Saturday, 7 December 2013

Getting Up and about

I always like things that help you learn more about yourself so when I was asked if I'd like to try some fitness equipment I fell up the Jawbone Up tracking wristband and I was intrigued. Not only did it track your activity, but it also tracked your sleep, your food, even your mood. So I thought I'd give it a go.

I've had it for just over two weeks now and it's quickly become a part of my life. The band is slightly big for my wrist but doesn't get in the way. I can wear it in the shower (but not in a swimming pool) so you can add your efforts to get clean to your daily movement. After a while, you do honestly forget you're wearing it. Because it's on your wrist, you won't lose it easily so it's almost a case of fit and forget.

The idea of it is it's like a pedometer that senses movement. You set yourself goals for a number of steps per day, hours of sleep and it measures movement like an accelerometer on a phone. If you are active, but don't necessarily do running or walking for your exercise, you can time an exercise or you can add it afterwards. This is good for me as classes like Body Pump don't need much horizontal movement. Even interval training using bodyweight exercises may not register in the same way as a step.

At night time, when you go to bed, you set it into sleep mode by pressing the end of the band until it buzzes. Then it picks up the movement of your arm to assess what level of sleep you are in - awake, light or deep sleep. As an extra, I've set alarms so that it wakes me within 20 minutes of a target time, the theory being that it wakes you when you are sleeping lightly and therefore wake more easily. It wakes you by vibrating on your wrist which is gentler than a loud alarm. However, I find I'm nearly always already awake, such is my body clock. I find looking at my sleep cycles fascinating although I seem to have developed a habit of longer night time wakings which might be related or entirely coincidental.

In order to look at your data, there are accompanying free iOS and Android apps. I have used both, since I have an Android phone and an iPad. They work pretty much the same way and are very easy to set up. You sync your band by plugging it into the microphone socket and it's updated in seconds. I have a slight preference for the iOS app, purely because it gives you an overview of what you've just uploaded since last sync. I find it easier to mess around and view things too but I am conscious I am using a bigger screen. It's easy to look back at your data and you've always got a running total for the day in terms of sleep and steps moved. At the top of my "feed" every day are interesting snippets called Insights that are interesting topics related to fitness or your data in general.

There are many things I love about it. It is easy to use, and the battery genuinely does last for days and then only takes an hour or so to charge back up (which you do via a USB adaptor). It's simple and it's really effective at making you consider how active you are even by just adding a few steps here and there, they all add up.. In particular, understanding about your sleep is really interesting and it does genuinely make me try to get to bed at a reasonable time most nights. I still have not reached my sleep target though!

There are some things that I do not like. I set idle alerts to remind me to move if I've not moved in 30 minutes during the day but if I'm standing and moving gently (like cooking and doing stuff in the kitchen), it doesn't seem to register and the alert will buzz on my wrist whilst I'm standing up. Annoying. And I tried to log food intake with it and found it horribly complicated - although you can add as much detail as you like. I've stopped using it because it should be intuitive and easy; I found it to be neither. I also think they missed a trick not to have added some way of tracing your heart rate or pulse so you can get more information about how hard you are working or have worked when working out. Steps are not everything and adding an activity isn't a perfect solution.

Something I haven't got around to is adding friends as the community is relatively limited in size so far. You can also connect Up to various health and fitness related apps like MapMyFitness but I don't use those. It does link to MyFitnessPal but I've gone off that a bit recently.

On the whole, I do love the Up band and I think the more you use it, the more you will get out of in terms of understanding your lifestyle and improving your overall health and fitness levels. This could be a great Christmas present for a special someone who is planning a serious January health kick but wants to build a genuinely active lifestyle. It's not uber cheap at £99.99, but I think it's good value.

This post is in association with Argos. I have not been paid a fee to write this post and all opinions are my own. 
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