I’m a health and fitness oriented guy. More so than most of my friends at least. I’m always trying to pay attention to what I’m eating so I’m choosing the healthiest options and I try to stay active by working out or even just taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Worth noting though is that I used the word try a couple times in that sentence… as I’m sure you’ve found as well, it’s not easy! Having the best of intentions is one thing, but when it comes down to it, I have to juggle a busy schedule with what my partner is eating or doing, along with the usual detractors like restaurant food and treats when it comes to eating, and lack of time or even just laziness when it comes to exercise.
As a Team TELUS Advocate I was given a few of the connected devices that they have in their stores to try out which are supposed to help make you be more active and healthier. It might seem strange that a telecommunications company deals with health and fitness products, but there are actually over 1700 TELUS team members dedicated to health, including doctors, nurses and physicians and TELUS Health is even the largest Electronic Medical Record (EMR) provider in Canada, serving over 20K physicians. Over the past ten years they’ve invested over $1.6 billion dollars in the Canadian health sector so it actually makes total sense that they’d have these kinds of items in their stores!
So I set a 21 day goal of using the three items that I was given, which included a smart rope, a connected scale, and a fitness tracking watch. I chose 21 days because that’s generally what’s suggested as the minimum amount of time to create a habit. Would using these devices actually make a difference? Would incorporating them into my life for three weeks make me want to keep using them? I was about to find out.
The one I was most skeptical about at the beginning was the scale. I don’t actually believe in tracking my weight in general so I haven’t had a scale in years. As someone who works out my weight could go up if my muscles grow, which would be part of my goal, so my overall weight isn’t necessarily a good indicator for me on whether or not I’m losing fat, but gaining muscle. Turns out however that the Withings Body measures more than just my weight. It also shows my fat mass, muscle mass, water percentage… even bone mass if I want. It’s customizable so I set mine to show the weight/fat/muscle/water stats followed by a weight loss/gain chart (mostly just out of curiosity because it’s a cool feature) total steps done the previous day, and even the weather forecast for the day (might as well know how I should dress… although spoiler alert, almost every day was rain… welcome to Vancouver)!
All of that information was quite handy to know at a glance, but because the scale is a connected device, that means it also put all the data into an app on my iPhone where I could easily track my progress and compare any of the metrics at any given time. Plus the scale is able to automatically sense who’s on it, so my partner could use it as well without any worry that his measurements might affect my tracking. Great feature.
The second part was the fitness tracking watch. Unlike most others that I’ve seen people using, the Withings Activité Steel actually looks like a normal watch. And a nice one at that. That was a pretty noticeable difference right off the bat. I could wear it to the gym or out to a nice event – it really has a versatile look and you wouldn’t necessarily know it wasn’t a regular watch when seeing it on someone’s wrist.
The difference though is that it has a second hand that actually tracks and shows how many steps you’ve done. You can set what you want your goal to be (I left it at the default of 10,000) and it shows you what percentage of your goal you’ve achieved at any given point throughout the day. There aren’t any other bells and whistles – the beauty in the simplicity of it. Both literally, in terms of how it looks, but also figuratively in terms of how it’s free of other distractions, just giving you the main info you need to know – the time and your progress.
The third part was the smart rope. I’d fallen off the bandwagon when it comes to going to the gym so this seemed like a good alternative to get me back into setting aside some time for fitness. I could use this at home and not have to take the time to actually go to a facility to workout. I wasn’t going to get rid of my gym membership because I still wanted to get back to weight lifting eventually, but at least I’d be able to work on cardiovascular health and to help lower the fat percentage on the scale.
I set myself a goal of doing 1000 jumps in each workout. That proved to be more difficult than I had expected! Who knew that jumping 1000 times would be so exhausting. 😉 One really cool feature about the Tangram Connected Jump Rope is that it has LED lights along it that actually show you your count as you go. You literally just look forward and as the rope whips past you you’re able to see what your count is at, almost like the number is being projected in front of you. It’s very cool.
So after 21 days did these connected devices / fitness trackers actually make a difference? The short answer is yes. I saw my overall weight lower, my body fat lower, and my movement/steps increase. The longer answer is that the results weren’t dramatic or consistent – and that was because of the way I used them. These devices are not the end all be all for your health and fitness goals. They are aids. They’re designed to help you accomplish your goals. And they definitely do that. Having all three of them connect with my phone so I can easily get data on my progress and see what is or isn’t working, what I can improve on, what I need to do if I really want to reach my goal, etc – is all super helpful. The challenge is actually using the devices on a regular and consistent basis and doing something with/about the data.
Some days I’d hit less than 50% of my steps goal. Some days I’d skip using the jump rope or if I did use it I’d stop well before my 1000 jumps. Some days I’d even forget to use the scale, or use it and see an increase in body fat and just think “Oh well, we’ll see what it says tomorrow”. If you’re going to use trackers like these you really should pay attention to the information they provide and make changes accordingly. Just knowing if you did or didn’t hit your steps goal doesn’t do much if you don’t actually use that to increase your steps on days when your steps are low. Just knowing that your weight is increasing or decreasing won’t really do anything for you if you don’t use that data to determine changes you need to make to your eating or exercise in the days that come. And just having a rope that counts your jumps won’t really help you if you aren’t using it on a regular basis and actually using the count in some way. Worth noting is that you can connect with friends in the tracking apps for all of these devices so you can hold each other accountable – something that I think would definitely help with my progress moving forward.
So would I recommend connected devices like these fitness and health trackers? Yes, I would – if you plan to actually use them and do something with the data they give you. Although even only seeing the information does still help – I think just looking at the watch did make me want to get some more steps in, the scale was sometimes in the back of my mind when making food choices if I wanted to get that body fat percentage down, and the rope keeping track of my jumps did help make me want to do more than I would have with just a regular one that didn’t keep track. But to see real progress and significant changes, I need to take the data that they all give me more seriously, set stronger goals that I don’t let myself stray from, and use them all more consistently.
What do you think? Have you had success with fitness tracking and connected accessories that you’ve used? Got some tips to share on ways to really make the most of them and accelerate results? Share your thoughts in the comments below and keep working toward your health and fitness goals – I know I will!