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After my review of the FitBit, I received a good number of emails from readers (and plenty more messages on Facebook) asking me to take a look at the BodyMedia Fit system. Made by the same people that make the BodyBugg (the little device that The Biggest Loser made famous), the BodyMedia comes in two varieties – Bluetooth enabled, or not. I was sent a Bluetooth enabled model that could communicate with my iPhone – a neat little feature that allows it to communicate with your smartphone and show you the data it’s tracking. Could this be best fitness tracker? Let’s find out.
The BodyMedia Fit is a small device (though bigger than the FitBit) that sits inside of a specially designed armband. You have to wear the armband on your left arm with the writing on it facing away from you – apparently it’s calibrated to give the most accurate data in that position. I’m not completely sure why, but I’m not going to argue. On the top of the BodyMedia fit system is a large blue button that you can push to make connect to a Bluetooth device, and on the underside there are two small metal plates (they look like mini defibrillator bottoms) that collect the data.
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Collecting data is definitely what it’s good at though! The BodyMedia Fit gives an extremely accurate reading of your “calorie burn” by tracking a number of different things. It has your standard accelerometer and pedometer, but it also measures body temperature, how fast your body is dissipating that accumulated heat, how high your pulse is, and even your sweat level. It then combines all of this data to give you an accurate portrayal of the actual effects of your daily activities.
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Unfortunately, in order to see all of this, you need to have an active subscription to their website. Unlike the FitBit, there is no free portion of the website for basic info, and then a pay wall for the rest. Everything is tucked away behind a subscription, and while it’s not much ($7 a month for a 12 month subscription) it is irritating to have that cost tacked on before you can do anything. The iPhone app also draws off of the same subscription, so don’t think you can circumvent having one by going that route.
Once you’re on the site though, it’s pretty amazing the information that’s available to you. You can see down to the minute when your activities changed from moderate to heavy. You can see exactly how many calories you burned while at your job. You can track your sleep very accurately (as much as I liked the FitBit’s use of this feature, the BodyMedia Fit does it so much better). I was able to see that on average I burn around 750 calories throughout the night sleeping. I also found out that wearing it while having “adult relations” with my girlfriend gave me a 27 minute vigorously active ranking, and a caloric burn of 107. I didn’t really need to know that sure, but I had to laugh when I was reading it because I forgot that I had the armband on.
That’s another good thing about it – it becomes very easy to forget you are even wearing the armband. I almost jumped in the shower with it one day; unfortunately while the BodyMedia Fit is water resistant to an extent (it has to be to deal with sweat) , it is not waterproof. That also means you have to take it off for swimming, but the website allows you to easily add any activity you perform when the band is not on you.
I didn’t like having to turn on my Bluetooth all the time on my iPhone in order to collect data – I’m a busy person, and it’s not uncommon for me to have to recharge my phone at least once throughout the day. Bluetooth puts another unnecessary drain on the battery, so I try to leave it off. That means I have to remember to take off the BodyMedia Fit and plug it into my computer to transmit data, when I was so used to the Fitbit’s little base station doing all the work for me. I would definitely like to see something like that in the future from these guys.
One thing I noticed about the caloric burn readings I got with the BodyMedia Fit is that they could be a good bit different than using some of the other programs I had tried. On one when I entered in how far I had run, it told me that I had burned a total of 180 calories while the BodyMedia Fit said that I actually burned 300. That’s a huge difference, and it shows the flaws of just trying to estimate what you’re doing. Even when put against the FitBit (which is really just a super pedometer), the BodyMedia Fit showed much more accurate results for calories burned.
I have a feeling though that a good number of people will see the high price point compared to other options, see the subscription only service on top of that high price, and see themselves in another monitor. It’s a shame too, because the BodyMedia Fit is actually a really nice piece of hardware. Yes, there are things that could be better about it, but if you’re extremely serious about fitness – this is probably what you’re going to want to be considering.
While not for the average person just wanting to see how many calories they’re expending existing on Earth, the BodyMedia Fit could really help someone lose weight (provided they’re diligent enough to track all their food intake correctly). It could also seriously help a fitness trainer keep in top physical shape. I give the BodyMedia Fit a final rating of four out of five stars.
You can get the BodyMedia Fit BW armband from Amazon for $219.99
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