Fitness / 18.12.2015

Wearable fitness trackers: we tested 9 of the latest

By Francesca Specter
Can wearable technology boost your wellbeing? Find out our thoughts

Woman in start position ready fir running in the morning.

In the latest edition of our magazine, we’ve taken a look at the rising popularity of wearable technology claiming to boost your wellbeing. Research has suggested that wearable fitness trackers can do everything from helping us to maintain a healthy weight to managing our cholesterol – but what happened when Team healthy tested them out? Read on to find out…

‘I became competitive’
Writer Laura Potter tested Jabra Sport Coach wireless earphones, £119.99,


‘I’ve run since childhood, and never been interested in times unless training for an event. Running helps me beat stress and sort through worries, so I was surprised how much I enjoyed being “coached” through earphones. I wore them just for long runs (10K+) and set them to only update me on speed, distance and steps per minute every 2k. I found myself upping my pace, striving for PBs and getting a buzz from the virtual trophies! You can also use them for intervals and tempo runs, for other activities and to be coached through at-home workouts.’


‘I felt under pressure to stay calm!’
Art Editor Jo Levitas tested QardioArm Blood Pressure Monitor, £99,

qardio web

‘I have a history of low blood pressure, so I hoped monitoring it through the day would reveal patterns. The app links up with the device via Bluetooth, and you operate it from your handset. It sometimes took a while to connect, though, and in that time the velcro monitor became too strained and would ping off! This meant it sometimes took a few attempts to get a reading. Once I got used to it, though, it revealed that my blood pressure is a little high, particularly in the morning, so I’ll be having healthier breakfasts, which should have a positive effect.’


I’m a tech convert!’
Writer Claire Lavelle tested the FitBit Surge, £199.99,

surge web‘I’m normally tech-averse but set-up couldn’t be easier – plug the device into your laptop and follow simple steps. As well as counting steps, it GPS-tracks your runs, monitors heart rate and counts calories (by inputting your food diary from your computer). It monitors sleep and resting heart rate, and you can join a community of FitBitters for motivation and advice. I used it predominantly to reach 10,000 steps a day, while trimming a couple of hundred calories from my daily diet, which is perhaps under-utilising this “Fitness Super Watch”, but just a week later I feel lighter and fitter!’


‘A fun way to mobilise my back’
Writer Emma Hartfield tested the Valedo back trainer, £259,


‘Poor posture and carting a toddler around means I suffer with lower back pain. I’m not one for games or gadgets, but I used the Valedo more than I thought I would. Easy to set up – charging the sensor you wear on your back and downloading the app took the most time. Games involve things like collecting gemstones by steering yourself (as a flying robot!) along a flight path, tilting from your waist to stretch your lower back. I wasn’t always confident I was doing exercises correctly, but it’s a great way to stretch out tight back muscles.’


‘I loved it, but it didn’t last’
Account Manager Sophie Brown tested the Jawbone UP3, £129.99,

jawbone web

‘As a busy account manager with a long commute, time to exercise is in short supply. To combat this I walk whenever and wherever I can, so the Jawbone was perfect – it measures steps, heart rate and sleep. I loved seeing exactly how many steps I’d taken, and seeing the sharp incline of my heart rate as I picked up the pace. You can set it to nudge you (vibrate) when you’ve been inactive for too long, and the smart alarm wakes you in a light sleep. Sadly, my love affair with it was short lived – the strap broke, it fell off and I lost it after a week!’


‘More reliable than my apps’
Editorial Director Ellie Hughes tested the Garmin Vivoactive, £142.88,

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 17.44.01

‘I already use Strava and RunKeeper to track activity, so I was curious to see the added benefits of this watch. It was far more reliable and accurate than my apps, which often lose GPS signal, or don’t pick it up quickly enough, so a 7K run can be recorded as 2K – competitive types will understand my frustration. The downside? My WhatsApp messages pinged up and distracted me. When I was gritting my teeth for a sprint finish, my watch was buzzing away with social plans. Not a recipe for a PB.’


Sleep duration seemed inaccurate’
Senior Sub-Editor Chantelle Pattemore tested the Misfit Beddit, £129.99 on

beddit web

‘The sensor runs under your sheet, so it’s unobtrusive, but you have to plug it in, so you’ll need a socket nearby. It tracks sleep duration, breathing, heart rate, movement and snoring and gives you a sleep score. It then coaches you, giving your optimum bedtime, and pointing out activities or foods that affect your sleep. You have to press “start sleep” and “end sleep” to record it, though – I could just look at the clock, and the data is then totally useless if you forget! However, I’m not sure of its accuracy – one night I slept for nine hours, but it only recorded four. But I liked the Smart Alarm; when you press snooze it wakes you at the perfect time, so you don’t feel groggy.’


‘Weird but genius!’
Reader Lindsey Morley tested the Elvie pelvic floor coach, £149,

elvie web

‘I’m keen to start running again post-baby, so want to strengthen my pelvic floor muscles. Simple to set up, you insert the small egg-shaped device in your vagina, and follow five-minute workouts. Games include trying to move a tadpole towards a target by squeezing. Sensors in the egg give you instant feedback on your phone, you get a score, and you can track improvement. It’s undeniably a little weird, and it’s important to insert it properly, or it shoots out! The Bluetooth can take time to kick in, as the tail of the device (which you use to remove it) must be in close range. It definitely makes a difference, though, and is a great alternative to yoga.’


‘Impressively accurate’
Editorial Asssistant Francesca Specter tested the Pip stress sensor, £145,

pip web

‘I was sceptical when I first heard about the Pip sensor. Having used FitBits to power me through high-energy workouts, it seemed impossible that a tech device could be effective in making me slow down and relax. Yet, I was pleasantly surprised. The Pip is impressively accurate, realising when I was stressed (like when I was running late for a train) and when I was at my most relaxed. The games, which reward you for relaxing, were my favourite part – particularly Loom, which uses music and images to help you calm down. I’m hooked.’

What fitness and wellbeing gadgets do you use to stay on track? Let us know by tweeting @healthymag or visit our Facebook.

Wearable fitness trackers: we tested 9 of the latest
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Wearable fitness trackers: we tested 9 of the latest
Find out what happened when the team at healthy magazine tried out 9 of the latest wearable fitness trackers and sensors
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