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Two new health trackers for heart rate and metabolism: Fitbit Charge HR and Breezing Metabolism Review

 

Fitbit-Charge-HR-black

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

Breezing-FeaturedThe 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.

metabolic testI’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.

 

15 Comments on Two new health trackers for heart rate and metabolism: Fitbit Charge HR and Breezing Metabolism Review

  1. Jessica Beacom
    February 10, 2015 at 2:35 pm (2 years ago)

    Great article, Amy! Thanks for taking the time to test them both out, share your experiences and how you’ve been able to use them in your personal and professional life. I’ve been toying with the idea of a Fit Bit for quite some time because like you, I’ve ended my love affair with the heart rate monitor and it’s straps, batteries, wonky positioning under a sports bra, etc. I think you have me convinced!

    Reply
    • amyrhager@gmail.com
      February 11, 2015 at 8:47 am (2 years ago)

      Thanks Jessica! It’s like a toy for grown ups who want to improve mindfulness around health. Every time my band buzzes when I hit my 10,000 step goal I feel like I just got a gold star on my homework!!

      Reply
  2. David Jackemeyer
    February 11, 2015 at 3:47 pm (2 years ago)

    Hi Amy,
    Great info & well presented!
    Like you, I am curious about these gadgets and their value, having tried all sorts.

    And thanks to your presentation here, I too have decided to offer the gift of activity trackers to family and friends.

    Best!
    David

    Reply
    • amyrhager@gmail.com
      February 11, 2015 at 7:39 pm (2 years ago)

      Thanks David! Is it nerdy that I love health gadgets? Just excited to share my enthusiasm with everyone! Hope your sentiment is appreciated:)

      Reply
      • David Jackemeyer
        February 13, 2015 at 11:53 am (2 years ago)

        Have you tried Xiaomi’s Mi Band?
        We “burned through” the Jawbone Ups & Striiv’s offerings (neither brand lasted longer than a couple months, though there have been a few exceptions w/ Striiv’s Play), played with Basis (still going!) and Misfit Shines (lost), and our longest lasting and favorites are the Mi Band and Fitbits.
        “Nerds just wanna have fun, yeah!”
        Sending Sun!
        DJ

      • amyrhager@gmail.com
        February 25, 2015 at 12:27 pm (2 years ago)

        Hey David, I haven’t even seen the Mi band. I saw a blog post recently from a gal who wore 5 band simultaneously just to compare them to each other. That would be amusing. I’m still getting used to wearing a band vs a clip on, but will check out the Mi Band. I’m assuming it’s different from Microsoft band? That one is pretty high tech as well.

      • David Jackemeyer
        March 1, 2015 at 10:18 pm (2 years ago)

        Yes, different from Microsoft’s MS Band. The Mi Band is designed and manufactured by Xiaomi company in China, one of the coming competitors to the big SamSung and Apple. Xiaomi company has been accused, as many companies have, of stealing good ideas and not compensating the companies stolen from. In the current state of political and financial recklessness, I cannot comment on that aspect. It’s a real mess.
        The Mi Band was 13 – 40 USD when released, and has basic but useful features (unlocks your phone when near, vibrates when incoming call, and is activity and sleep “tracker”). Small rechargeable battery lasts 30 days, and the App interface is nice!

        MS band has GPS, heart rate monitor, etc. It was 200 USD upon release, and brings a level of sophistication that Mi, Misfit, and in ways the UP & earlier Fitbit bands and clips do not have.
        Lots of choices, gadget head! 😉

  3. Nour
    February 18, 2015 at 12:04 am (2 years ago)

    Thanks Amy for the review. I have to admit, I’m not that much of a gadget person. I bought the Polar heart rate monitor and it was fun to track for a while but I felt that I was more focused on the numbers and have less fun working out. I’m not training for a specific sport or event (my hubby bikes, so he’s more into the gadgets and numbers). I find it interesting that your metabolism changed depending on the exercise amount you were doing. That’s a very good teaching point. I have the MedGem machine in my office and the RMR I measure is ALWAYS more than what equations give me. I wonder if these equations are skewed and we’re under-feeding people in general!

