Activity trackers keep users motivated
FARGO -- When Lindsey Bachmann goes for a run, her high-tech companion tells her "GO LINZ" or "YOU ROCK."
The 30-year-old Fargo woman wasn't sold when her friend gave her a Fitbit One for her birthday this spring. She already had a GPS watch to track her distance.
"I was skeptical of what seemed like a glorified pedometer, but when I got the Fitbit, I was really impressed with its accuracy and all the fun things you can do with it," she says.
Devices like the Fitbit, worn on arms, wrists, bras or belts, track steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned and minutes active.
The new gadgets provide personal data at users' fingertips, giving them awareness, accountability and motivation to meet their fitness goals.
Some even monitor sleep patterns if you wear them to bed and wake you up without a loud alarm.
That's Bachmann's favorite feature.
"I don't know how it does it, but it will tell you exactly when you fell asleep and the number of times you woke up at night, so you can examine the quality of sleep you're getting," she says.
Alie Farren credits her BodyMedia FIT LINK Armband for helping her lose 50 pounds, keep an eye on her diet and exercise habits, and stay on track.
"I think these things make you a lot more accountable, and accountability is key. You will fail without accountability. This was absolutely the key to my success," she says.
The 26-year-old Moorhead, Minn., woman has worn her armband most days since signing up for Jenny Craig.
"I was terrible at keeping a handwritten food journal, but now I can just punch a couple things into my phone. I actually consistently logged my food for about two years."
Farren is so used to wearing it, she barely notices it anymore.
Most activity trackers sync wirelessly with your smartphone in real time so you can check your stats throughout the day.
Corresponding websites allow users to browse their data to look for areas in need of improvement.
Bachmann says the online Fitbit community and "badges" awarded give her added incentive to get moving.
The BodyMedia website has made Farren's Jenny Craig meetings a lot easier. All she has to do is print out her weekly report.
"It does that math for you, so you don't have to think about writing every single thing down," she says.
A look through her charts shows that she has surpassed almost every one of her daily goals.
"When I was really paying attention to all of the food I was eating and all of the activity I had, it really did feel like the weight was falling off," she says.
Seeing the data from her armband helps Farren stay in control of her health and fitness goals.
"It gives you so much information and so much power," she says.
Here's a guide to five of the highest-rated body-tracking devices:
Fitbit The One Wireless Activity & Sleep Tracker
Pro: Recently named PC Mag's editor's choice with 4½ out of five stars.
Con: Wireless setup can be a little confusing.
BodyMedia FIT LINK Armband
Price: $149 plus $6.95 per month for online access
Pro: Uses four sensors - galvanic skin response, skin temperature, heat flux and three-axis accelerometer - for more accurate feedback.
Con: Access to data costs extra.
Pro: Comes with a barcode scanner to scan food for nutrition information on the go.
Con: For smartphones only; doesn't work with personal computers.
Pros: Provides fitness, nutrition, sleep and productivity coaching
Cons: Bulky and slightly awkward to wear. For Apple's mobile operating system (iOS) only.
Pro: Unique LED dot matrix display.
Con: Only measures general motion.
Sources: PC Mag, individual retailers