Friday, October 19, 2012

Armed and ready: A product review

I consider myself to be an active person. I run. I teach BODYPUMP. I chase after an energetic toddler.

But everything I thought about how much I moved was turned upside down within three days of wearing the BodyMedia FIT armband.

I was recently given an opportunity to try the armband and online activity manager. I have worn it for about a month, day in and day out, during 20-mile runs, BODYPUMP classes and lazy days. And let's just say it's been an interesting month.

The basics:  BodyMedia FIT is an on-body monitoring system that consists of the BodyMedia FIT Armband monitor, online Activity Manager and free apps for mobile device users. BodyMedia FIT Armbands automatically track the calories burned during your daily activities, works as a fitness monitor to measure the intensity of your workouts and monitors the quality of your sleep. Using four sensors, the Armband captures over 5,000 data points per minute — from heat and sweat to steps and calories burned — every minute of every day. The information tracked can be managed with BodyMedia's online Activity Manager. The LINK armband, which I selected, also allows user to transfer information to a BodyMedia App via Bluetooth.

Ease of use: I figured it out - and that's saying a lot. The setup for the armband is as easy as plugging the device in via a USB cord and following a series of steps on the online interface. And once you've done that, you are good to go.

You wear the armband with the device facing the back of the arm and a series of beeps singles that it has made the "connection." It sometimes takes a couple minutes and a few days to figure out the "sweet" spot. I've found that it feels better and more secure with a snug fit but the manual says to wear it slightly loose, with two fingers being able to slide between the band and arm.

Surprises: When I had my resting metabolic rate tested., I was told that I would burn 1,310 calories a day if I did nothing. I assumed then that, when I had a rest day, I would burn 1,300 or 1,400 calories a day. And that's not the case because, well, we never just do nothing. I think the least amount of calories I've ever burned is 1,700.

What shocked me most wasn't how many calories I burned but actually how few I burn ... during BODYPUMP. Les Mills touts that participants can work off up to 800 calories in a single class, and I've always "tracked" BODYPUMP as a circuit class, which calculates a 450-calorie burn. However, I've never come close to the 450-calorie number much less 800 calories. Heck, it doesn't even consider BODYPUMP a vigorous activity.

At first, I thought it was a mistake and the armband was faulty but the burn seemed accurate when I was running (about 100 calories/mile) and other activities. I guess BODYPUMP isn't as much of a burner during the class - but it does give you an after burn!

Annoyances: One of the features of the BodyMedia Activity Manager dashboard is that there is a food diary. And it does exist. However, the diary is limited. I found myself still tracking my eats on MyFitnessPal, and it was cumbersome to try to track it on both. I felt like I was living in two different weight loss applications. However, this week BodyMedia partnered with MyFitnessPal, and users of both can link their accounts. You still use both but the two "talk," and I feel like I get an accurate read between input and output to manage and maintain my weight.

I also found that I didn't use the Bluetooth feature often and rarely opened the BodyMedia app on my phone. A user still has to connect the device via USB to a computer to charge, and the online interface was much more user friendly and interactive than the app.

Favorite feature:A lot of people are able to maintain their health, fitness and weight by feel. Intuition, if you will. I am not one of those people. I like numbers. I like lots of numbers. I track the miles I run, the pace I ran those miles at and how long I was running. I look at nutrition labels and log the calories I eat. For me, it's what I need to do to be successful. BodyMedia gives me those numbers.

More than that, though, it gives me an awareness. Looking at my physical activity on the dashboard, I've really realized just how much I sit at work. There will be hours when I don't register any movement if I'm not mindful. Wearing it has inspired me to try to get out at lunch, walk to the chiropractor, use the bathroom that's farthest away. It makes me want to get up and move.

The fine print: The armbands start at $119 but there is a $6.95/month fee for the online Activity Manager. You can use the coupon code STRIDES15 at the BodyMedia Store through Oct. 31 to get 15 percent off the armband.

Bottom line: The BodyMedia is a fantastic tool for weight loss and maintenance. But it's just that - a tool. You cannot magically lose weight by wearing it, and you don't need it to lose. It won't teach you how to eat or how much to exercise; it can only encourage you to do better with friendly reminders. However, if you have those things "down," the one-time cost and reasonable monthly fee can be a way to avoid the costs of programs like Weight Watchers. For me, it's a great way to avoid the pitfalls of overestimating my activity, and I'm excited to have it in my arsenal as I come down from marathon training and return to a more normal (for me) activity level.


  1. Great review! I've been thinking about getting one but I wasn't sure it would be worth it. I recently wore my heart rate monitor to BodyPump and realized I only burn about 125 calories per class, which was disappointing although I still love the class!

  2. Sounds like a neat device! I am shocked at st the body pump info. I took my first body pump class in my area on Monday. According to my sweat factor, I burned as many calories as when I push it running!

  3. Old fellow ziggy zoomba alum here...congrats on the marathon finish, I was tracking another friend and felt so proud for you when I checked on your results too. There is nothing like the marathon high, even though the half marathon is a very close second feeling! Enjoy this day!! Congrats :)