Fitness Gadgets Get You Up and Going

I don’t have much trouble motivating myself to exercise because it makes me more relaxed and helps keep my weight where I want it to be. My husband, however, would rather do just about anything than work out even though he knows (and says) that he’d feel better if he did. So I have been searching for a Father’s Day gift that could make exercising less boring — or dare I say, even fun — for him… and I’ve had fun looking! There are some clever new fitness “toys” that are effective, easy to use and affordable. Not only can they keep track of how far you’ve walked or run, they also monitor your “energy in” (calories eaten) compared with “energy out” (calories burned)… measure improvement in your overall fitness level… and generate ideas to make your workouts more challenging and interesting. And they’re lots more entertaining than your basic, boring pedometer…


FitBit: This two-inch-long, half-inch-wide electronic clip-on device is actually just a high-tech pedometer with accelerometers (motion sensors that detect movement in three directions — similar to ones used for Nintendo Wii) to measure your movement. On your belt, in your pocket or attached to a wristband, it measures how many steps you’ve taken, how many calories you’ve burned, how active you are in general, and so on.

Best thing about it: You can upload your data from the device to the company’s Web site to easily track your activity level. There’s a calorie database of 50,000 foods to track your caloric intake, too.

Bonus feature: It also can track how long and how efficiently you sleep, including whether you toss and turn or get up often.

Demerits: You can’t use the FitBit to track cycling or swimming because accelerometers are accurate only for walking and running.

Price: $99; access to Web site is free after purchase.



Philips DirectLife: Designed to be carried in a pocket, this is another accelerometer-based device that keeps track of how much you move.

What’s cool: The purchase price includes e-mail access to DirectLife fitness coaches who can serve as personal trainers and answer such questions as “how do I set goals” or how can I improve my workouts?”

Unique: It’s waterproof.

Less cool: DirectLife can’t track calories (in or out), and there is a monthly membership fee.

Price: $99 for the device, which includes a four-month membership to the coaching service… then $12.50/month to keep the coaching feature active.



Bodybugg: The Bodybugg “personal calorie management system” is an armband that measures your skin’s galvanic response (basically, electrical conductivity due to your sweat), temperature and heat output, along with motion — all to calculate how many calories you burn throughout the day. It also works as a pedometer and is unobtrusive enough to be worn under your shirt without attracting attention.

Intriguing feature: The galvanic device makes the calorie expenditure measurement extremely accurate, and there’s an online log as well.

Not as great: It’s expensive.

Price: $249 for the device and a six-month Web-service membership, then $9.95 per month, $49.95 for six months or $79.95 for 12 months.



Garmin FR60 (featuring ANT +): I like this fitness wristwatch because it’s a system to which you can add different features if you like. Besides functioning as a watch, the basic unit lets you track your heart rate and calories burned… if you attach the optional wireless foot pod to your shoelaces, you can track speed and distance covered… add a speed/cadence sensor and you can use the FR60 on your bicycle to track your pedaling speed and how fast and far you’re going… and there is also a body-composition scale you can use as you monitor your weight and body fat. You can easily upload all this data to the Garmin Connect Web site for storage.

Even better: Garmin uses technology that is compatible with many fitness equipment manufacturers — perhaps even including some at your local gym. (Look for the words “ANT+ enabled” to see where it can be used.)

Downside: Personally, I think the watch looks too big and clunky.

Price: $99.99 for watch… $199.99 with foot pod included… $60 for bike sensor. There is no additional charge for web access.



Nike + iPod: The Nike + iPod Sport Kit works with iPod Nano, iPod Touch and iPhone 3GS… plus a pair of Nike+ sneakers. It’s basically a sensor (1.3 inches long, oval-shaped and thin) that gets placed in a special pocket in the insole of the Nike+ sneaker to track your walking and running… it then sends data on time, distance, pace and calories burned to be stored on your iPod/iPhone.

Value added: The kit includes a catalog of suggested workouts, and you can download additional ones from Apple’s iTunes Web site. Also, you can upload your fitness data to to keep track. And since some professional fitness equipment includes Nike + connectivity, you might be able to use it with equipment at your gym.

What’s missing: There’s no calorie intake tracker.

Price: $29.

Info: The Nike+ sneakers cost about the same as the firm’s other high-end running shoes — between $85 and $160. There’s no additional charge for web access.


Of course, the real secret to fitness costs nothing and is as low-tech as it gets: Move more. But if adding some technology to the mix makes it more interesting or motivating, I’m all for it!