Achieving better health with activity trackers

Technology Forum

Out are the basic pedometers of yesteryear; in are the chic new activity trackers that help users achieve better health from multiple angles. Calorie and sleep monitoring, food and drink consumption, goal setting, and app usability are just a few of the many features these latest gadgets offer.

Multifaceted, multiuse

Wearable activity trackers are essentially computers with a fashionable edge. The Nike+ FuelBand SE, Fitbit Force, Jawbone UP, larklife, and BodyMedia are some notable brands that offer a variety of band features, designs, and colors. 

The gadgets use sensors to collect data throughout the day, and for some, at night. An accelerometer records movements and steps, whereas an altimeter may be used to track stairs climbed. Algorithms convert measurements into more convenient metrics such as distance traveled, number of active minutes spent, and number of calories burned. Through daily monitoring and real-time progress, these devices motivate users to achieve personal health and fitness goals.

Several products can track the number of hours slept and quality of the sleep, as well as silently awaken the user through vibration patterns. The Nike+ FuelBand SE, larklife, Fitbit Force, and Jawbone are examples that offer sleep measurements. Larklife even shares sleep tips from a Stanford University sleep specialist. With the sleep monitoring feature, users can collect information on personal sleeping habits and work toward making helpful changes. 

Food and drink tracking is another unique feature of a few brands. With larklife, BodyMedia Fit, and Jawbone, users can enter meal consumption and/or scan bar codes throughout the day. Some trackers automatically convert food consumption into calorie intake and provide meal tips from nutrition coaches. Awareness of eating habits can help users make healthier diet adjustments and compare calorie consumption with calories burned.  

Users with a competitive edge can try earning NikeFuel, the proprietary point system of the Nike+ Fuelband SE, which converts physical activity into universal scores. Scores can be compared among friends and other NikeFuel users. Fitbit Force also offers friendly rivalry among personal s, perhaps providing that extra boost to meet goals. 

Most of the products also come with an app that runs on iOS, Android, or both. Real-time wireless synchronization with the app is another feature to consider when purchasing an activity tracker. Several brands also synchronize data and integrate well with other apps, such as My Fitness Pal and Lose It! 

The pharmacist’s role 

150 minutes of cardio or aerobic activity weekly for most adults. For some people, higher numbers may be even more ideal. These new gadgets are not necessary to stay fit and active. They do, however, offer an easier way to monitor daily activity and behaviors, along with a motivational component. 

As always, one must consider the cost of these products and weigh whether the benefits are worth the price tag. Awareness of the features, advantages, and drawbacks of these new products can help a pharmacist spark conversation and make recommendations to patients who may benefit from health and fitness monitoring and motivational reminders. Perhaps one of these trackers may be just the right fit for your patients.

Activity trackers: A sampling