By Dr. Mercola
Wearable devices that monitor physical well-being and fitness are all the rage, with the Fitbit Force leading the pack. This wearable band tracks calories burned, steps taken, stairs climbed, and even the user’s quality of sleep.
However, a number of people have reported skin rashes, blisters, and peeling skin after wearing the device. After conducting an investigation, Fitbit has announced they will stop selling the Force wristband and has issued a voluntary recall of the product.
Skin Irritation Linked to Fitbit Force
After hundreds of customers began complaining of skin reactions while wearing Fitbit Force, the company hired independent labs and medical experts to investigate. They found that about 1.7 percent of Force users have reported a skin reaction to the device, including redness, swelling, itchiness, and other irritation.
Fitbit believes some users may be reacting to nickel in the product’s stainless steel, materials in the strap, adhesives used to assemble the product, or, possibly, to bacteria that may accumulate on the elastic band.
If you own a Force, you can now return it for a full refund, even if you haven’t had any skin symptoms. Fitbit still offers the Flex wristband and says they are working on their “next-generation tracker.”
However, if you’re in the market for a wearable fitness device, I’d suggest waiting until April 11, the launch date for Samsung’s Gear Fit. I haven’t worn a watch for over 30 years, but I am excited about this gadget, especially for use as a heart rate monitor and step counter.
From a pure health perspective, it is ideally best to avoid these devices, but if you are healthy it is likely that they will not cause any significant harm. I likely will not wear the watch, though, unless I am exercising or travelling (when knowing the time is helpful).
A New Combination Smartwatch and Fitness Tracker
Samsung’s Gear Fit will be much better than Fitbit’s Force. The Gear Fit can not only receive incoming calls, emails, and SMS messages but it also has a built in accelerometer and heart rate monitor – the latter of which most fitness trackers do not yet have.
The fact that it has a heart rate monitor is a compelling reason to choose this device, since it’s nearly impossible to accurately measure your heart rate manually when it is above 150. I recommend investing in a heart rate monitor, especially if you’re doing high-intensity interval training.
Additionally, the Gear Fit contains a pedometer and can measure your exercise level and sleep time while acting as a stopwatch, music player, and timer. It’s sleeker, smaller, and lighter than similar devices that came before it, and it has a curved LCD touchscreen.
As I mentioned, the Gear Fit is coming out on April 11, so it’s worth waiting for this one to come out before purchasing any other wearable fitness-tracking device.
Is Technology Really Useful for Keeping You Fit?
To some extent this depends on your personality – if you’re already tied to your smartphone or computer, then harnessing the power of apps and other devices that allow you to sync your activity, sleep, and other health measures with these devices, giving you valuable health information at your fingertips, makes perfect sense.
Really, though, anyone can benefit from activity trackers, in part because they keep you more aware of your actions. For instance, researchers found that simply wearing a pedometer daily for 12 weeks led to a significant decrease in sitting time, and a significant increase in physical activity, among the participants, who lost an average of 2.5 pounds each.1
The fact that the pedometer seemed to motivate its wearer to move around more in lieu of sitting is a huge accomplishment, and one that could lead to drastic health improvements. So any device that accomplishes this is worthwhile, in my opinion. It might be a pedometer, a wearable device like the Gear Fit, or even simply a free timer you can find online.
For instance, as a result of an interview I did with Dr. Joan Vernikos (which details how detrimental too much sitting is for your health), I have started standing up every 10 minutes while working at my desk.
There are many free online timers. I used to use Online-Stopwatch.com and set it to go off every 10 minutes that I am sitting down. However, I found the alarm distressing so I downloaded this free alarm program that allows me to play any audio file when the alarm goes off. The point is, these are simple uses of technology that can drastically improve your health for the better. The key is finding the right tech uses for you.
