Ok I’ll admit I’m a bit of a gadget head. Not an uber-techie, but I do love novel new devices. There’s a lot to be said about cool new toys and I actually wrote a post about the benefits of novelty here. Around Christmas time I was creating a wish list, and at the top I had a Fitbit wristband tracker with the new Heart Rate monitor. I’ve used the Fitbit Zip a couple of years ago and sadly lost it while hiking. (I even went back and hiked the same trail a second day in a row to find it, but to no avail.) I loved that it was a simple way to stay mindful about daily activity. It wasn’t until I started wearing a pedometer device that I realized how sedentary I was at my office desk job. Halfway through the day I would look down at my Fitbit and realize I’d barely taken over a thousand steps. A simple goal I would set for myself and with my clients is to hit a target number of steps per day. Wearing a device that tracks this accurately and easily makes this kind of a goal kinda fun.
Fitbit makes health and fitness tracking fun and interactive
So now the game just got more interesting. In addition to tracking steps, newer Fitbit models allow you track your movement and translate that into measuring distance traveled, flights climbed, sleep quality, calories burned and even heart rate. I used to wear a heart rate monitor when I exercised to aid with my training and felt like it was cumbersome to use. The strap always got loose and the batteries needed replacing too frequently. Sometimes the transmitters just started being unpredictable, even after changing batteries. I wanted to try something new. And the Fitbit Charge HR seemed to fit the bill of what I was looking for- a way to keep tabs on my daily activity, keep an eye on my sleep quality and track my heart rate at rest as well as during exercise -which is very useful for high intensity interval training. You can even connect to other friend using Fitbit if you want to make it a social affair.
In my experience using the HR Charge constantly for 2 weeks, I can say I’m pleased with the overall picture I’m getting of my health status. It keeps a nice 30 day average of my resting heart rate and captures an eye-opening recording of my movements during sleep. I used to wonder if I was getting quality sound sleep and now I have a record that verifies this-I’m a restless sleeper. It’s great to track trends. The only drawbacks I see in this device is that the heart rate isn’t super duper accurate during high intensity exercise, when the heart rate can fluctuate quite a bit. It seems to take a bit of time to register changes in the wrist sensor, as compared to a chest strap heart rate monitor. The other thing is more of a style issue. I find the wristband a little thick and often it gets caught in my sleeve. Other than that there are some super cool features like caller ID and vibrating alarm settings that make this particualar model worth buying.
So I’m still wearing it! And I log into the interactive dashboard and play around for fun. Sometimes I track my food, but not all the time. The option is there if you want it. And the inventory for food data is the most robust I’ve seen. I like the heart rate graphs that get recorded during exercise. But possibly my favorite reason to wear my Fitbit is to help me hit my 10,000 steps per day goal. It’s definitely helping me to consciously avoid being too sedentary without realizing it.
Measuring Metabolism just got more Personal: My Breezing Review
The other device I’m thrilled to tell you about is the newest portable indirect calorimeter called Breezing. It’s a handheld device that measures your resting metabolic rate via your breath. Usually you would have to go to a training center, metabolic lab, hospital or college sports facility to have access to a test like this. You would typically wear a face mask that is hooked up to a machine and would breath for 10-20 minutes while the machine analyzes the CO2 expired in your breath. (As similar to the image below.) What Breezing has done is taken this technology and shrunk it to the size of the palm of your hand. This makes the test portable and virtually accessible to anyone with a smartphone or ipad. More Info on their website: Breezing.com.
I’ve been trying out the device on myself and clients to get a feel for how it operates, the ease of use and of course to assess individual variability. According to tried and true metabolic equations, my personal resting metabolic rate is estimated around 1300 calories based on my height, weight and age. When I did an actual measurement with Breezing, it measured my RMR at 2150 calories- a tremendous difference! One of the major lifestyle factors I think accounted for this was that I had been ramping up my HIIT (High intensity Interval Training) for the past 6 weeks. I had also exercised for 3 consecutive days previous to my measurement. I did a second measurement a couple of days later, after 2 rest days without exercise. The second RMR measured at 1870. A notable decrease but still quite higher than my estimated baseline from the metabolic equation I would typically use estimate calorie requirements for clients.
Metabolism Fluctuates- A Lot!
I think it’s fascinating to note how variable one’s metabolism is. Anytime one speaks with a dietitian or personal trainer, or even use an app like Fitbit or My Fitness Pal, the metabolism is always an estimated number. How many calories do you need? Well, based on your height, weight and age and activity level, it should be this (XYZ). This would be a great tool to use if you work with people and weight management. But it would also be great for personal use if you are trying to overcome a slow metabolism. Likewise, if you had an abnormally fast metabolism it could help with targeting the appropriate calorie intake to support weight gain. For one client we discovered although he was underweight, he actually did not have an elevated metabolism, he was just completely unaware that he was under-eating. Using this device takes the guesswork and the maybes out of the way. If you’re not losing weight and your metabolism is not below average, it could be highly likely that you eat more calories than you think. If you track your intake with an app, maybe your portion estimates are off. The device interfaces with an app that lets your customize your goals for weight management and factors in exercise and diet as well.
There have been similar devices to measure metabolism put out by other companies, but they were a little clunkier to use, had no iOS interface and were quite cost prohibitive. The Breezing metabolism tracker is more intuitive, the set up is simple and the test takes under 2 minutes to complete. Amazingly the cost of the Breezing Metabolism tracker is not cost prohibitive. For the price of a couple of specialist visits ($350), you can have your own at home (or in-office) metabolism tracker. The sensor cartridges are additional but you can get 2 FREE 5-Packs (a $50 value) if you order using the (reusable) Breezing coupon code AMY10 after adding the sensor cartridges to the cart. I am an enthusiastic affiliate of Breezing and hope that personal metabolism tracking can help many people get past the frustrations of weight loss plateaus and bring about a better understanding of how one’s own metabolism changes over time.
Health Tracking Devices Work if it’s Fun
The whole point of using these devices is to make following a healthy lifestyle fun by personalizing it with your own data. Having more information and feedback on your progress or tracking changes makes your journey more special because it’s no longer a one size fits all approach. It’s customized to you! It’s great to get the feedback from my Fitbit that I hit my 10,000 step goal when my wristband buzzes and lights up. It’s just one more positive feedback system that keeps me engaged and excited about the changes I’m making. I love helping clients understand their metabolism better and customizing a goal that is based on a biological assessment instead of an estimate. It’s eye-opening to track and follow changes over time and see what impact different interventions have.
What’s your opinion on health and fitness tracking devices?
Do you use one? Do you have a favorite? Do you think they would help you in reaching your health and fitness goals? I’d love to know if you’ve tried one and how it worked for you.