Every so often a new fitness product comes along that catches my attention, and the BodyMedia FIT Armband is one of those products. Most of the products I try fail to live up to the claims. Can this product live up to the Coach Calorie standards? Read on to find out…
What is the BodyMedia FIT Armband
It’s the best electronic fitness device to come to market since the advent of personal heart rate monitors. And no, that is not an exaggeration. But what is it exactly?
The BodyMedia FIT is a device you wear around your upper arm that gives you accurate data on calories burned, calories consumed, and sleep quantity/quality. As I have always written about, a well thought out fitness program places equal importance on diet, exercise, and rest/recovery (that last one is often forgotten). This little device gives you an in-depth look into how your body functions 24 hours a day, and 7 days a week.
One of the biggest questions I get is How Many Calories Should I Eat, and if you’re a regular reader of Coach Calorie, you know that I think calorie calculators can be wildly inaccurate (as they fail to take body composition into account) – many times recommending you eat less than your BMR (not a good idea). The BodyMedia FIT Armband fills a void in the need for individualistic calorie recommendations. Finally, you can see how many calories you’re burning throughout the day, and be able to set your calorie intake accordingly.
More than anything, it’s piece of mind that your calories are neither too low (a very common problem), nor too high. It gives you the added confidence to continue with your plan, especially when both your mind and the scale are playing tricks on you. Weight loss is such a mental challenge – we could use all the reassurance we can get to know that we’re on the right track.
How Does It Work
- 3 Axis Accelerometer
- Temperature Sensor
- Galvanic Skin Response Sensor
- Heat Flux Sensor
They measure body heat, sweat, steps, and heat flux. These numbers are then automatically entered into algorithms to determine your total calories burned.
Take a look at the graphic to the left to see the 4 different sensors. These sensitive sensors work together to give you a 95% accurate calorie burn reading.
Your armband has many features, and I’ll try to show you most of them, but the screen below is what I use most often, and I suspect that others will use this screen the most too. The following are screenshots from my personal phone.
This was the #1 reason why I bought the armband, and I suspect it’s the feature most people are excited to use. It’s your total calories burned in real-time.
Takes the total amount of food entered for the day and outputs the number here as you eat each meal. The app is similar to most food logging apps. You enter a particular food and quantity, and it breaks down the calories and macros for the meal, and tallies it up for the day.
Self-explanatory, although it’s one of the most important numbers for weight loss. It subtracts calories burned from calories consumed. Keep this number between 500-1000/day to stay on pace for a 1-2lb weight loss per week.
Moderate & Vigorous Activity
Your armband defines your exercise intensity based on MET, also known as metabolic equivalent. MET is a way to measure your metabolic rate based on physical activity and intensity. This section shows total minutes of moderate and vigorous activity for the day.
If you didn’t know, the armband comes with a built in pedometer. Having never used a pedometer before, it was a real eye-opener to just how sedentary my lifestyle was. Even with an intense workout every day, the fact that I’m behind a computer the rest of the day had me at only 6,000 steps/day. Because of this, I started adding in walks every night to increase my activity levels, and my body looks and feels much better.
Your armband also tracks your sleep, and it does a good job at it too. It can tell the difference between just laying down and sleeping, even if you’re laying in the same spot watching TV as you drift off. It’s pretty remarkable actually. I have a goal of 8 hours/day, and I fell just a little shy of getting my check mark for that day. In case you didn’t know, the check marks mean I reached my goal for that particular “thing”.
Flipping your phone on its side will give you 4 more screens of more detailed information. See below:
OK, so let’s get on to the meat and potatoes – is this electronic contraption any good? I broke down the product into a half dozen different categories that I found to be an important part of the user experience. Here they are:
Similar to most smartphones, the BodyMedia FIT armband has over 100 selections of what they call skins. You can choose from their skins, use the default version (I do), or you can create a custom one yourself by uploading a picture.
The armband charges when it’s synced to your computer. A single charge lasts me about a week if I choose the option to not have it connected to bluetooth continuously. In other words, I have to push the button to sync when I want to see my calorie burn. No biggie, and saves a lot of battery.
The setup is fairly easy to do. It’s just a matter of going to the BodyMedia Homepage and following the directions in the quick setup guide that comes with the armband. After entering in your stats and goals, you should be ready to go in under 10 minutes.
The BodyMedia FIT is an armband, but I forget I’m wearing it. It’s similar to a wedding ring – notice it for a week, and then forget you’re even wearing it.
BodyMedia claims a greater than 90% accuracy. The numbers can be skewed a bit if you are very overweight or are very lean. Other than that, it seems to be accurate within a 10% margin of error.
I can honestly say I’ve never had more fun with a fitness product. I found myself checking the stats dozens of times throughout the day to see the differences in activity levels and calorie burn. It was an excellent and eyeopening experience. But hey, if I could be wired directly into a computer, I probably would be.
Overall, I have been extremely happy with this product. I’d venture to say that I’ve never been happier with another fitness device, and that’s saying a lot. I’m going to give the BodyMedia FIT Armband a rating of 9 out of 10.
BodyMedia FIT Armband Criticisms
As with any product, nothing is perfect, and I’d be doing you a disservice if I didn’t point out some of the drawbacks of the armband. Here they are in no particular order:
- Fabric band does not detach from metal. That means you can’t throw it into the washing machine (or maybe you can?). Suppose you could wash it by hand.
- It’s not waterproof (it’s water resistant), so you can’t wear it with water sports. Sweating is fine obviously.
- Monthly subscription fee of $6.95, but the first 3 months are free. I was a little disappointed in this, but I figured I had 3 months to see if it was worth it. Now, I see myself paying the small monthly fee, and thinking of it as an investment in my health and fitness.
- Females will have to be a little more conscientious about wardrobe selection, as the device is an armband. However, if you decide not to wear it for a period of time, BodyMedia’s algorithms will learn your day-to-day activity levels, and fill in the missing data. So have no fear, your calorie burn will remain accurate for the day.
Will This Device Help You Lose Weight?
BodyMedia claims that people who wear the armband lose more weight. I agree. Usually, I’m skeptical of studies like this because of the obvious conflict of interest, but I was more motivated and more active as a result of using the armband. Here are the results of the University of South Carolina study:
You can read the full study design and results here in pdf format.
A second study was also conducted by the University of Pittsburgh. The results of that study are below.
You can read the full study abstract here on PubMed.
Can you just slap on the BodyMedia FIT and expect to lose weight? Of course not! From my own experience, the mechanisms by which it works is through a boost in motivation, drive, knowledge, adherence, and willpower. With motivation comes adherence to your plan, and with adherence comes results. Couple that with additional knowledge of how your individual body works, and this device is a great weight loss and fitness aid.
Where Do I Buy One
You can buy the armband here at Amazon.com. After searching the web for better deals, this is still the cheapest place to buy it after adding in tax and shipping. I’ve only just scratched the surface of all this armband can offer you, so if you have more questions about the armband, feel free to ask them in the comment section below.
I hope you enjoy your armband as much as I do. I liked it so much I bought one for my wife too. I’m happy to say that we both are very pleased with this little contraption, and our shared passion for health and fitness is stronger than ever. Good luck!
Do you have an armband? Share your experience with it in the comment box below.