Last year saw the rise of the fitness tracker, with smart bands becoming a feature on the wrists of many a health and fitness junkie. 2015 is set to see health and fitness technology go mainstream, with gadgets aimed at every aspect of aiding users in their health and fitness journeys – from apps which help you change bad habits, to smart yoga mats, to now-customary GPS running watches updated with the latest software, it is certainly an exciting year for technology, and one which has every area of health covered. There’s even an app to monitor bad breath. Yes, really.
Wearables in particular are going to become standard adornments on the bodies of everyone this year – activity tracking is no longer reserved for the most fanatical fitness freaks. No no, 2015 marks the beginning of the era of the wearable as more and more people seek all-round wellbeing, immediate health data and personalised motivation to really hone their bodies. There is even a dedicated website – www.wearable.com – to assist users in getting the most from their devices, proving that activity tracking is not just a fleeting craze. Welcome to fitness for the digital age!
Hip & Healthy has put some of the top players to the test to bring you a rundown of the very best in what happens when tech meets health:
Jawbone Up, £99.99 – A forerunner in the wearables world, the Jawbone Up promises to offer a ‘holistic approach to a healthy lifestyle’. The Up monitors calories consumed and burned, steps taken, mood, water intake and sleep. Designed to be used in conjunction with the Up app, the band is worn on the wrist and acquires a variety of health-related data throughout the day which is depicted in easily interpretable graphs on your smartphone.
What makes the Jawbone Up more interesting than many rival trackers is its sleep monitoring abilities, as it detects both light and deep sleep, allowing you to judge the quality, rather than just the time, of your slumber. A nice added feature is its morning alarm which wakes you at a set time during your lightest sleep by a gentle vibration, making for for a lovely relaxed start to the day so you can really get the most from your beauty sleep.
With Smart Coach technology, the Up offers tailored advice as it learns about its wearer’s lifestyle and habits over time and offers encouragement via the app based on your habits. So if you regularly spend a lot of your day parked on your bottom it’ll prompt you to get up and move more. It’s a little like having a motivational coach by your side.
Pouring over your own health statistics and making connections in the results allows you to identify that adjusting small parts of your daily routine can significantly impact your wellbeing in other areas – ‘Oh I took 1000 extra steps yesterday, that must be why I slept more deeply last night!’
Where the Jawbone falls short is with its lack of wireless technology. The band needs to be plugged into your smartphone daily to upload its data and charged about once a week in the headphone jack of your computer. While this isn’t really a huge issue – connecting the band before bed quickly becomes a ritual – it is one thing that makes the device usage a little less sleamless and user-friendly than some of its rivals. Likewise, remembering to set the tracker to ‘sleep mode’ at night and back to ‘activity mode’ upon waking can sometimes be a bit of a faff but it soon becomes a part of your routine.
That said, the Jawbone Up is a fantastic device and a great intro into the world of wearables. For those of you who love poring over numbers, data, and graphs, the Jawbone Up is a winner.
Misfit Shine, £79.75– If you’re the type of lady who responds well to seeing your progress in visual form, enjoys the social side of exercise, and is a bit of a fashionista to boot, the Misfit Shine is the wearable for you.
With its super sleek disk (which comes in a variety of cool colours) in place of the standard band, the Misfit Shine caters to the ‘hip’ as well as the ‘healthy’. Looking more like a piece of jewellery than an activity tracker is one of the Misfit’s strongest plus points so it compliments any gal’s Friday night LBD, because you need to track those dance moves, obvs. Aesthetically minimalist yet incredibly high-tech, the Shine certainly makes for a conversation starter. Warning: Wearing the Misfit Shine is likely to make you feel like a Bond Girl.
But don’t be fooled by its glamour – behind the glossy surface the Misfit Shine is a very smart little thing. The monitor can track sleep, steps, distance and calories and has a built-in photo food journal to satisfy the food photographer in you, it is also fully waterproof, meaning you can take it to the pool. Whether for an intense training session or for a chill in the Jacuzzi is, of course, down to you…
All the tapping and learning how to read the time using the Shine’s LED flashing system can be fiddly initially but telling the time according to a series of flashes soon becomes second nature. Having your daily progress available to check right there on your wrist makes achieving your activity goals easy as you can monitor your progress with just a couple of taps.
With the Shine app, users can connect with one another to motivate, seek inspiration, and partake in some friendly competition. Building relationships and spending quality time with friends is a vital wedge in the wheel of health and Misfit makes it easier than ever to integrate socialising with healthy living so the two need not be mutually exclusive. Just place the disk on your smartphone screen to sync it with the app. Like we said, Bond Girl.
Aftershokz Bluez 2, £74.95 – It’s winter. It’s dark out there. If you are a runner you are probably kitted out in enough luminous, flashing, glowing running attire to see you fit in at any rave. Because safety is paramount. But then you likely plug in your ear buds and get those power songs blasting…
Being safe when you are out there pavement pounding requires more than just being seen, blocking your sense of hearing puts you at risk too. Luckily, Aftershokz understands this, and luckily, they also understand the importance of your carefully compiled training playlist, which led to the Aftershokz Bluez 2.
