Devices can give you feedback to help reach goals
There are several products on the market that can be used to track and monitor personal activity, heart rate, and calorie expenditures throughout an entire day, which is meant to provide feedback to help you achieve your goals.
These new devices go way beyond those "old-fashioned" pedometers, which were clipped on the belt and used to count the number of steps taken in a day. The information you can receive from these devices is a fantastic way to stay motivated, challenge yourself within the proper boundaries, and educate yourself as to how your body responds to specific types of exercise.
Tracking devices, such as the Bodybugg used on The Biggest Loser, track all types of data to varying degrees. They can measure your steps, calories burned, workout intensity, sleep quality and duration, and have built-in technology to provide accurate measurements of activity. There are differences of how they are worn, which may impact comfort and usability. Some are considered "all-day" monitors, while others are considered "performance" monitors that are specific to your activity.
A step up from a regular pedometer is the FitBit Ultra (approximately $100). This device allows you to track your steps, and also includes an altimeter which measures distance you are climbing stairs or hiking. This device is to be worn near the waist and clips to the clothing, and provides an estimate of calories burned rather than measuring them.
The Bodybugg ($179-249), also sold privately as BodyMedia FIT Armbands ($149-$199), is to be worn continuously on the upper left arm to pull the data. This product uses multiple physiological sensors to collect the information necessary in estimating calorie expenditure. These sensors measure motion and physical exertion, heat from body, galvanic skin response (sweat), skin temperature, and are combined with the wearer’s specific body parameters (age, height, weight, and gender).
The purpose of the tool is to record how long the user has exercised, how many calories they have burned, in comparison to how much food was consumed, and if they reached their daily target. The online program (which is an additional monthly fee) allows you to track nutrition and calories in comparison with activity.
Gadgets designed specifically for running include the Nike Sportband/Fuelband ($59-$149) tracks your route and speed while the Adidas miCoach Pacer ($140) offers real-time coaching and post-workout feedback to help you keep the right pace, as well as distance, heart rate, and calories burned. One drawback is that three devices are required for this information: armband, chest-strap, and a clip-on shoe sensor.
Personally I am fond of using a Polar Heart Rate Monitor. Polar has numerous models based on what your goals are, with several add-on options. Whether you want to get active, improve fitness, or improve performance, the website is helpful in helping you navigate through to find the perfect model for you. There are several styles of comfortable chest straps, but the watch is where all of the technology is. Cost begins around $50 for a basic model, and increases to well over $200 for models that include a Garmin GPS, cadence sensors, and more detailed information regarding your training.
If you choose to use any of these tools to help with your conditioning and/or weight loss goals, just remember that these are monitoring devices. Becoming obsessed with number-monitoring is not necessary to achieve results. Having more information about your body as you train is powerful, and will help you learn how to push yourself appropriately and see better results in less time.