I love giving healthy gadgets as gifts because they’re like two presents in one: You’re giving someone a cool gadget to play with and it will help them lose weight and get fit. With that in mind, here’s Weighthacker’s first ever holiday gift guide, a round-up of gadgets that you can get for your geeky friends and family members that range from $8 to $1,176.93. Note: Because there are so many smart pedometers and personal tracking gadgets hitting the market, I’ve tried to highlight their main points of differentiation to help you figure out which could be the best fit for your giftee.
Eating the right portion of food is one of the keys to losing weight, but it’s also one of the things our brain has a hard time doing. Humans consistently underestimate the size of the portions we eat, and as a result it’s easy to eat too much at a sitting. The Meal Measure takes the guess work out of meal sizes by automatically portioning your food to the right amount. It also shows you what a healthy balance of proteins, grains, fruits and veggies looks like. Not bad for $8.
The Zip is FitBit’s entry level gadget in the “smart pedometer” category. It tracks how many steps you’ve taken during the day and then wirelessly uploads the data to your computer. The result is that you’ll create nifty charts and graphs that show you your progress over time, which in turn encourages you to move more. The Zip will also estimate how many calories you’ve burned and how much distance you’ve walked. It fits into the existing FitBit online ecology, which includes a Web site and smart phone app that will let you log your daily meals and weight, giving you a one-stop place for all your weight loss needs. Or you can export your FitBit data to popular services like LoseIt and MyFitnessPal.
NOTE: The Zip uses a replaceable battery that lasts up to 6 months. So, unlike most other smart pedometers, you don’t need to recharge it periodically.
The Shine is an IndieGoGo project that’s trying to own the “simplicity and elegance” space in the world of activity trackers. Its claim to fame is being simultaneously gorgeous and completely minimal. With a replaceable battery there’s no cord needed to recharge it, and it doesn’t use bluetooth to sync to your phone so you don’t have to fuss around with pairing. You just place the Shine on your phone’s screen and it automatically connects and uploads your data. Although the Shine won’t ship until March of next year, if you order it now the company will send you a nifty gift card made from carved metal that you can put under the tree or in a stocking.
The Striiv is a smart pedometer with a twist. It tries to motivate you to walk more by giving you different kinds of rewards. You can use your step count to donate money on your behalf to various charities, or you can put your efforts to playing virtual games that are powered by your real-world progress. The Striiv also has a built-in radio that lets it talk to other Striiv units, so you can challenge your friends to walking competitions.
NOTE: The Striiv is the only gadget in our round-up with a color touch screen, so it can display charts and graphs of your progress right on the device.
The One is another smart pedometer in the FitBIt lineup and it’s the next step up (ha ha…get it?) from the entry-level Zip. In addition to tracking your steps, distance traveled and estimated calories burned, the One can also tell how many stairs you’ve climbed and track your sleep. Unlike the Zip, the One is rechargeable and has a slightly sleeker form factor. LIke the Zip, the One also connects to FitBit’s vast online system so you’ll get virtual badges as rewards for progress, access to friends using FitBit gizmos and all the other great stuff the company does.
The FIT takes a different approach to monitoring your activity than the usual tracking gadgets. For starters, it comes with sensors that rest against your skin and measure your heat and galvanic skin response in addition to your movement. BodyMedia claims this will produce a more accurate measurement of how many calories you burn (I have no way to verify that one way or the other). It also requires a $6.95 a month subscription to connect to its online ecosystem, so keep that in mind when you’re comparing prices. And finally, it must be worn on the upper left arm to work because of those cool sensors. So it’s not quite as convenient as some of the other fitness gizmos, but in return it gives you more data.
The Jawbone UP was a fantastic fitness gadget when it first came out but suffered from a fatal flaw that caused it to stop working after a while. So Jawbone issued a refund to anyone who wanted it and took the product off the market. Now the UP is back and has been completely redesigned and given a new price of $129.99, up (ha ha) from $99.99. The UP is an iOS only device (Android support is supposedly coming soon) that plugs into your iPhone or iPod via the headphone jack to give you a readout of your day’s activities. However it only syncs to the free app that Jawbone supplies. Unlike other gadgets, there’s no central Web site that also stores and tracks your data. Like a few of the other smart trackers though, it does measure your sleep.
