The GoWear Fit Armband is a very fancy accelerometer. Think of it like a pedometer on steroids. Pedometers are used to count the number of steps that you take, and are a great way to get a sense of the amount of physical activity you accumulate throughout the day. However, one big problem with pedometers is that they only tell you about quantity (the number of steps) not quality (intensity) of that physical activity. This is where accelerometers like the GoWear Fit Armband come in. Accelerometers keep a record not only of the amount of total physical movement, but how quickly that movement is taking place. In this way, accelerometers can tell you about both the quantity and quality (intensity) of your physical activity. This is very important for two reasons:
1. Moderate to vigorous physical activity is likely to result in greater health benefits than low intensity exercise performed for the same duration, and;
2. As we increase exercise intensity, we also increase the number of calories that are being burned (30 minutes of running burns many more calories than 30 minutes of walking).
In addition to quantifying physical activity, the GoWear Fit Armband also measures the amount of heat produced by the body in order to estimate calories burned by non-exercise sources (basal metabolism, digesting food, etc). The result is that the Armband can be used to get a relatively accurate measure of the number of calories you are burning on a daily basis. To be fair, the Armband tends to slightly underestimate total energy expenditure, which might be due to the fact that it's hard to measure the energy needed to digest food by analyzing heat production in the arm (See studies examining its validity here and here). The basic model runs around $200.00, which is only slightly more than a good heart rate monitor or pair of running shoes (you could buy 70 Armbands for the price of one ROM!).
To me, this little gadget seems pretty cool. It gives a reasonably accurate measure of the calories burned in a day, which I think could be very useful information for people to have. It’s not uncommon for people to think they are more active than they really are, and this would be an excellent way to educate people on their activity patterns, as well as their energy needs. Obviously we don’t want people to obsess over the number of calories they are burning every single day, but as an educational tool I think the Armband and similar accelerometers could be quite useful.
I haven’t used the Armband myself, but I would love to try it out. If, like me, $200 is still more than you want to spend, think about picking up a pedometer at your local pharmacy or electronics supplier. If you are getting less than 10 000 steps/day on a regular basis try to increase the amount of time you spend walking, and reduce the time you spend sitting and standing. We can't all afford an Armband, but most of us can afford a little more physical activity.
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