    Reply
    • amyrhager@gmail.com
      February 25, 2015 at 12:23 pm (2 years ago)

      Interesting point about the RMR machine vs equations. I do think it’s hard to capture absolute base metabolism. Most people have been up and walking around and in a medical setting, which could affect results to some degree. I did a presentation on metabolism this week and noted that several factors affect metabolism- with eating itself being a big factor. Good to teach on all of these points to show that it’s not a constant variable but dynamic.

      Reply
    • David Jackemeyer
      February 25, 2015 at 1:16 pm (2 years ago)

      Re: @Nour’s last sentences:
      ” I have the MedGem machine in my office and the RMR I measure is ALWAYS more than what equations give me. I wonder if these equations are skewed and we’re under-feeding people in general!”

      Arguments for collecting population data for historical or epidemiological investigation are different from using population’s average as replacement for an individual’s measurement. In my opinion, the latter is misleading at best — (increasingly negligent, IMO).

      Why increasingly negligent?
      A biased equation is not necessarily the worst one, since in theory you would simply correct for that consistent bias. But one with scatter (increasing deviation, increasing negligence) and not much difference between the means — very risky!
      But I digress.

      The equations say nothing about an individual. Your MedGem & Breezing devices auto-calculate based on Weir’s work on breath flow rates and correlation to O2 & CO2 exhaled should bring your client closer to their average Resting M Rate (if measured under repeatable, resting conditions and tracked over time).

      Best in your measurements!

      Reply
  4. laura
    March 18, 2015 at 6:13 pm (2 years ago)

    I have been following breezing since it was still in indiegogo stages and was very excited when it became available. The cost has kept me from taking the step in purchasing one because in all my research on the subject there seems to be such a variance on accuracy of metabolic readings among trackers. I have not been able to find much on the accuracy of the breezing specifically and would love to hear your insights on it!
    If it lives up to the claims I think it would be an amazing investment. Thanks!

    Reply
    • amyrhager@gmail.com
      March 19, 2015 at 12:06 pm (2 years ago)

      Laura, I received several studies from the company validating its accuracy in testing, comparing it to metabolic cart testing (the gold standard). I’m not sure if they are available to the public on their website, but I bet if you contacted them, they would have no problem sending them to you as a prospective buyer. Using it has certainly provided lots of valuable insight for my clients.

      Reply
      • laura
        March 19, 2015 at 4:18 pm (2 years ago)

        Thanks! I checked and they are now available on the site for purchase. Why was there such a difference in your readings of rmr between days? I would think that the exercise would be in addition to an unchanging baseline? Could you explain this more as I’m somewhat confused?

      • amyrhager@gmail.com
        March 19, 2015 at 10:32 pm (2 years ago)

        My highest RMR was measured the morning after I exercised 3 days in a row. Out of curiosity, I decided to be sedentary for 2 days and retest, and it was 300 calories lower, but still higher than average for my age. In other words, I don’t think there is a “baseline” I think RMR is always slightly changing and is an overall average- sort of like your blood pressure or blood sugar. I think it goes to show how much exercise can boost metabolism for days! When I’ve worked with clients who have lower than average RMR, for the most part they have been sedentary or not highly active on a regular basis. Also I think I have a higher than average RMR because I strength train regularly so for my petite size, I burn lots of energy. Send me a message in my contact form if you are considering purchasing and I’ll tell you more about the discount codes.

      • David Jackemeyer
        March 24, 2015 at 6:05 pm (2 years ago)

        Hi Laura, I have been working with the Breezing team on a few ideas, and one not-very-acceptable (b/c of the # of measurements) idea I have for professionals (and marketing) is to encourage several measurements over one’s sedentary day, thereby producing an all-day “metabolic profile”. While cost was the main impedance to measures in the past (& ‘time’ still is!), these $5 measures conducted 5 – 10 times over a sedentary day give me (at least 😉 a much better view of “my metabolism”, which I reconsider as “my daily metabolic profile”. This idea approaches what you are mentioning throughout these posts — fluctuations, averages, “true metabolic rate”, all which I think can be concerns of the past once a person can gather an all-day profile.

        From there, a baseline profile can serve as the “before” snapshot (daily fluctuations and an average). All future interventions with measurements can reveal a) which part of the day is impacted the most and b) what is the new average value?

        Something like this could easily be conducted all day at a Sedentary work station (computer, etc.).
        Anyways, best in your endeavors! The health and wellness (& fitness) fields continue to grow more sophisticated 🙂

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