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The best fitness devices for the health conscious

Rich Mogull | April 12, 2013
We look at the best gadgets for exercise and fitness enthusiasts.

Living a healthy lifestyle involves more than spending time in a gym or pushing through another lap--you also need to track your weight and health, daily activity, and diet. The tech tools below can provide a wealth of information that is otherwise nearly impossible to obtain--even from your doctor.

The best options


The brightly colored FitBit Zip

An activity tracker is essential for a gadget-infused healthy lifestyle. It's a valuable addition even for hard-core athletes. These devices, like foot pods or swim trackers, use an accelerometer to monitor your movements. The difference is you wear an activity tracker all the time, even when you sleep, and it collects data for days or weeks at a time, not just during workouts. Research is showing that keeping yourself moving constantly is even more important to your health than working out regularly.

An activity tracker, which is usually worn on your waist or wrist, connects to your computer or smartphone to upload your data for analysis in the cloud. Using a tracker provides an excellent picture of your daily activity and plays a valuable role in helping you set and achieve overall daily activity goals, as opposed to only focusing on 30- to 60-minute workouts. Some track your sleep using actiography, which detects sleep cycles based on subtle body movements.

Additional features include a barometric pressure sensor to calculate stairs climbed (based on altitude changes), vibrating alarms to wake you in the morning or to motivate you to move if you've been idle, or even an optical heart rate sensor. Trackers like the Fitbit Zip, Fitbit One, and Withings Smart Activity Tracker can be clipped to your belt or dropped in your pocket. The Jawbone Up, Nike+ Fuelband. Fitbit Flex, and Larklife go on your wrist. Battery life varies, but is usually 5 to 7 days, and all units (except the Jawbone Up) sync wirelessly to a computer or phone.


The WithingsSmart Body Analyzer

A wireless scale calculates weight and automatically uploads data to online services and smartphone apps for easy tracking and motivation. Most use Wi-Fi and estimate body composition by measuring the electrical impedance of your body, which varies between fat and muscle tissue. The scales send an undetectable electrical signal through the soles of your feet, then calculate body fat using your height and weight. It isn't accurate in an absolute sense, due to algorithms used to estimate body fat, but is consistent between measurements if you follow some basic rules like using it at the same time every day.

 

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