Popular activity monitors

Some of the popular activity monitors are described below. They have a variety of additional enhancements. Consult individual websites for more information.ActiveLink: Monitors all activity throughout the day. Syncs statistics with Weight Watchers member’s online accounts. Costs $39.95 to $45, plus $5 per month, in addition to program fees.Visit www.weightwatchers.com or a meeting.Bodybugg: Tracks motion, amount of heat the body gives off, electrical current and skin temperature to determine calories burned. Costs $199.99 to $149.99.www.bodybugg.com.Fitbit: Monitors steps taken, distance traveled, stairs climbed, calories burned, hours slept and length and quality of sleep. Costs $99.www.fitbit.comFitbug: Tracks personalized weekly step goals. Costs $59.99 and includes 12 months online coaching; or $29.99, first month’s coaching, then $3.99 per month.www.fitbug.comJawbone: Monitors distance, calories burned, active time and activity intensity, as well as hours slept and degree of sleep. Costs $129.95.store.jawbone.com

Maryellen Sault wants to keep up with how many calories she burns during Zumba workouts and exercises on the Ravenel Bridge.

Things such as numbers, charts and graphs mean a lot to the cartographer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

So, it’s understandable that she’s among the wave of those, concerned they are more sedentary than is healthful, who are turning to activity monitors — in her case “Bodybugg.” The electronic tools, worn in various places on the body, monitor movement and lack of movement throughout the day, some of them during sleep.

Sault sits and works at a computer most of the day, so she knew she should be moving more. However, she didn’t have clear picture of her inactivity until she saw the graph of her inactivity that Bodybugg produced. She didn’t know which of her activities burned more calories.

“I opened up the app and looked at the graph,” says Sault. “You get to see what you do throughout the day. It was that wake-up call. I need to get up and walk around the building (during the day).

Sault wears the tiny Bodybugg strapped to her arm. The device uses four physiological sensors to determine how many calories are burned. It gathers data for motion, amount of heat the body gives off, electrical current and skin temperature.

Together with data such as age, gender, height and weight, Bodybugg can determine how much energy is expended (calories burned).

From that, she gets a clearer understanding of what combinations of specific exercises and food will get her to her desired weight and help her general fitness.

An array of devices

Today, there’s an activity monitor to meet just about everyone’s needs: ActiveLink, Bodybugg, Fitbit, Fitbug and Jawbone are some of the more popular ones. In the wake of medical literature that interprets being sedentary in terms of the number of years by which a lifespan can be shortened, people are becoming even more conscious of the need to move.

Common activity monitor features include the ability to download information to a personal page on a website that stores data and often requires a membership fee. Another feature usually included is data interpretation with coaching to help reach individual fitness goals based on age, gender and weight. Progress sometimes can be tracked via smartphone in addition to computers with the monitoring program’s software.

The monitors generally record all activity. But when it comes to scoring or assessments, some activities may be considered more valuable than others.

A good idea?

“In general we encourage our patients to wear some kind of activity monitor,” says Patrick O’Neill, director of MUSC’s Weight Management Center. “It is motivational to some extent. As people are monitored, they can see if they are going up or going down.”

Observing, quantifying and recording behaviors help ensure people are making progress toward their goals, says O’Neill.

“A lot of interest is in the high-tech monitors which bring significant added value,” O’Neill says. “You can upload activity level as well as keep track of calorie intake. There is a certain amount of faddism, but I think for many people they will be a keeper.”

The high-tech monitors are helpful tools for keeping a New Year’s resolution to be more active, O’Neill says. Those who set clear goals can see if they are meeting them.

Added motivation

Amy Sklar, a Weight Watchers leader, was excited when she heard that an activity monitor was going to be added to the programs. She’s been wearing her ActiveLink monitor on a chain around her neck for about a month.

“It’s another way to motivate me to be more active,” says Sklar, who already had exercise built into her daily routine.

In addition to specific physical activities, Sklar, a school counselor at Goose Creek Elementary, is on her feet much of the day, she says.

“But I started to see the peaks and valleys when I started using ActiveLink,” she says. “I saw where I could incorporate more exercise into my day.”

Most days, she is active enough to earn four Weight Watchers points, which translates into being able to eat extra food and still maintain goals on the program.

ActiveLink sets both daily and long-term goals and reports on weekly progress. It also provides goals, tips for meeting activity challenges, kudos for undertaking activities and encouragement to aim higher.

Having a monitor does not mean Sklar is tied to the computer.

She sometimes goes a few days without syncing the activity data collected by her ActiveLink. Those using the monitor can tap it on a hard surface and a light will indicate generally how they are moving toward their daily goal.

It is available only to Weight Watchers members who participate in the program’s eTools, are members of Weight Watchers online or have a monthly pass subscription.

Accountability

Tammy Bloser, a retired teacher, uses Fitbit Ultra to keep up with her activities, which include walking the track at the Medical University of South Carolina Student Wellness Center. The device collects activity data, including the number of steps taken, miles walked, floors climbed, calories burned, pounds loss or gained and hours slept.

Fitbit Ultra, which she started using in March, resets itself at midnight and syncs to the computer. She gets a weekly progress report from Fitbit, including detailed information about her most and least active days. Friends who also use Fitbit join her on the website, which creates a chart that enables them to compare their activity levels.

“I wanted an accurate way to hold myself accountable for how much I do each day,” says Bloser, a retired schoolteacher whose goal is 10,000 steps a day. Whether she goes to a Zumba class for an hour or takes a walk around the track for 30 minutes, it records the number of calories she burns.

For encouragement, Fitbit adds badges to Bloser’s page on its website for a job well-done.

Reach Wevonneda Minis at 937-5705.