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BodyMedia FIT LINK Armband Review

Posted Oct 26 2012 7:00am

We recently had a chance to try out a BodyMedia FIT LINK Armband here at Fitblogger HQ. It’s a small wearable armband that syncs via Bluetooth with your smartphone to tell you a whole host of things about that gorgeous body of yours.

bodymedia fit armband review

BodyMedia FIT: What is it?

Designed primarily for weight loss, health monitoring and fitness improvement, the BodyMedia Fit LINK Armband uses 4 different sensor types to track your body’s metrics throughout the day. (A lot of similar devices just use motion senors.)

These include things like calories burned, calories consumed (you have to enter this), calorie balance (you have to enter calorie intake for this to work),  activity levels, steps taken and sleep quantity and quality.

Through the use of the BodyMedia food logging app, website or MyFitnessPal you can input your food intake into the system to get an accurate reading of your calorie intake. For weight loss, this is pretty much as easy as it gets (and it’s never that easy) seeing your total burn for the day, your intake and your actual calorie deficit. I wish I knew about these while I was losing my weight 4 years ago. Oh the headaches that would have been saved!

How Accurate is the BodyMedia FIT?

Without a high tech lab to measure my calorie output for the day, I can’t say exactly how accurate my calorie expenditure was for my trial but based on results (which is what I prefer to go by anyway) it worked pretty darn fantastic. If you like some hard science to go with your  review, you can check out the clinical evidence BodyMedia has about the accuracy of the armbands .

A Little Tester Background

Sine we all come to health and fitness from different places, I find it helpful to know where a tester is in life when reading reviews. Are they similar to me? Are they uber active? A coach spud? That way you can decide how my experiences relates to your life and whether this product is a good fit for you.

Up until 4 years ago, I avoided sweating on purpose pretty much at all costs. There were moments of sporadic fitness that resulted in frustration, apathy and all the weight plus more coming right back on. Enter 2009, and the big 30 (why is it always a big birthday!) and things changed. Over the course of that year, I lost 90lbs through a combination of calorie counting and exercise trying to create a daily deficit of 1000 calories or so.

I’ve maintained this weight loss for 3 years and continue to eat a fairly clean diet but no longer count calories and lift weights 6 days a week. Cardio finds it’s way into my life 3-4 days a week usually through running, cycling, playing with my daughter or walking my dog.

I would have loved me some armband 4 years ago but I think there is still alot to be learned for those of you still in that losing place or those of you, like me, that are learning to live the after phase of weight loss. Enter the armband…

The BodyMedia FIT Options

Setting up the armband, getting it configured (and paired to my iPhone) was a breeze. Follow instructions, it worked, no issues at all. Where the fun begins is when you sit down to set up your goals. The BodyMedia Armband has 3 main options when you configure your “Activity Manager”, which is the online dashboard for the device.

You can choose weight loss, weight maintenance and getting active. The interface looks the same for all three options except for the options involving weight loss or maintenance, you enter in your weight and through a series of simple questions, the system determines how much you eat and what amount of calories you should eat to reach your goals, whatever those are.

From there, the rest is up to you and the armband tracks your body throughout the day to give you a window into how your body is doing.  The great feature of the LINK armband is that it syncs with your phone in real time so you can see if you’re reaching your activity goals throughout the day or if you need to pick it up.

What Can the BodyMedia FIT Armband Do For You?

This is what a typical day looked like during the review and below the image I’ll go through what I learned after the month long trial of the armband! As a lover of science, graphs and the human body, this kind of data is pretty amazing:

For this particular Saturday, I burned nearly 3000 calories and participated in 1 hour and 46 minutes of physical activity, most of which was a vigorous hour long run. There was also some dog walking worked in there and a lot of lazing around on a dreary Saturday after sleeping in to an incredibly late 9:35am!

You’ll notice that I don’t have my calories listed there so my calorie balance is the same as my burn for the day. If you were tracking calories, you’d see a slightly different layout with a calorie deficit (burned more than you ate) or a calorie surplus (ate more than you burned) listed.

If you were trying to lose weight you’d want your average calorie balance over time to be a deficit.  There are handy little messages and tips that pop up from the “FitCoach” that give you suggestions on meeting your goals.

Steps taken is always a great indication of your overall activity level! Sometimes we forget that living an active lifestyle is about what we do outside the gym too. The BodyMedia armband really brings that fact home, in vivid color.

