,” Ferrari says. “Then we can better prescribe calories and medications and get their numbers where they’re healthier.”