NOTE: The UP includes my favorite feature, a vibrating alarm that will nudge you if you’ve been motionless for too long. I love that because it prompts me to get up from my desk and walk around from time to time. It also works as a sleep-cycle alarm with the UP’s sleep tracking abilities.
The Nike FuelBand wins the award for sexiest tracking device with its stunning multi-colored LED display that seems to completely disappear when not in use. Along with steps it also tracks “Nike Fuel,” which is a proprietary measurement that combines all kinds of movement into a common denomination. Supposedly that means you earn more points for doing something like playing basketball vs walking, which should give you a more accurate take on your activity level.. The FuelBand is part of the Nike+ ecology, so if your giftee is already a + user, this is the device to get for them.
NOTE: The FuelBand now comes in two “ice” styles, which are translucent black or white bands that let you see the guts of the thing. Sort of interesting.
The Basis Band isn’t actually available yet but you can get your early-adopter geek on the pre-order list in time for the holidays. As you can see from the picture, the Basis looks like a watch so it doesn’t scream “fitness gadget!” when you look at it, which could be a selling point for some. It’s other point of differentiation is that it monitors your heart rate, galvanic skin response and body heat, as well as your steps and your sleep, giving you still more data to track and analyze. It’s basically a better looking Body Media FIT that doesn’t require a monthly subscription.
The Aria is a scale that connects to the Internet via wi-fi to track your weight, body mass index and body fat percentage. It works with the rest of the FitBit online ecosystem so if your giftee already has a FitBit Zip or One (or any of the older models), this scale will complement their existing device. The Aria can automatically recognize 8 different users and, like other FitBit gadgets, it lets you set goals and gives you virtual badges as rewards when you reach them. It’s main feature is that it displays your weight loss or gain over time, so you can see how your body mass is trending.
The Withings scale is the pre-cursor to the FitBit Aria and has the same basic functionality. It tracks your weight, body fat percentage and BMI, and automatically uploads the results to the Web where you can see them change (preferably down!) over time. The big difference between the two scales is that while the Aria is designed to tap into FitBit’s own online system, the Withings scale will work with dozens of existing sites like LoseIt, MyFitnessPal and even the FitiBit system. For my money the Withings scale is also a little more attractive.
NOTE: FitBit’s gadget array will sync with other services too, but they seem more focused on importing data from those sites into the FitBit world vs the other way around.
Autom is a “social robot” health coach that sits on your kitchen counter and talks to you every day about your diet and fitness routines. She’s got a camera and six motors inside that bring her to life, and the idea is that, through real-world interactions, she’ll form a relationship with you and become a sort of encouraging mentor. Of course Autom hooks up wirelessly to the Internet, and she can also work with other fitness gadgets like the FitBit and Withings scale. Autom is only available for pre-order via IndieGoGo at the moment, but when you order one you’ll get 5 Autom post cards that you can wrap up as a gift IOU.
NOTE: Autom requires a monthly $6.99 subscription.
If you follow me on Twitter you know that I love GeekDesks so much I have two of them, one at home and one at work. GeekDesks move up and down via a motor so they let you switch between standing and sitting positions throughout the day. Not only does this keep you from sitting for 8 hours in a row, which we now know is harmful to your health, standing also burns more calories. I have a treadmill under my home desk so I can walk as well if I like.
NOTE: GeekDesk’s customer support is awesome, at least when I had to contact them.
If money is no object for your beloved geeky gift recipient, give them a LifeSpan Treadmill desk. It will let them burn off calories and get into shape while they surf Reddit (or even do legitimate work). And yes, you CAN type very easily on a treadmill desk, which is the #1 question I get about mine. Since laptops and tablets have turned into personal entertainment devices, most people can also watch movies, read books and play games on their LifeSpan, all while the miles pass virtually unnoticed under their feet.
I promise you, this isn’t just a gratuitous way to get a tablet into the Weighthacker healthy gadget gift guide. As I wrote about earlier, there are 7 ways you can use your iPad to help you lose weight, and the same holds true for most other tablets out there. You can use them to track your calories, to download virtual gym trainers, to teach you yoga, to watch health lectures (exciting, I know!), to entertain you at the gym…there are probably dozens of ways all told that you can use a tablet to help you lose weight and stay fit. As healthy gadgets go, tablets are great idea.
If you know of other gadgets that will both make good presents and give a geek the gift of health, let me know in the comments. I’m always on the lookout for more!