One of the funner aspects of this experiment is the opportunity to try out some health gadgets.  There are a bunch of devices out on the market that attempt to help you monitor your health.  Many of them are expensive – for glucose monitoring or blood pressure, or heart rhythms – and most of these have been geared towards people who have medical issues and need to monitor themselves.  But only recently are they coming out with devices at a good price point for the average guy like me who just wants to collect data about themselves!

Two that have recently gotten some attention are the Fitbit and the Jawbone Up.  Both are about $99 and are small devices that you wear all day, and even when you sleep.   Here is a comparison of the two:

Fitbit: The Fitbit Ultra is a pretty small clip and is meant to clip onto pants, a belt, or a bra.  It’s pretty sleek looking and has a small but cool screen which for the most part stays black unless you push the button.  It has a little acceleromater in it and measures your exact steps taken, calories burned, and distance traveled, as well as an altimeter to tell you how many stairs you’ve climbed.   It claims to be able to monitor your sleep by measuring “micromovements” to see what part of your sleep cycle you are in.

Jawbone Up:  The Jawbone Up was just released in the last few weeks.  It is a rubbery bracelet (similar to a Livestrong bracelet but thicker).  Basically the functionality is the same as the Fitbit – with the main difference being the form factor (bracelet vs. clip), and its waterproof nature.   It has an added neat function for sleep – it serves as an alarm clock by vibrating on your wrist to wake you up.  Additionally, it will try to wake you up at  the height of your sleep cycle, so that you are not jolted awake during REM sleep.  Allegedly this will result in waking up more refreshed, something we all could use!

It was clear to me that I wanted one of these devices for my new project.   They were pretty much the same as far as I could tell.  Both collect data, and have nice websites to display and analyze what it collects. Both have iPhone apps to view and update manual data.  I think I preferred the clip to the always-on colored bracelet.  However,  I was intrigued by the wake-up option of the Up.  But the deciding factor was that Fitbit transmits its data wirelessly to your computer and auto-syncs with your online account while the Up needs to be plugged into your phone or computer.  That seems like enough of a hassle to decide it for me.

So here is me and my FitBit!

I’ve had it for 24 hours and so far I find it to be kind of fun. The button on it cycles through Steps Taken, Miles Walked, Calories Burned, Stairs Climbed, and then finally shows a little flower that grows as I have more activity (silly but damn it if you dont want to get that flower fully growed every day!).  The clip is unobtrusive.

Today I am calibrating it against my little Omron pedometer.  It is measuring about 1500 less steps than the pedometer, but in a few calibrative walks I’ve taken, the Fitbit seems to be more correct.

The web site has some pleasant enough graphs, not sure how useful they are yet.  Here are some screenshots (click to enlarge):






that last screen shot is of my sleep patterns last night.  What am I supposed to learn from that?  Maybe I can see how it changes over time as I get healthier (that’s the plan anyway).

Both web sites also have the ability to track food – but that is getting to be the most challenging part of this project so far.   I dont think either of the websites do a good job for food tracking.  More on that in a future post.

Other Devices:  There are other devices out there that might be interesting as well.  The Withings scale sends WiFi measurements to your computer and can even test your body fat through a small electrical pulse it sends into your body (!!).  Cant justify $150 for a scale though.  Anyone have experience with this one?