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Wednesday
May072014

What do IHRSA associate members offer in wearable technology?

There are obviously countless fitness and activity trackers on the market, with scores of new ones every year. Just in the past two months a pair of IHRSA associate members launched new ones.

So, the million-dollar questions (and a big chunk of the market share) are, what is the difference from one to another and which one is best for you?

Long gone are the days where fitness trackers only monitor your steps and, possibly, the number of calories burned. Heart rate, sleep monitoring, quality of a workout and efficiency are among the offerings in many of the options.

Three IHRSA members have new and innovative products and platforms that are certainly considering when deciding on a piece of wearable technology. 

Garmin
Vivofit

Garmin, which is definitely known for wearable devices, like its mountable cameras, jumps into the health and wellness pool with Vivofit.

This isn’t really Garmin’s first foray in the market as the Forerunner 201, a GPS run watch, came out around 10 years ago.

This new fitness band, which was just launched in January, has much of what other products offer – counting steps and distance, monitoring sleep and counting calories – but also has features that very few, if any, have.

A few features that set it apart are:

  • Vivofit learns the user’s activity level and can personalize daily goals
  • 1-year battery, rather than USB-rechargable ones
  • waterproof to 15 meters down, so swims and showers are OK
  • optional heart rate monitor

“The Vivofit is doing really well,” said Amy Johnson, Garmin Media Relations associate. “We think the 1-year battery life really resonates with people – it’s nice when you put it on and don’t have to take off (to recharge it). You don’t have to worry about take it off during the day and maybe forget to put it on and lose data.”

Vivofit also serves as a motivation coach of sorts. Its Move Bar will remind you when – you guessed it – haven’t moved recently. Knowing that inactivity is unhealthy and stunts the fat-burning process, a red bar shows up on the Vivofit when you haven’t been active for an hour. A couple minute walk or exercise will remove the flag.

“Sometimes we need to be reminded that we’ve been sitting for an hour,” Johnson said. “It has been shown that metabolism slows down after 45 minutes. (Vivofit) is helping you to be healthy by moving throughout the day.”

Garmin announced this week that it will be coming out with the Forerunner 15, which combines its popular GPS running watch with the Vivofit to add fitness tracking.

Polar
Loop

While the Polar Loop may be another relative newbie on the fitness tracker market, the Finnish company certainly is not, having been around for more than 30 years. And it has had trackers over the past 10 years but found that in its infant stage when they weren’t compatible with computers or smartphones, or the data wasn’t instant, users weren’t as fond as they are now.

“(Our past trackers) weren’t as popular due to the lack of accessibility of data. People love instant gratification,” said Chris Zoller, senior Product manager. “That is a big portion of why trackers are growing so quickly.”

The standout feature of the Loop is the Polar Smart Coaching, which is available on many of its devices and has been around for years. It helps optimize your workouts, can customize workouts or will give you an extra push to reach your goals. There are 16 heart rate-based features in Smart Coaching that helps users understand how their exercise program is working for them with a scoring system.

Being a virtual baby in the market, Polar knows it is just getting its feet wet and is looking forward to the future.

Zoller said that over the next months the company wants to figure out how the different data points the Loop provides can then be measured and better used to improve lives.

In a few weeks Polar will know what the future holds as it will unveil its 800 series – a triathlete/extreme athlete watch and tracker. It monitors all three triathlon sports – swim, run and bike – with the Bluetooth Smart technology. Some of the innovative features include reminders when you aren’t working out, assists with over- or under-training by monitoring intensity, and detailed information about your performance.

At the end of the day, wearable health and fitness devices are simply tools. Tools that provide you with data,” Zoller said. “The big (and largely missing) part about having this data, is understanding what it’s telling you, and how to apply it to your life. That's where we feel that we (Polar) have the most experience. We have 35+ years of experience helping people understand health and fitness data. We invested heavily into creating features that help provide you with a holistic approach to your health (with Smart Coaching).” 

MYZONE
Physical Activity Belt and M250

Most trackers will claim they are different, but none look and work like MYZONE. Instead of a wrist monitor MYZONE employs a chest strap that is able to get is key measurable from one’s heart beat.

Emmett Williams, president of CFM, the official distributor of MYZONE products, explained that many of the devices that are worn on the wrist may not pick up certain movements and activities, most notably cycling or lifting when there is no wrist movement.

MYZONE transmits heart rate, calories burned and effort and uses a point-based system based on different activity zones achieved. It is displayed on giant screen in the club you work out at. Even if you take your regimen outside once you enter the club and pass a monitor your data from the workout will be uploaded wirelessly.

MYZONE creates motivation by challenges, goal setting and gamification. It “breaks the war into a series of battles,” according to Williams. MYZONE makes workouts a game in the first few months in order to help new users to “jump hurdles, get through a gate and earn a reward.”

There is also a social aspect to MYZONE with the accompanying app. There is a board where those involved in a challenge can talk to one another. Also, trainers can log in and check upon clients’ activity, e-mail encouragement and feedback. Finally, there is a camera in the app to show trainers or friends what you are doing. 

MYZONE also has a watch that, in addition to telling the time, reads your heart rate. This is beneficial when you are not in a gym and can’t get it on the screen.

The tracker is a great tool for clubs that employ it. Research has shown that members are more likely to come back to the gym when motivated by challenges and bettering friends. It even works for corporate wellness programs.

“The message with all wearables is motivation,” Williams explained. “Our message is that we are all about motivation but we do with accuracy with club owners and a business plan in mind.”

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