Recently, the internet has been awash with stories about how bad sitting and inactivity are for us. The journal Medscape found that cutting back on "sitting time" and replacing it with even light physical activity could potentially reduce the risk of premature death. Replacing as little as 30 minutes per day of sitting time with either light physical activity (LPA) or moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) was associated with a lower risk of mortality.
The Carrot and the Stick
This recognition has fueled sales of fitness trackers, such as the Fitbit and Apple Watch. One fitness tracker provides feedback that says, "pretty active" or "kinda active" (for $120 no less), while another buzzes when you've achieved your goals.
One tracker displays "badges" for good behavior, and another presents you options such as, "run for five minutes or walk for 30 minutes or play guitar, standing, for two hours." The Jawbone UP24 even detects if you're enjoying some couch potato time, and it will buzz and send activity prompts to your smartphone.
The online portions of these devices bring out the competitor in all of us. For example, you can send either cheers or taunts to your fellow Fitbit users, and the Jawbone UP device lets you compare your fitness results with those of other users.
Fitbit claims that users who join their service along with friends are 27 percent more active than those who join alone. Fitbit also says that for every friend you add, your activity level increases by around 750 steps per day. Jawbone claims that having one or more teammates makes you walk 10 additional miles a month.
This digital hand-holding extends to that provided by the Jawbone UP 3.0 which, if you opt-in, sends you reminders to go to bed at 10:30 p.m. When you wake up, the Jawbone UP24 will switch on your Philips Hue lights, and it will start brewing your coffee, so long as your coffee machine has an Internet-connected power plug.
Garmin Forerunner 220
For runners, the GPS-enabled Garmin Forerunner 220 watch calculates your speed and distance as you stride, and the additional chest strap ($50 extra) allows you to track your heart rate as well. ($250, buy.garmin.com)
Basis Carbon Steel Edition
The Basis Carbon Steel Edition offers a step-by-step process for creating healthy habits, such as running. It includes wrist sensors that record your heart rate, perspiration and skin temperature. ($199, mybasis.com)
The MyFitnessPal (iOS and Android) app lets you scan a barcode or choose from the company's database of over 5 million foods so you can track your nutrition and calorie intake.
The Fitocracy (iOS and Android) app, which was inspired by games like World of Warcraft, makes fitness fun by awarding experience points for successful workouts. You can also unlock achievements, raise your level, and complete quests, all while getting into shape.
Strava Running and Cycling
The Strava Running and Cycling (iOS and Android) app is an exercise tracker, a fitness community, and an activity log, and its "Segments" page allows you to compare your times on specific routes with those of others, and displays a leaderboard.
A Sea of Abandoned Fitness Gadgets for Sale on eBay
The reality as shown in a Guardian newspaper article, is that over a third of us will give up using our fitness gadget within six months of purchasing it. Do a search for fitness trackers on eBay, and there are a lot of them for sale. Hopefully, people are giving up on their gadgets and not on their fitness goals.