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Thread: Activity monitors

  1. #1
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    Anyone use one of those activity monitors you wear 24/7 to track motion, HR and sleep patterns? Like the Fitbit Surge, Basis Peak / B1 (owned by Intel now) and the Jawbone Up24 / Up3.

    Looking at getting one to use for various reasons not least to geek out on data. Seriously though I want to get a lot fitter so interested in replacing the HRM with chest strap with a simple watch form factor. Also fascinated with sleep monitoring and the other bio-sensor based functions.

    This whole biosensor / tracking is interesting I think. I've even heard of groups of people just tracking every aspect of their life as is possible and posting it on websites and online for all to follow. Heard of someone putting the data from these smart activity trackers on his website.

    Not saying I want to do that but I do want to see if sleep can be improved since recovery is so important to fitness (and I do have poor sleep patterns right now). Plus I need a new HRM anyway. My previous 2 HRM just failed to impress mostly because that annoying chest strap. The HRM is important for training efficiency, to make the most of that half hour commute home by bike for example plus to monitor your true resting rate and resulting changes in fitness.

    I'm just wondering if anyone on OM has any experience with one? Any recommendations? Currently considering the Basis Peak when it comes out or the Jawbone Up3 if it is any good.


  2. #2
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    How would recording the movement of one arm in your sleep improve quality of sleep?

    I'm sure they're fun to "geek out" on the data but I don't think you get much more than that.

    A HRMcan be useful for training but it's not necessary.

    If you want the latest gadget you don't need to give yourself reasons to buy it, just buy it! I'm happy using the most basic garmin to track time and distances.


  3. #3
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    There is an app called something like "Steps" which runs on Android phones. it doesn't do HRM, but does monitor where you are. It' quite good at working out if you are cycling or walking and you can download the data in gpx format.

    There are some downsides:

    - It's a bit of a battery hog

    - It got bought by Facebook. Two weeks after promising "We never share your data", they decided that Facebook could use the data for anything that they wanted. At that point I deleted it and zapped all my data on their server.

  4. #4
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    They monitor your HR and other things and with clever algorithms work out what stage in the sleep cycle you are in such as REM, deep sleep, light sleep, etc. Plus the motion sensor (3 axis accelerometer or something like that) detects movement. Deep sleep I'm guessing means no movement, light sleep some movement and REM is determined by pulse and movement somehow I think. Plus they know when lack of movement is not you taking it off and putting it down because there is no pulse,

    Plus some measure skin temp, skin sweat levels, GPS functions (through one in the sensor unit or through links to your smart phone GPS) also has uses. So basically you can download to tracking apps after say a run or ride. They are also clever enough to detect whether running or riding a bike. Some even tell if it is aerobics or yoga or something else. In fact I think the Jawbone Up3 will allow you to tag a set of data as a particular activity and the unit/app will use that to work out when you are doing it again and record it as that activity automatically.

    As far as sleeping goes the idea is the sensor and associated app work to record sleep patterns. The app itself is then able to analyse the patterns to work out what works for you. Some of these apps that come with the trackers allow food data to be included, For example coffee intake is assessed to see if it is affecting you or if there is a cut off time for last coffee of the day. All this you can do by yourself to some degree but the tracker and app kind of puts the sleep expert on your wrist and in your smartphone/computer.

    These things will only get smarter. The new ones out soon are a big step up on the previous version. These will soon be old hat too.The market might not be recognised now but the tech companies are betting heavily on the research and the tech in the future.

    Of course I know I am just geeking out but I know some people in the field, experts in another sector of the biosensor field. Their enthusiasm in it must be affecting me too. I think it also feeds into the whole knowing yourself better side of things.

    I've had health issues where I've needed to record food diaries and activity diaries. Not having the patience for writing things down on a paper diary this never really resulted in any revelation. Making the recording of these things easier and it might have. I think one of these trackers actually links in with Cortana on the newer windows phones (a nokia lumia one IIRC). It allows voice recording through Cortana to transfer it into the app that links in with the tracker making it easy to link the tracker data to diet and indeed other data that you have to input yourself.

    Apologies if this is all just me geeking out.

