Smart Devices For Fitness – Can They Really Help You?

Did you know that Leonardo da Vinci was the first person recorded to envision a step counter. I doubt that he had someone’s 20th century 5km attempt in mind when he did so though. But it wasn’t until 1780 that a Swiss inventor actually created the first pedometer. The first consumer personal wearable heart-rate monitor hit the market in 1984. It was created by current leader in the modern fitness game, Polar. For a long while we’ve been trying to leverage technology to make us faster, fitter and better.

Fast forward to today and you’ll probably find that most phones are recording health data about their users without many of them even realising it. Gigabytes of information are being collected the world over about how many steps people are taking and how far they are walking, running and cycling. Are you part of this data set? Do you record and examine your health logs? Is it worth the time and money?

What Do You Want To Achieve?

Start out with a goal. Do you want to simply lose weight or run further or just sleep better? And how will a device help you achieve your target? Do not fall into the trap of thinking simply buying a device will cure your woes. Smart devices for fitness are tools to assist, nothing more. I think it might be best to deal with a few common goals here.

Some Common Goals


Lose Weight

So you want to lose weight and think that a smart devices for fitness might help? here are some things to think about

  • To get the most out of any tools to assist losing weight you will be expected to record your food and drink intake. In order to end the day having spent more calories than you’ve taken in you will need to tell an app what you’ve consumed. This can be a lengthy and annoying process.
  • As a minimum i would recommend that you need a smart phone and a smart watch or activity tracker. The smart phone for entering calorie intake and the smart watch for a reliable assessment of activity – look for a smart device with a heart rate monitor for extra accuracy.
  • A great extra addition would be smart scales. These would connect to your phone and remind you to weigh in at set intervals. Being able to see a graph of your progress is a useful motivator. Some scales will also record body fat percentage and a raft of other data. Take these readings with a pinch of salt however. The equipment is not clinical grade.

Run Further/Faster

You want to run farther or faster? Good luck. A smart device might be just right for you if you can find the right setup.

  • The range of options for devices is huge. From a lowly fitness tracker band costing less than £20 all the way up to a professional running watch of £300+. Some careful investigation is definitely worth it.
  • The cheapest devices really aren’t markedly different from early pedometers. They count the motion of a step and add a plus one to the counter. From this they can estimate the distance travelled. The margin of error for the cheap ones can be large. A 5 kilometre run could show as a 5.3 km run. If that’s something that is fine with you then go for it.
  • Next up the scale is a smart watch that will record steps but will also link to your phones’ GPS so it can give a more accurate idea of distance travelled. This is fine if, of course, you don’t mind running with your bulky smart phone in tow. A side note is that watches without GPS built in tend to have a longer battery life.
  • Top of the market are smart watches with built in GPS. These can be bought for not much over £100 nowadays. The main benefit is that you can just run out the door with nothing on your person but your watch and a key to get back in. A free running experience is better if you can do it.
  • Other features can include suggested recovery time and a log of how much improvement you are making. Sports massage will speed up that recovery remember!

Sleep Better


Have sleep issues? or maybe you’re just interested in how you sleep. There are a large range of options for you.

  • Nice low bar for entry here. With just a smart phone you can start investigating your sleep. An app such as Sleep as Android can track a lot of things about your bedtime. There are plenty of other options on the market too. These apps work in various ways. Some use the microphone to listen to the volume of noise created. As you sleep restlessly you move around a lot and this will be picked up. Silence is the good sleep so it will read those portions too.
  • A smart watch is an obvious pick for sleep tracking but be careful. Some watches advertise sleep tracking but only have 1-day batteries. So, at night when you lay down your head you watch will be charging not tracking. For a sleep tracking watch i’d be looking for at least a week long battery. I currently use Withings watch with a 25 day battery
  • The most serious bits of sleep tracking kit are pads that you actually put under the mattress. These can get a huge amount of data from your movements. These are relatively expensive options and their scope is obviously limited. Also, many of the devices still have difficulty working out if you are reading in bed or sleeping!

Hopefully you’re now closer to choosing or not choosing one of the many smart devices for fitness out there.

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