Experts, amateurs can both gain from gear
July 8, 2006
How did people before modern technology stay healthy? By eating well and exercising. But today’s gadgets make getting into shape a science.
From pedometers to Body Buggs, from heart rate monitors to personal global positioning systems, working out has never been so calculated.
"In general, they bring it to a more precise science," strength and conditioning coach Gardie Jackson said. "Everything is getting more exacted. Time is so valuable, so people have less of it and they have to use every minute they have. They have to get more scientific."
Pedometers, which Jackson said aren’t used as often as other gadgets, count the steps a wearer takes. They are a relatively low-priced item because the technology is not as new as some of the other available gizmos, including heart rate monitors.
Heart rate monitors, which can be purchased at most sports stores, help track a wearer’s heart rate, both resting and active. Jackson said they are extremely useful, especially if the wearer knows their heart rate zone, which he said can be measured by many personal trainers or coaches.
"I use heart rate monitors, and I know my heart rate zone, so I can monitor how much time I’m spending in each zone when I’m training," he said. "It helps me to listen to my body."
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But he also said high end gadgets should be used in conjunction with a trainer or professional to help interpret the readings.
"For me, they are the quintessential way to not overtrain, especially for those people who are addicted to training," he said. "By using one of those, you can realize when you need to pick it up and when you need to take it easy."
A step up from a heart rate monitor, in both functions and price, is the Body Bugg. It not only measures heart rate, but it uses the heart rate along with an accelerometer, heat flux, galvanic skin response and skin temperature to measure caloric output. But because the Body Bugg is used jointly with an online program, it measures caloric intake as well, giving the user a full script of their over/under in terms of calories per day.
Users wear the small device on their arm through all waking hours, and if it gets removed the programs asks what they were doing, which helps to make it 92 percent accurate.
"The Body Bugg is for anybody who wants to maintain their weight, lose weight or gain weight," said JoLynn Hinger, Director of Marketing Service for Apex Fitness Group. "The Body Bugg was developed by a company called Body Media. We worked with them to bring it to the fitness industry. They were using it in more of a medical type setting.
"An accelerometer measures body movement. The Body Bugg has two of them so it measures it both back and forth. Heat flux measures the differences between body temp and the outside temp. Galvanic skin response is kind of like a sweat rate measurement. The device takes these measurements and puts them into algorithms then interprets them. Most caloric monitors are usually just a single accelerometer."
A Body Bugg costs $300 for just a device, but most training facilities that sell them generally sell training with them as well. Through http://www.bodybugg.com , they are available for $499, which gets the Body Bugg and four phone consultations, along with a three-month web subscription. Locally, they can be found at The Fit Stop at 380 E. 1500 S. in Heber City, or by calling (435) 654-2131.
Finally, exercise enthusiasts can buy personal GPS devices that not only do most everything the Body Bugg does, but also act as a virtual training companion, map guide and emergency locator.
"For those people that are going back country or going on trails they don’t know, it’s always a good idea to have it just for safety reasons, but there are other people who just really get into things like this and use them for motivation," Jackson said.
The Forerunner 305, made by Garmin, is one that is currently available on the market. They monitor heart rate, speed, distance, pace, elevation and calories burned.
It is worn on the wrist and is slightly larger than a watch, but is lightweight and waterproof. The embedded GPS sensor provides basic navigation capabilities to tell the wearer how far they’ve gone, how fast they’ve gotten there and even how to get back home.
"It does everything," Jessica Myers, Senior Media Relations Specialist at Garmin, said. "The new Forerunner has a new high sensitivity GPS sensor so it works in canyons, tree cover, anything. It also has a navigation feature so it can help get you back to your starting point."
The 305 model costs about $350, but the previous model, the Forerunner 301, can be purchased for $175 at http://www.gps4fun.com.
"I love technology, but I would warn people about getting so caught up in the gear that they forget why they’re doing what they’re doing," Jackson said. "If you become too much of a slave to what the gadgets are telling you, be it a heart rate or a watt output, it takes the fun out of just being outdoors, exercising and being active. That’s really what it’s all about."