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E-fitness: Mobile trackers becoming increasingly popular tool


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The voice from the smartphone implores you to keep moving, pushing through the pain to finish the next mile.

Once you’ve finished, the device can tell you the distance run, the splits of your per-mile results and how many calories you burned.

With a few taps, you can create an ideal diet plan for your activity level, find the best strength workouts to develop muscles and watch demonstrations of new techniques to make sure you’re getting the best out of your body.

Fitness trackers have become an important tool for longtime fitness buffs and beginners alike. Worn on your wrist, clipped to your belt or tracked through your smartphone, programs such as Fitbit and My Fitness Pal serve as digital coaches and trainers.

The devices offer a continual nudge to get out and get active by combining tools that monitor progress, giving advice on ways to improve and comparing results.

“My struggle is going home, eat and then you sit down and don’t want to get up again,” said Penny Clayton, wellness director at the Community Life Center in the Center Grove area. “It really has helped motivate me when I see my friends are ahead of me. It’s a friendly competition.”

After a long day, sometimes Laura Sanchez just wants to sit and relax. Caring for three young children can be exhausting for the southside resident.

But a glance at her phone can quickly change her attitude. In her Fitbit community, a digital group of friends and family compare workouts for the day, and she can tell if she’s fallen behind.

“It’s become a friendly competition. You can message and cheer and taunt people, and we have fun that way,” she said.

Sanchez bought a Fitbit tracker in February while recovering from an injury that scrambled her workout routine. She was looking for a way to keep her more accountable. She runs three days a week, between four and five miles each time. Each time, she takes about 7,000 steps.

“It picks up your steps and gives you distance for the whole day and the week,” she said. “Before, I’d get home, eat dinner and sit around. Now, I’ll see where I’m at and see that I need to get moving.”

Inside a lightweight bracelet is a computer tracker that records every step she takes during the day. Syncing it with her smartphone, she can set goals on steps for the day and see how many calories she’s burned vs. how many she’s consumed.

A series of five lights lets her know how much of her daily fitness goal she’s reached. The device even works when Sanchez is sleeping, giving a readout of her deepest sleep and solutions to help her get the proper rest.

“I don’t sleep a lot, so that’s been good to track where I have the most trouble,” she said.

Kathy Weiss has been using her Fitbit since December. She and her husband, Bryan, own Marian Financial Partners, and they had given one of their employees the device as an incentive.

They set up a program where a bonus was given for taking 10,000 steps every day for a month. Both Kathy and Bryan Weiss took part, and additional rewards could be earned if the employee walked more than they did.

“Even though I work out six days a week, it has helped me to become a more active walker and to move more,” Kathy Weiss said. “The benefit is just being more aware of your daily activity and not sitting around so much.”

Her participation caught the attention of a friend, Clayton at Mount Pleasant Christian Church, and immediately was drawn to the competitive nature of the device.

Because Fitbit allows users to form groups and communities, Clayton and Kathy Weiss started challenging each other to do more each day.

“Penny set her bar high and started meeting her goal of 20,000 steps fairly consistently,” Kathy Weiss said. “Then my competitive nature kicked in. I am doing my best to keep up with Penny on a daily basis. We encourage each other.”

For Clayton, the Fitbit allowed her to reach the people she was training in a more meaningful way. They could set goals for each day, and she could track if those goals had been met.

If by 5 p.m. a client still had a ways to go, she could offer encouragement and motivation. If they had already met their goal, she could congratulate them.

“I have one girl I work with who’s so proud when she meets her goal, she sends me pictures of her screen,” she said. “It really is a simple tool that works.”

FIND ONE RIGHT FOR YOU

Nike FuelBand

Cost: $149

Features

  • LED display gives information on pace, speed, distance and time.
  • Counts steps and tells time
  • Bluetooth technology allows users to stay in constant contact with their phone, receiving feedback.
  • Water-resistant

Sizes: Available in small (5.79 inches), medium/large (6.77 inches) and extra-large (7.76 inches).

Fitbit Flex

Cost: $99.95

Features

  • Tracks steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned, active minutes, hours slept and quality of sleep
  • Syncs to computers and smartphones
  • Gives real-time updates on progress
  • Connect with friends to share and compete.

Sizes: Small (5.5 to 6.2 inches) and large (6.3 to 8.2 inches)

Information: fitbit.com

Lark Life

Cost: $149.95

Features

  • Activity tips provided to improve progress
  • Get insight into what and when to eat so that you can shed pounds and stay energized all day.
  • Improve sleep through monitoring and data reports.
  • Track type of exercise, amount of time doing it and distance covered.

Sizes: Small (4.6 inches), medium (5.3 inches) and large (5.9 inches)

Information: lark.com

Polar Loop

Cost: $109.95

Features

  • Activity guide helps you stay active all day long
  • Displays daily activity, calories burned, steps taken and time of day
  • Free guidance with the Polar Flow app and Polar Flow web service
  • Waterproof and measures activity even when swimming

Sizes: One size fits all with adjustable bracelet

Information: polar.com

LifeTrak Zone

Cost: $99

Features

  • Automatically tracks calorie burning, steps, distance and sleep
  • Filters out false steps from activity tracker
  • Gives heart rate at the push of a button and stores last heart rate taken
  • Connects to app that tracks daily and weekly progress

Sizes: One size fits all with adjustable bracelet

Information: lifetrakusa.com

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