I’m not much for paying attention to what I eat or how often I exercise, but when I started gaining weight, my doctor questioned if my new medication was to blame, or if it was my lifestyle. She suggested that I keep a food and exercise diary, but then quickly changed her mind as she watched my kids tumble across the exam table.
Yeah, finding time to log everything I eat and how many times I chase my kids around the yard in a paper journal probably isn’t realistic. Instead, we talked about activity monitors.
These little gadgets come in different varieties and electronically log how active you are during the day. Some monitors get clipped to your clothing, and others come in a wrist band that looks very similar to the rubber “cause” bands that are so popular (LiveStrong, Autism Awareness, Save the Boobies, etc.).
Here’s why activity monitors are a frugal choice for getting fit:
1. Admitting and examining the problem is often half the battle. You may think you’re getting enough exercise, but until you count and log your steps every day, you really aren’t sure. A good activity monitor accurately reports how many steps you take every day so you can set appropriate goals.
2. Accountability helps. If you agree to show your reports to your doctor, you’ll think twice about skipping your evening walk or eating that extra cookie.
3. They make tracking your activity and intake fun (especially if you like gadgets) and more accurate.
4. There’s no additional cost, beside the purchase of the monitor.
Three of the most popular activity monitors available right now are the Nike Fuel Band, the FitBit, and the Jawbone Up. I went with the Jawbone Up since it had good reviews and provides extensive reports based on your data. It also included tracking for sleep quality and duration, which is something I’m working on now to improve my health.
Here’s what I liked about the Jawbone Up band:
1. It’s lightweight and comfortable. You select the size that’s right for your wrist based on measurements. It’s a lot like wearing a watch; you almost forget it’s there at all. In fact, no one even noticed I was wearing an activity monitor.
2. It has a gentle smart wake alarm built in. You set the time you want to wake up and the band looks for a light sleep cycle within 20 minutes either way of your desired wake time. When the bands detects you’ve left a deep sleep, it vibrates. It continues to vibrate at intervals until you shut it off. No noisy beeps to shock you out of sleep, and no emerging from the middle of a nice dream to hit the snooze button.
3. It syncs with a free app available for iOS or Android and displays all your data in an attractive and easy-to-read and understand format. You can compare lots of stats, check how many calories you’ve consumed or burned, or see how many hours of deep sleep you got and how many times you woke up during the night.
4. Logging food intake is easy. If the food has a bar code, simply scan it with your phone or tablet and adjust the portion consumed. You can also enter dietary info manually or choose from a vast database of foods (including restaurant foods), as well as track how many ounces of water you drink each day. Entering food into my “diary” literally takes seconds, so I can get back to work or snarf that cookie before the kids realize there are Oreos in the house.
5. There are other compatible apps available to help me manage my fitness, but none are required. You purchase the band and everything you need to track your health is included at no extra charge. There’s no gym membership, diet website membership, or reoccurring fees of any kind.
6. The band is waterproof. So if I decide to multitask and march in place while I condition my hair in the shower, I can. (Not that I’ve had the urge, but the option is nice if I ever feel like trying out being a Super Mom.)
7. I can set an activity alarm to vibrate when I’ve sat still for too long. This feature alone is invaluable for me, since I often lose track of time while working and then realize I’m stiff and sore from sitting too long at my desk.
For me, the cost of the band was negligible, since it was cheaper than joining a gym, trying Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers, or even buying supplements and vitamins that go with many diet plans today. If I forget to sync my band or log a meal, it’s not a big deal. The band still logs my steps and sleep patterns as long as I’m wearing it.
Have you used an activity monitor? If so, tell us what kind and how it worked for you.