Cheap health trackers are all most consumers need to improve their personal wellness. There’s a new inexpensive $50 health wearable called the Misfit Flash, and it has all the features you’d find in a gadget three times the price.
Nearly all health trackers are based on the idea that information about one’s own activity is enough to get them off the couch. For instance, readers often tell me they’ll go for evening walk at the end of their day to meet their daily steps goal, instead of vegging out in front of the TV until they drift to sleep.
Health trackers have the capability to record all sorts of activity, including workout movements, sleep quality, body temperature, and perspiration. But, for the vast majority of users who just want to be a little more active and get more rest, every health tracker monitors steps taken and total hours slept.
It’s tempting to believe that the more we splurge on a gadget, the better it gets. But that’s simply not the case with health trackers. In 2011, the University of Iowa found that the most accurate step counter was the delightful Pokewalker, a toy pedometer complete with smiling Pikachu.
I wear the older and more expensive cousin to the Flash, the Misfit Shine, and it reliably counts my steps and sleep throughout the week. In fact, since I use a walking treadmill desk at work, I need a device that can clip to my waist to count my steps. Wrist-based health trackers, such as the popular Fitbit Flex, don’t count my steps, since my wrists stay in place when typing on the keyboard even while walking (which I’m doing right now!).
The fancier health trackers can do some really cool things for fitness nuts and lifehackers. The Basis watch, for instance, can identify the different stages of sleep (REM, deep, and light). This kind of data is great if you want to test how going to bed earlier or eating at night affects the quality of your sleep. For diagnosis, users will need far better sensors than are available on the Misfit devices (in fact, I ended up needing more than the Basis watch; I used the Sleeprate app and chest strap to diagnosis my sleep problems).
But, for those just getting into fitness or monitoring their general activity, a cheap health tracker is all most people need.
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