  5. #5
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    If you want a basic one that counts things like, steps, distance, calories, sleep + movement, the Vivofit by Garmin. It can also be usedwith HRM, set up training goals and used with maps to track route, I think.

  6. #6
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    Needs a chest belt for HR measurement. Hardly great for comfort 24/7 use.

    Garmin are big and high tech enough to be capable of building a device to measure HR without a belt. I'm a little disappointed with the spec of the vivofit.

  7. #7
    Ultra King Mole's Avatar
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    I honestly didn't understand the thread title, so clicked to find out.

    Reminded me of this:





  8. #8
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    I expect they give an indication of the various parameters they check but are not very accurate.

    Many gyms have heart rate monitors that clip on your finger for example but anything serious requires a sensor over the heart.

    I expect that also applies to the most of the other functions they monitor as well.

    There will be limitations to what can be derived from a wrist band.

  9. #9
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    The ones with HRM functions tend to use optical sensors. This is the same sort of tech used quite successfully in hospitals BTW so is considered accurate to ECG standards. The issue with wrist monitors is the noise you get from motion. This is a recognised problem and the key is some clever noise reduction algorithms that are unique to the problem. Even so some of the bigger players in the wrist worn optical HR sensors (Mio global - which supplies a lot if not most of the activity trackers with HR function - is actually developed with Philips) have been independently proven to be as accurate as a standard chest strap. In the case of one of Mio's products it is actually more accurate (according to Maastricht University study). Mio do state that it is only accurate up to 14.4mph so if you are a faster runner than that you will need a belt. Get a belt with BLE connectivity and it might sync with the tracker too. BTW I have yet to ascertain whether cycling, being a different motion, has a different speed limit of accuracy. Think I might contact Mio to find out.

  10. #10
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    @Mole - Sorry the photo hasn't come out. I think you are perhaps right about the title, should have put Activity tracker or fitness tracker or even something about a HRM.

  11. #11
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    At the risk of putting too many posts up in a run I will add a few more comments about these trackers.

    The sorts of things they can tell you about based on seemingly simple measures is really interesting IMHO. The HRM and other functions have been around for some time via chest straps or the likes of 3 axis accelerometrers, but making something more wearable means it is more likely to be worn 24/7. That brings in serious monitoring capabilities from sleep patterns like REM, deep / light sleep and number of times you wake up through to movement within sleep through the accelerometer.

    Take the HR measure. Resting average and peak rates have been used by many for training but a good tracker makes it easier to understand the more subtle measures and training techniques/measures like deceleration heart rate test which is great for measuring fitness but also serious matters like heart health.

    Then there is heart rate variability. The time between peaks of your pulse is not fixed at a certain average rate. A rate of 60 bpm will not result in 1 beat a second but it will vary between say 0.5 and 2 seconds a beat. This variability is a good measure on heart health but also stress. It is better to have higher variability (HRV) as that shows a healthier heart but also shows that your autonomic system is working better and your heart is reacting to brain hormones. signs of stress to both your physical body and mental stress will reduce the degree of HRV.

    Through the HRM and clever algorithms you can work out when you need to take a time out to de-stress or when your body is still in recovery stage, i.e. stressed physically. The latter will help you gain maximum improvement from your exercise through a measured recovery.

    How much of this information is taken in by a consumer user is questionable but clever apps can help there by simplifying it all. For example athletes are now looking into measures around sweat and body temperatures, etc. for what they can tell them about their training and performance. Will this filter through to consumer user I wonder? Is it of any real use? Well that is for the consumer to find out for themselves but I am sure the main players in the activity / fitness trackers will make it all as simple as is practical throgh their apps and third party app synchronisation.

    As I think this is not for everyone but is a good thing for those taking health and fitness very (perhaps overly) seriously and those with a tendency to geek out over data. I do like studying data and looking for patterns or opportunities from data. The more I look into these trackers the more I think it would suit me to get one, just which one I haven't determined.

  12. #12
    i suggest getting fit bit 2 charge if your looking for a cheap and reliable tracker
    i give fit bit 2 charge 8 out of 10 since its light weigth and has a lot of features

    more info here

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