The market isn’t there yet, but you can sample some simple devices while it catches on.
Right now, the wearable market is in an all-out rush for the American dollar. Strangely, manufacturers aren’t rushing to get the senior dollar. Oh, they put out some simple, easy-to-use fitness trackers great for beginners, as well as some high-end devices that probably cost more than your first mortgage payment.
But no one is really making them for you, yet. While fitness trackers typically measure your activity, track your calories, and help coach you along toward moving more, they don’t really have what seniors need: blood pressure, blood sugar, and heart-rate monitoring. Many of the more basic models don’t track sleep, either (although the Misfit Flash, discussed below, does). What’s more, in one study, seniors said current trackers are hard to calibrate and often lose data. Yet there is hope. A good basic tracker can give seniors a reality check. One study of women in their 50s and 60s, who were overweight and inactive, got the women moving, boosting their activity.
With all that in mind, take a look at four popular models can work out if you want to dip a toe in the market.
The newest version of the Jawbone UP2 is a simple activity tracker. It doesn’t track your heart rate, and it doesn’t have a display, but, what it lacks in on-board technology, it makes up for in its robust app, which features “smart coaching” to keep you motivated. The more you wear the band, the more it “learns” about you, enabling the smart coach to provide increasingly personalized advice to keep you on track in meeting your weight and fitness goals.
The device itself is small and light with a nifty design. It looks like a piece of jewelry. You’ll need to have your phone constantly handy to see your progress and check in with your coach. Jawbone also syncs with a ton of third-party apps. It’s not waterproof, though, so swimmers should look elsewhere.
In addition to activity tracking, the app offers mood, food, and drink tracking. Again, if you prefer a more robust calorie tracking app, Jawbone syncs with many. You can also customize your goals, set alerts to get up and move, join communities, and challenge friends.
The device does vibrate to get your attention. You then need to look at your phone to get the message. The device syncs wirelessly via Bluetooth Smart and has a battery life of about 7 days. The app is available for both Android and iOS.
Nike+ Fuelband SE Fitness Tracker
A little more expensive than some of its competitors, the Fuelband SE is a decent tracker. It displays time, steps, and calories burned, and translates your activities into “Fuel,” Nike’s point system. On the market longer than most fitness trackers, it’s a sporty, sturdy, and comfortable band, which is more than we can say about some products.
Fuelband is water resistant, so you can wear it in the shower. A single button operates everything on the band, easily allowing you to click through the list of metrics until you arrive where you want to. The band’s progress bar of lights moves from red to green, charting your path toward your goal as your day moves along. It will even make suggestions for starting points based on average people of your age and gender.
But it doesn’t track sleep, data many seniors want to know about, doesn’t track your heart rate (again, what seniors want), and it can’t tell you distance traveled nor track if you just walked a flight of stairs. It will, however, sync wirelessly with your smartphone, and the battery will probably last you about a week.
The most basic version of Fitbit, the Zip is a good choice for a great price, especially if it’s your first fitness tracker. This simple device clips to your clothing snugly, so you don’t have to worry about it shaking free. (It’s motion sensitive, so you have to be careful where you clip it; wearing it on your arm can count arm movement as steps.) Like other basic trackers, it will count your steps, distance travelled, and calories burned, but not your heart rate. It also won’t track your sleep. The small, round gadget does have a clock, though.
The Zip syncs with the Fitbit app on your smartphone and gives you motivational badges for meeting goals, reminders, and congratulations when you reach a goal. You can also challenge other Fitbit users in the community forum or friends who also have any Fitbit. The Zip is a nice, simple choice for keeping things simple.
The Misfit Wearables Flash offers many of the same features as its competitors, but for half the cost or less. True, the Flash is made of plastic — not metal like some more expensive models — but its sleek design makes it feel a lot higher-end than its price would imply. This wearable is also fashion-forward, giving you the option of seven bold colors.
The Flash is versatile. If you don’t feel like wearing it on your wrist, pop out the center, slip on the clip, and attach it to your workout gear. The clip-on option is also sport-friendly. When cycling, you can attach it to your shoe for greater accuracy.
Not only is Flash waterproof down to 96 feet, it can also track your swim (as well as your run, bike ride, or tennis match). One downside is the lack of a display. Want to know how close you are to your daily fitness goal? You’ll have to count the red lights around the dial. If six of the 12 lights illuminate, you’re halfway there. And it won’t tell you the time.
To track your fitness or sleep, you’ll have to use the Misfit app to sync the data to your iOS or Android device (it won’t work with your computer). Then you’ll get a daily summary of your exercise, calories, burned, and sleep. The chart provided is pretty simplistic, with few details to give meaning to your workouts. You’ll need outside apps like RunKeeper, MyFitnessPal, LoseIt!, or Apple Health for a deeper analysis of your workouts and weight loss. Sleep tracking is also somewhat thin. Like the pricier Fitbit Charge HR, Flash automatically tracks the number of hours you’ve slept and whether they were restful, but doesn’t explain what that means to you. Bottom line: Misfit Flash is a good entry-level option.
December 29, 2015