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Monitoring Fitness through Wearables

By Chris Smith
Wearable fitness trackers are a growing market, estimated to be worth well over £15bn. Whilst popular with the younger and tech-savvy demographic, there are proven benefits to all ages - from the casual gym goers to the elite athletes. Wearables come in many shapes and sizes, this article will highlight the pros and cons of three types of fitness trackers. 
Wrist-wear, Chest-straps or Smart-Rings? Which is the right one for you?
 

THE BASIC FITNESS TRACKER

Fitbit Charge 2: Wrist-wear
RRP: £109  |  Amazon
Fitbits are arguably one of the best known fitness trackers on the market. With a variety of different models and price points, they are a great entry point into using wearables to aid your physical activity. The Charge 2 is one of the more affordable models, but still comprises of an array of intelligent features which will help you track your fitness and exercise. The Fitbit is incredibly easy to use and will sync with most smartphones through Bluetooth to an app. a
Great for: Everyday use. One of the main focuses of the Fitbit Charge is step-counting to ensure you hit the target 10,000 steps everyday. It has a large display which can be checked easily and set up to highlight your daily activity goals. In a gym setting, this band will measure your heart rate and can be set to measure against various sporting activities.
Not so great for: Pin-point accuracy or water sports. The Charge 2 is not waterproof, so you won't be able to use it for swimming activities or whilst you're in the shower. Whilst the heart rate monitor will give you a good indication of your pulse, it's location on the body isn't ideal to give you the most accurate results. Whilst this device is great for the casual gym goer, the more results driven individual may find the Charge 2 a bit tricky to get an accurate reading. 

 

THE ALL IN ONE

MyZone MZ-3: Chest Strap
RRP: £129  |  Amazon
The MX-3 from MyZone is a very popular wearable device for those wishing to analyse their fitness performance in real-time. Some fitness facilities install a MyZone system in their gym and studios to allow users to view their effort levels live on-screen. The MZ-3 belt not only tracks your heart rate but also the amount of effort you are putting into your workouts and displays it as a percentage. Both casual gym users and elite athletes find this very helpful to ensure they are exercising in the correct 'effort zones' to make sure they are making the most of their workout. The belt uses ANT+ technology, making it usable with many popular fitness apps such as Strava or MapMyRun. If you're into weight training, the MZ-3 is a great tool to identify when you're best prepared for your next set.
Great for: Accuracy and real-time feedback. The MZ-3 is 98% as accurate as an EKG machine and provides solid and reliable data for goal setting such as Calories Burned, Effort Points (MEPs) or timed HiiT training. The app and live club screens encourage competitive use, and the social platform allows friendly rivalries with other users to motivate users in a fitness environment. The real-time feedback can be linked to studio classes where instructors can set effort goals at varying intensities. The belt has built-in storage, so it can monitor activity without the need for a constant sync. The MZ-3 is also waterproof to 50m, so can also be used to track swimming activities.
Not so great for: Casual day-to-day activities can be monitored through the MZ-3, however, the chest strap can become uncomfortable if worn for an extended period of time. The belt does not have it's own display, so users must rely on syncing to a smartphone to view results, or be in a facility that uses the real-time myzone display system. 
 

THE FUTURE?

Motiv: Fitness Ring 
RRP: $199
Motiv represents the future in wearable fitness tech. This 'smart ring' is an ultra-stylish waterproof tracker that monitors your stats through a series of highly sophisticated sensors and relays information via Bluetooth to your iPhone (bad luck android users!). The ring measures the same activity as a Fitbit would - steps, sleep and heart rate automatically.
Great for: Casual use and ultimate comfort. The ring is designed to be a silent tracker that works so well, you almost forget it's there. The sleek design makes it by far one of the best looking fitness trackers on the market - and you've got to admit, it's a pretty cool way of monitoring your activity. The ring is also waterproof and shock absorbent, so you can practically wear it wherever you go. 
Not so great for: In-depth analysis. Motiv's statistics are not comparable with the data you can receive from Fitbit - despite having the same functions. For example, live heart-rate feedback is unavailable, as it averages it out over 10 minutes. Whilst a marathon runner may find this helpful feedback, this would not compare to the MZ-3 in a gym setting for users planning to enhance their workouts. 
Currently, the Motiv fitness ring is not available for sale in the UK, but there are places to purchase this online. 
 
So, with the wearable fitness tracker industry booming, who will know what will be the next big thing? There are prototypes around for items such as biometric clothing or smart yoga mats that track your movements and alignment - which could hit the fitness scene as early as 2019. There are many other trackers available (such as the Apple Watch, Garmin or Samsung Gear) readily available for purchase online and on the highstreet. As far as we can tell, fitness is evolving and we have the tools to make workouts more efficient than ever. Who knows, perhaps BST clubs may join the digital fitness revolution in the upcoming months? Stay tuned. 
Thoughts? Comments? Would you like to write for the BST blog? Contact chris.smith[at]mybst.org
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