The incredibly lightweight headset sits snuggly around the back of the head with the earpieces positioned in front of, rather than on or in, the ears, and conducts sound through the wearer’s cheek bones – the same technology used by Google Glass, FYI. Meaning you can jam to your tunes without completely blocking out all external noise so you can have your wits about you and stay connected to both the outside world AND Beyonce.
The other fabulous feature of the Bluez 2 apart from being both waterproof and sweat-proof, is their wireless connectivity. The headset connects via Bluetooth to your phone or mp3 player and all controls are easily available in front of your ear. Not having tangly, flail-y wires to contend with and not having to spend minutes before every workout lacing leads through your sleeves and round your neck is quite the novelty and makes popping out the door for a quick 5k a cinch. Ain’t nobody got time for wires! The headphones also deliver much better quality sound than that of the standard iPod buds that you are likely familiar with, and you can even take calls through them so your social and business lives need not suffer while you sweat.
And whilst you may feel a little geeky sporting your hi-vis in the name of safety, the Aftershokz Bluez 2 looks sleek and elegant too, proving that safety can actually be pretty cool after all.
Lumie Bodyclock Iris 500, £120 – The last few years have seen an astronomical rise in the acceptance of holistic and emotional health as an integral aspect of a well-rounded healthy life. People are becoming increasingly more in tune with their bodies on a more comprehensive level and the importance of rest, meditation and mental health is being lauded to balance out hardcore physical training and high-powered lifestyles.
The Lumie Bodyclock Iris 500 is one gadget that aids in all-round wellbeing with its holistic approach to bedtime. Nobody likes to be jolted into their day by the brutal shrieks of the standard phone alarm; a sure-fire way to start the day with an injection of stress. In an ideal world we would all wake and sleep in rhythm with the sun and moon but of course, this is the modern world of busy lives that don’t allow us to stay in the land of nod according to Mother Nature’s desires.
The Lumie Iris 500 solves the problem of the rise in stress levels which can develop from the need to be woken artificially. Implementing the huge benefits of light therapy, the Iris emits a gradual light to stimulate hormone production and stabilise irregular sleep patterns followed by a burst of aromatherapy oil to fully stimulate your senses. We’ve seen light-emitting clocks before, of course, but what makes the Iris extra special is its aromatherapy dimension. Yes indeed, you can now choose from an array of aromatherapy oils to aid restful nights and energise early mornings. Set the clock to disperse the relaxing scent of lavender at bedtime, and the refreshing smell of lemon oil to rouse you in the morning and you have yourself a whole new experiential bedtime routine. The light also serves as a conventional lamp allowing you to fight the gloom outside with its relaxing and healing glow.
Sounds a bit faddy, we thought at first. But after just two nights of Lumie taking care of our circadian rhythms we can attest to a marked boost in morning-time energy levels. The Lumie therefore makes rising early to get in those morning workouts a breeze (okay, it’s not magic, but getting up is a whole lot easier now than without it) and you’ll be far less likely to spend the day downing coffee and trying to keep from nodding off at your desk.
If you feel your internal clock needs a reset and you’d benefit from an energy boost, give the Lumie Bodyclock Iris a go.
TomTom Runner, £99.99 – To most runners, their GPS watch is as indispensible to training as their Nikes. Which is why the purchasing of a durable, functional, multi-data-collecting device can be a lengthy and, quite frankly, daunting task. It’s easy to find yourself with brand-blindness.
The TomTom Runner offers simplicity to those seeking a GPS running watch, yet still packs in a whole host of vital features for optimal training. With just one touch of a button you are able to scroll through your run’s vital stats – time, pace, distance and speed – and with a little set-up, the Runner can also collect statistics from treadmill runs which is something a lot of other watches require a shoe sensor for. The feature that makes the TomTom Runner a standout in a competitive field of starter GPS watches, though, is its integrated coaching system which allows users to program in a set training workout of intervals. There is also a heart-rate training zones feature which tells you which percentage-zone you are working in so you can tailor your training for ultimate fat burn. Winning.
An essential requirement in a running watch is speedy satellite syncing. If the watch connects with the sky quick-stat then it is sure to enjoy a long and sweaty relationship with it’s user. The TomTom Runner certainly delivers on this front, connecting to satellites after less than a minute, on average, before flashing up the command ‘GO!’ to get your run off to a speedy start. With its lovely big and bright display it is easy to read your data at a glance whilst on the run and on typically British dark and squally run-commutes the watch’s water resistance and light-up display are particularly appreciated.
As far as cons –the ability to interchange the fascias of the device probably isn’t worth having the watch itself pop out from its strap intermittently, making it prone to becoming lost in the murky depths of one’s gym bag. But this is really just nit-picking. The TomTom Runner is not stuffed full with features you’ll never use, making it incredibly simple to set up and familiarise yourself with. Out of the box, it just requires a quick plug into the computer for a charge, a quick sync with the online program and it’s good to be strapped to your wrist and taken to the pavement!
words by Rachel Bednarski
image: NikeLab X Johanna F. Schneider Collection