What really sets the armband apart from other wearable fitness devices, for me anyway, is the last item in the picture above: sleep.

I don’t know if you’re like me but sleep is usually the last thing I think of when I’m thinking about weight loss, maintenance or living a more active life. Yes, you’ve read it countless times before, me too, but it seems to float right out of my head the minute bedtime rolls around and I just have one more thing to do, and then another and another.

Having daily contact with my sleep times and also my sleep efficiency (time laying down vs time actually spent sleeping) was a HUGE eye opener for me. First, it flagged the fact that I wasn’t sleeping enough but on the plus side, on average, I went to sleep quickly and slept fairly well. My monthly average was 88% sleep efficiency.

This information was the kick in the butt I needed to get more respectful of a set bedtime. It also showed me that certain times of night I slept better than others. For example, if I hit the sack by 10pm and got up at 6am, my sleep efficiency was much better than when I went to bed after midnight and woke up late.

What Were the Results?

I decided to use the armband for a month not because it took that long to figure out if it worked, but to see if it’s something that works longer term. We all know that weight loss can take a long time to figure out and if a tool isn’t user friendly over the long term then what’s the use, right?

I found the device pretty simple to use so that it just became part of the daily routine.  If you’re entering in your calories daily then you’ll have more time spent on tracking of course, but it’s still not too bad. The BodyMedia Activity Manager now  integrates with My Fitness Pal so if you’re a fan of their app with the barcode scanner for food logging, you’ll know that you can track calories pretty fast once you’re used to it.

Seeing a month of activity information showed me I’m definitely more sedentary during certain parts of my day, and those are often the times that I’m more apt to mindlessly snack too, go figure! After seeing this so clearly it was a no-brainer to change around my day a bit to walk the dog at a different time, go play at the park, etc.

I used the sleep information to change up my work and fitness schedule to optimize my sleeping patterns. I’m now up earlier in the morning, getting in 2-3 hours of work before the rest of the family wakes up and then head to the gym when everyone heads off to start their day. The change has resulted in better workouts, less late night food cravings and I’m more efficient at work during the my new work time.

Who knew a little armband could do so much?

The Fine Print

There’s always fine print, right? With the BodyMedia LINK Armband there were only a few drawbacks that I encountered. After purchasing the LINK armband for $147.66,  a monthly subscription of $6.95 is required for the Activity Manager. I prefer non-subscription items but this is only the cost of a fancy coffee a month and much better for you.  It all comes down to priorities and where you want to spend your money.

The food logging tool on the Activity Manager used to be a bit a cumbersome but with the recent MyFitnessPal integration this is a fantastic improvement!

I wish you could where it somewhere not so visible. I know there are reasons behind the armband location  but as a girl who likes to throw on a sleeveless shirt every couple of days, it’s not the most fashionable item in my wardrobe (even with the available skins ). That being said, it’s a trade off and you can always take it off for a special occasion and the armband will even fill in the missing hours based on your previous daily patterns.

And of course, you still have to do the work. This is a tool, not a solution and it’s only part of the overall picture. It won’t workout for you but it can help you find your own motivation by helping you see in black and white what’s going on with your calorie balance, sleep patterns and activity level.  I know of a few folks that found out there were eating too little based on their calorie burn per day and that upping their calories made all the difference in their weight loss. This tool can help you fill in those missing pieces when used correctly.

3rd Party Integration and Apps

I love it when all my devices play nicely together, don’t you? When you add a piece of technology to your life like the BodyMedia FIT, it’s nice to know it can work with some other things that may already be in your life, instead of adding extra work.  Here’s a quick list of some of the current apps and integrations that work with the armband:

  1. myfitnesspal (food and workout tracking)
  2. earndit (reward system for activity)
  3. Withings (health companion app for tracking weight, exercise. sleep and wireless digital scale)
  4. tactio (home health system to self-track health parameters like blood pressure)
  5. Calories 3  (Diet, health and fitness coach application)

Conclusion

With the right mix of personal discovery, hard work and focus, the BodyMedia armband can be a fantastic addition to your healthy living toolkit.  Even with 3 years of active living under my belt, my steps per day increased by over 3000 from the beginning to end of my review! It really helps you stop and reflect on how you could improve your health.

Stay tuned for our review of the ZEO sleep manager integration with the BodyMedia Fit system!

 

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