It's easy to get caught up in the many features available in digital fitness monitors. They may be simple-sensors that track steps or calories. Or they may be more sophisticated, like sensors that capture heart rate, perspiration, skin temperature, and sleep patterns. Some have longer-lasting batteries, light-up screens, and alarms that vibrate or flash as a reminder to be more active or to announce that a goal has been reached. Others have satellite navigation, speed and pace sensors, and even weather gauges. Most link to a computer or smartphone so users can chart their progress.
To narrow the field and choose a monitor, ask:
- What kind of information will help me reach my personal fitness goals?
- Will I wear the monitor on my wrist or clipped onto my clothes?
- Is it easy to use?
- Can it be charged quickly?
Before setting fitness goals, wear the monitor to get a sense of the current daily step count. "We tell people to shoot for 10,000 steps a day, but if they only take 2,000, set the first goal at 3,000," says Dr. Anne Thorndike, a preventive medicine researcher and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. Then use the monitor to track progress throughout the day: if low on steps by dinner, take a walk afterward.
Read the full-length article: "How to know if a digital fitness monitor is worth the money"
Also in the July 2014 issue of the Harvard Health Letter:
- Reversing plaque buildup in the arteries
- Five ways to fit more walking into the day
- Simple tricks to sharpen memory
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