Nov 082011

There’s a healthy app for that

Jawbone has expanded its product offerings beyond Bluetooth headsets and portable speakers with the release of UP – a stylish, wrist-worn monitor that tracks your activity, sleep and nutrition with the aim of inspiring you to make healthier lifestyle choices.

First flagged by Jawbone founder Hosain Rahman at TED Global in July, the UP uses its inbuilt “MotionX” sensor (which is also found in the company’s recent ERA Bluetooth headset) to track your activity (and inactivity) and transfers the relevant data to your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch via the headphone jack. A dedicated app then provides an overview of your movement, GPS routes, sleep and meals 24/7. You can also set fitness and dietary goals, take part in challenges and study your sleeping and eating habits.

While the functionality of the device is in the mold of the Fitbit, the form factor is a definite departure. The wristband or bangle comes in small, medium and large in a range of colors and is designed to be worn constantly – during exercise, work and sleep, even in the shower being sweat proof and water resistant.

Are you going to eat that?

The diet monitor apparently aids in studying your metabolism and researching which foods best agree with you. We often forget what we’ve eaten from one day to the next (unless it caused Botulism!) and which meals left us bloated or conversely feeling energized and terrific. The fairly simplistic approach with the UP is to take a picture of the meal and, a few hours after eating, the app prompts you to answer questions about how you feel. Jawbone says this gives you an overview of which foods best suit you. The app does not provide calorie or nutritional information on what you’ve ingested which is disappointing. But it might help people with food allergies or those who wish to avoid feeling uncomfortable from eating the wrong foods. I know combining pizza and beer makes me look 6 months pregnant but I often forget that prior to tucking in.

Shift your butt

UP’s motion sensor tracks your daily exercise and activities and encourages you to move more. If you’ve been sitting on your backside for a couple of hours, the wristband will vibrate alerting you to get up, have a stretch and get that circulation going, good for office workers and those who lead more sedentary lives.

A bit pushy

If you find it hard to stay motivated the app platform offers health and dietary challenges aimed at improving your nutrition and fitness. For example, one challenge suggests replacing sugary drinks with water for two weeks. Another encourages you to take 100,000 steps over 10 days. Some of the challenges offer points, although it’s unclear what the points add up to. While I fear I may find the challenges a little bossy, the truth is staying self motivated is hard. Grueling workouts and vegetable juices quickly lose their shine and the instant gratification of fast food can be hard to resist. Taking part in a challenge may be the kick you need and they also offer the chance to compete with your friends if you’re that way inclined.

Nighty-night The app tracks sleep patterns and the vibrating Smart Alarm aims to wake you at the best time based on your body’s natural sleep cycle. This is the same as the current Sleep Cycle app, which vibrates your phone when you are in the lightest sleep phase for a more pleasant waking experience. The wristband would surely be more convenient than a phone under your pillow, which if you’re a restless sleeper, may end up tangled in bed sheets or hurled across the room.

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