TRACKS Body acceleration along three planes: up and down, forward and backward, and sideways
COST $149 for the tracker package, which includes 12 months of personal coaching via e-mail; directlife.philips.com
The Directlife is waterproof, making it the only device in this group that you can use while swimming (it’s also one of the safest for wearing near toilets). Instead of numbers, this simple plastic square displays a string of lights that quickly show how close you are to achieving your daily activity goal. After a weeklong assessment period, you connect the tracker to your computer to get a readout, along with a personalized 12-week program of gradually increasing activity levels and managed calorie intake. Although the DirectLife doesn’t feel like a loyal sidekick, the program as a whole offers one major advantage over its competitors: The price includes the services of a live coach. My mentor e-mailed me at least once a week with advice, encouragement and answers to my fitness questions.
BUY IT IF You need a detailed exercise plan and a support system.
TRACKS Body movements, including very small ones, in all directions
COST $200, which includes a one-year Web subscription; muveinc.com
Inspired by the work of Mayo Clinic researcher James Levine, MD, PhD, a leader in the study of non-exercise-activity thermogenesis—the calories we burn daily through everyday movements, such as fidgeting—the Gruve takes a minimalist approach to self-monitoring: It aims simply to get you off your butt. The teardrop-shaped clip senses movement, whether you’re standing up, sitting down or bobbing for apples. As you accumulate activities throughout the day, it flashes a sequence of colors that lets you know how far you’ve come and how much more apple bobbing you’ll need to do to reach your calorie-burning goal. If you sit still for too long, the tracker vibrates, gently reminding you that you might want to wear a swimsuit again someday.
BUY IT IF You want to lose weight without doing traditional forms of exercise and don’t mind receiving a nudge or two (or three . . .).
BODYMEDIA FIT ARMBAND BW
TRACKS Steps taken, calories burned, hours of sleep and more by measuring body temperature and galvanic skin response (sweat)
COST $249 plus up to $11 for a monthly Web subscription; bodymedia.com
I wish I loved it more than I did. This armband, which was worn by The Biggest Loser contestants, takes an amazing 5,000-plus readings every minute of every day; the online Activity Manager provides a running tally. Bluetooth wireless technology lets you log in foods and get real-time stats on your smart phone. So much information! So much charging, pairing and synching! Too bad I found it so exhausting. Bugs in the system’s Mac interface didn’t increase my ardor. On the positive side, the Body-Media team responds quickly to customers’ teeth gnashing and seems to be working hard to resolve all issues.
BUY IT IF You live on your smart phone, want maximum data feedback for your buck and know it’s harder to lose an armband than a tiny piece of plastic.