5 Fitness Apps That Actually Get Results
One of the best benefits to owning a smartphone or tablet is that you can quickly turn it into a fitness tool just by downloading the right apps. This allows you to have personal trainers, exercise images, and entire fitness programs right at your fingertips, so you can take control of your health. This technology is far underutilized, especially given that oftentimes the apps are free, as only about 19 percent of mobile phone users have downloaded a health app.2
Keep in mind that when using fitness apps, your phone or tablet can be kept in airplane mode to minimize any wireless electromagnetic field (EMF) exposure while still accessing the amazing computer power. If you’re new to the app market, here are five fitness apps you can try out, which may help you get healthier and stay motivated to exercise.3
1. Hot5 (Free)
This app contains 5-minute video workouts for every part of your body, from abs and core work to flexibility and yoga. You can pick and choose between the workouts to get a full-body workout or simply target one area, like abs or legs.
2. GymPact (Free)
First, you set goals, such as how many times you’ll go to the gym in a week, as well as set a monetary amount you’d be willing to pay if you don’t. If you reach your goals, you earn a cash reward. If you don’t, you “donate” your money to a community pot that pays others who reach their goals.
3. Lose It (Free)
Keep track of your daily calorie intake simply with this calorie tracker. Especially useful is the app’s ability to estimate how many calories you can burn with different exercises.
4. RunKeeper (Free)
This app lets you map out runs, monitor your distance and speed, and track calories burned. It will even track your location as you run using GPS, and lets you share goals and run information with those on your social networks. RunKeeper also lets you keep and compare activity stats, set goals and offers customizable training plans and voice coaching.
5. Zombies, Run! 2 ($2.99)
If your workouts are lacking in fun get this app, which mixes Zombie games and stories in with your runs. Instead of your normal jog, you’ll be completing missions to gather supplies, save humans, and outrun enemies in this zombie-laden world.
Still My Top Two Favorite Fitness Apps
Many of you know that I have a passion for technology in addition to health, so health apps, which combine the two, are invaluable to a “gadget geek” like me. I have scanned many thousands of articles and downloaded several hundred applications, and the app suggestions that follow are still among my all-time favorites.
By far one of my favorite apps, this free app lets you track your activity and food/caloric intake using an activity log and food diary. The food calorie portion is one of the best pieces of software out there to record and keep track of your food macronutrients. I use this app nearly every day to record my food intake and help me keep track of my macronutrient ratios. It’s an incredibly easy way to monitor your food intake without a lot of fuss.
MyFitnessPal has an easy to use interface that allows you to access about one million food items in its database, plus you can also add your own foods and recipes at any time and access them from anywhere with an Internet connection. Once you enter new food nutritional information, it will be there for you the next time you need it. I really love this app as it quickly and easily allows you to see the number of grams of carbs, fats, and protein you're eating. I consider myself fairly sophisticated nutritionally, but I was really shocked when I found out what the actual numbers were. This is a very powerful tool and best of all, it is free.
- Fitness Builder
For keeping track of your workouts, this is my favorite app. I don’t use MyFitnessPal to record my workouts, I use this app. There are loads of exercise applications on the Net, but Fitness Builder, in my experience, is the most comprehensive fitness database in the world. It also contains the largest library of exercise images and videos, the most challenging workouts across all disciplines, access to a live personal trainer and a complete set of every fitness tool, a calculator, and tracking features. Most all of the apps I have are free, but this one costs $10 for the base version and it is worth every penny if you use it, as it helps you keep incredible records for your workouts.
Get Moving: It’s Invaluable for Optimal Health
Even if you plan to use fitness apps, you might be unsure of where to start in creating a comprehensive fitness program. I recommend incorporating high-intensity interval training (HIIT), strength training, core exercises, stretching, and non-exercise activity into your routine. The key is to simply get moving, and work at a high enough intensity with enough variance to keep your muscles adequately challenged. Every person is different, so there's not just one "correct" way to exercise. With all the exercise plans out there, it can be confusing and can zap your motivation to even try to get started.
This is where technology can really be useful, not only in providing you with workouts at your fingertips but also in connecting you with your friends so you can encourage one another to reach your goals. Because we're all different, what works for one person does nothing for another. You may need to set aside the same time every day, while your co-worker does better by keeping the time flexible.
You may like to meet with a personal trainer at your gym while your colleague prefers to work out to a fitness app at home while your neighbor thrives in group sessions. Fortunately, there are just as many exercise programs as there are exercise benefits – and there is something for virtually everyone. It will require, though, that you make a real commitment to exercise regularly and make it a routine part of life.