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engaged. Katie Russell Pinkelman discovered she could challenge her neighbor to a little friendly competition using a Fitbit app. They exercised independently — her neighbor runs and Pinkelman walks — but were linked by their smartphones or tablets during their personal five-day challenge. “I would have days where I would see her steps and I would feel like I have got to catch up,” says Russell Pinkelman, who lives in Chicago and tallies about 12,000 steps a day. “Thre e months ago, my Fitbit did not have the same value. Now it connects me to my friend. The key is keeping it fresh. ” Somehow simply tracking activity seems to encourage people to keep doing it. The potential implications for positive outcomes for more serious health issues are significant. Health professionals at Mayo Clinic found that activity trackers encouraged patients to move following heart surgery, and those who took the most steps every day were more likely to leave the hospital earlier. Post-surgery trackers were also more likely to go home than end up in a nursing facility. The woman whose weight loss inspired Foley King on that trip to Italy did get her liver transplant and is reportedly doing very well. For Foley King, the voice that comes out of her Fitbit cheering, “Go Erin, you can do it!” wins out over the inner voice telling her to go lie down. So though there seems to be no perfect fitness tracker yet — meaning, stay tuned because new options and devices are on deck — for many people, imperfect trackers are working well enough to motivate them to get up and move. And that, in itself, is something. ||||

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Personal fitness trainer Ron Le has used the Polar Heart Rate Monitor to track his ticker during weight-lifting, to ensure he was exerting himself enough to gain the most from his workouts. Likewise, he used the heart monitor to see if his resting heart rate had lowered, another benchmark of improved health and fitness. “Fitness devices help people change their behavior because they are very visual,” says Pasadena-based Le. “If someone has a weight-loss goal and they know they have to burn 400 calories at the gym five times a week, they will be more likely to try to reach that goal when they can literally see how far they are.” How accurate are the devices? That’s difficult to pin down. They all have a sensor, an accelerometer that can track forward, up-and-down or side-to-side movement, but they do not track exertion. The devices rely on their own proprietary algorithms to measure energy expenditure for given activities. But for high-resistance, low-movement exercise like weight-lifting, Pilates or, say, working with a kettle ball, the trackers’ sensors will not work. Basis and BodyMedia are two tracking devices that do measure bike-riding. Misfit Shine tracks swimming. Some trackers’ websites give numbers or energy measurements for specific activities that can be logged into an activity profi le. Intense workouts that last an hour at most are only a small part of daily activity, the thinking goes, leaving many remaining hours for you to reach your activity goal. Devoted user Teresa Galloway, who bought Fitbits for her son and daughter, has used one for more than three years. The Sony Studios executive said the feedback is motivating and makes exercise less boring. “I find myself only wanting to use the elliptical and treadmill at the gym because it logs in the steps,” says Galloway. “The most interesting thing is, if I don’t put it on, then I don’t want to do the work because it is not being recorded. I have to shake myself and say, don’t be so stupid.” When Galloway and her husband dine with friends across town, she walks there and gets a ride home. Similarly, she will do errands on foot rather than drive. Thou gh she is linked to her son, daughter and friend, all of whom have Fitbits too, she does not compare numbers very often. Social competition is an element that makers of fitness devices hope will keep users 30 | ARROYO | 01.15

Profile for Southland Publishing

Arroyo Monthly January 2015  

The beauty issue

Arroyo Monthly January 2015  

The beauty issue

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