Archive for the tag - measure

Are Fitness Bands Accurate?

1600x900q80Wearable fitness devices are all the rage. By attaching the device to your body, key performance measures are monitored. A number of such products are flooding the market – but do the fitness bands measure up and are they accurate?

According to researchers from Iowa State University, not all fitness bands are created equal.

For their study, researchers recruited 30 men and 30 women and had them wear eight popular devices through 13 difference activities including computer work, Wii tennis, basketball and running. By wearing the devices through these various activities, the researchers aimed to simulate real world conditions.

The data from each device was then compared to the data from a portable metabolic analyzer to gauge accuracy. Most of the devices were reasonably accurate and had a margin of error less than 15%. Here’s what they found:

  • The BodyMedia FIT (most accurate): 9.3% error rating
  • The Fitbit Zip: 10.1% error rating
  • Fitbit One: 10.4% error rating
  • Jawbone Up: 12.2% error rating
  • Actigraph: 12.6% error rating
  • Directlife: 12.8% error rating
  • Nike Fuel Band: 13.0% error rating
  • Basis Band: 23.5% error rating

The researchers noted that wearable fitness devices aren’t some magic solution. In and of themselves, they don’t help people achieve fitness goals. To achieve fitness goals, changes in behavior are required – and wearable devices are merely a tool in helping to measure those changes.

In other words, measuring how many steps you took isn’t the same thing as taking more steps.

What Is Perceived Exertion?

BorgWhen you’re performing an exercise, it may be necessary to exercise within a recommended range of intensity. And one way to measure intensity is by determining heart rate. However, this process isn’t always easy – and it often requires stopping or fumbling with equipment. And then the heart rate results need to be interrupted.

There’s an easier way. It’s quick and it’s simple – and it’s fairly accurate. It’s called perceived exertion.

Perceived exertion is a scale that measures feelings of effort, strain, discomfort and/or fatigue experienced during exercise. The most common is the Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion, which ranges from 6 (no exertion at all) to 20 (maximum exertion). Because it’s so easy and effective, it’s commonly used by personal trainers when communicating with their clients.

Why isn’t the scale rated from 1 – 10? That’s a great question! It’s because, as a very general rule, you can multiply your level of exertion by 10 to determine your heart rate. In other words, if you’re exercising at a 14, then your heart rate is probably somewhere around 140 beats per minute. Again, this is very general.

Here’s the scale:

  • 6: No exertion (i.e., sitting in a chair)
  • 7: Extremely light (i.e., arm circles)
  • 8
  • 9: Very light
  • 10
  • 11: Light
  • 12
  • 13: Somewhat hard
  • 14
  • 15: Hard (heavy)
  • 16
  • 17
  • 18
  • 19: Extremely hard
  • 20: Maximal exertion

A great example of perceived exertion in practice would performing high intensity interval training on a treadmill. For high intensity interval training, you may, for instance, alternate between perceived exertion levels of 13 and 18 or 19. It may be one minute at 13, followed by one minute at 18 or 19 and so on. It’s much easier to describe the exercise in terms of perceived exertion than a set pace in miles per hour, because what is hard for me may be easy for you or vice versa.

For me, alternating between a 13 and 18 or 19 means alternating the treadmill from 7.7 miles per hour to 11 mph at a 3 percent incline. For another person, it might mean alternating between 3 mph and 6 mph. Either way, you’ll be getting the benefits because both bodies will be working hard. And if a certain pace gets easier over time, you may need to increase the speed to stay at that perceived level of exertion.

As you can see, the Borg scale is really easy to understand and extremely helpful. Try putting it to work for you!

Exposed: How Long Does it Take to Get Results from Working Out?

Dear Davey,

How long should it take to see results from working out? I’m relatively new to the exercise game. I’ve been doing resistance training and cardio for about 4 weeks. Thanks for any advice you have.

Impatient in Iowa

Thanks for such a great question!

First, Mr. Iowa, we have to define results. Your “results” are likely different from the next person, and obviously it is all dependent on your fitness goals. Some people exercise for weight loss while others are looking for (if you can believe it) weight gain. Some want bigger muscles and others want improved energy or endurance.

Second, we have to determine the best way to measure those results. Here are just a handful of ideas:

  • How your clothes fit
  • Tape measure
  • Body fat percent
  • Cholesterol
  • Improved level of activity (don’t get winded as easily, can lift more weight around the house, etc.)
  • Scale
  • Sleep (if you’re sleeping through the night)

Obviously, there are a number of methods to measure your results and these methods will be dependent on your goals. If your goals are building muscle mass and increasing strength, for example, then I’d recommend a tape measure as your method (this is much better than weighing yourself). On a biweekly basis, you can measure the width of the muscles that you are trying to build and track the results.

Third, consider diet. Does your diet support the results you are looking to achieve? If you are looking to build muscle, are you taking in the right amount of protein? If you are looking to drop a few pounds, does your diet support a calorie deficit? A lot of people have great fitness goals that they are working towards in the gym – but then they ignore those goals when it comes to food. It’s like trying to swim upstream. On the flip side, if your diet supports the change that you are looking to produce, your results will be expedited.

Fourth, we need to factor in the amount of time and energy you’re spending exercising. Obviously, someone who is working out intensely 5 days a week is going to see results faster than someone that is spending 20 minutes a week working out. Not surprisingly, there is a positive correlation between effort and results. If you are working out less frequently – this isn’t necessarily a bad thing – then just know that your time line will be extended.

Having said all of that, most beginners will start to see results in one way, shape, or form after the first 6 to 8 weeks of exercise. Of course, different muscles build at different rates – and so larger arms will be noticeable before, say, more developed abdominal muscles (abs build very slowly). Remember: Rome wasn’t built in a day. And your results won’t happen overnight. Moreover, many of the changes are so slow, they’re hard to track with the naked eye. Be sure to measure with something a little more objective than your bathroom mirror.

Keeping all of this in mind, it’s important to recognize that exercise isn’t about setting a goal, measuring against it, achieving it and stopping. It’s about making exercise a regular, sustainable and integral part of your life.

If you’re looking to get started (or change things up), my Total Body Assault program is a great way to start. For a limited time, use promo code “results” to save 25%.