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14 July 2011

Technology for Health and Fitness

Can technology help you stay healthy? Yes it can. As I discuss in my five page Technology for Health and Fitness feature article.

As published in Micro Mart magazine issue 1166.

Topics discussed include:

- diets and exercise software (such as DailyBurn)
- running apps, gadgets and hi-tech shoes (such as Runkeeper Pro and Adidas miCoach)
- cycle gadgets and ultra hi-tech bikes (such as Beru's Factor 001)
- gym personal trainer apps (such as Smaltek's GymGoal)
- game console titles (such as Your Shape: Fitness Evolved)
- expedition tested body-mounted sensors (from Toumaz)
- relaxation/sleep monitors (the Emwave Personal Stress Reliever and Zeo Sleep Analyser)

Here are a couple of extracts:

In recent times the UK has witnessed a huge surge in public participation in local and national running events. Regardless of whether you're a beginner or veteran runner, looking to stay upright at a local 3km fun run or compete in a marathon, technology can help.

It doesn't have to be expensive or overcomplicated to provide a benefit. Something as simple as a mechanical pedometer and watch will provide some feedback of the distance travelled and effort exerted. But let's consider some more advanced options.

Own a smartphone? Many have GPS functionality and, with an appropriate app, it's a simple matter to record distance travelled and time taken. Subsequent analysis will show the peaks and troughs of your running pace and average speed. The key to a well loved app for runners is simplicity.

Take the iPhone, Android and Windows Phone 7 app Runkeeper Pro for example. Just starting off? Just tap the Start Activity button. Want an in-run update? One tap displays distance, time and average pace. Need some motivational music? Runkeeper Pro's built-in playlist selection means no app switching antics. And at the end of the run just hit Save Activity to upload the run, for subsequent analysis or community sharing.

The smartphone-less runner has plenty of options too. Consider the Adidas miCoach Pacer bundled with a heart-rate monitor and stride sensor. In constant real-time communication with the sensors it delivers audible feedback and guidance based on previously entered goals. It hold up to 32 hours of run data, which can be USB-synced to a PC or Mac. The downside? Well, it takes a while to get to grips with software and enter your target settings.

Gadget weight and unobtrusiveness is a major consideration for runners. So, maybe the Nike + iPod system is superior solution. Pick up your special pair of Nike running shoes - with a dedicated insole sensor pocket - and connect the wireless receiver to your iPod/iPhone, and your ready. Every step of the run can be tracked, with a real-time commentary on your time, distance, pace and calories burned.

Is all this talk of exercise, training routines and general physical exertion leaving you a little breathless? Let's investigate another, equally important area of wellbeing - relaxation.

As all great athletes know, the ability to drop into a calm, focussed mental state before, sometimes even during, a physical performance is one of the secrets of their success. Yet assessing levels of inner calm and relaxation is quite difficult. You might feel relaxed, but how relaxed? And how much more can be achieved?

The portable Emwave Personal Stress Reliever might provide some answers. Using a combination of colourful LEDs and audio feedback, it aims to indicate a healthy balance of heart and brian activity. Symptoms of stress and emotional duress are picked up from a thumb or ear sensor.

Of course, you'll also need a good night's sleep. And there's a gadget for that too.

The Zeo sits by the bedside and communicates with a wireless headband - which contains a Zeo SoftWave sensor. In the morning it synchronises the alarm with an appropriate sleep cycle point.

Either gaze at Zeo's display, or upload the data to a PC to view the captured sleep pattern analysis. If your deep, light and REM sleep balance isn't what it should be, there's coaching and tips available via the website. And yes, it syncs with DailyBurn.

Read more analysis posts.

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