But what is an activity tracker?
The activity tracker market is booming at the moment, with the Nike Fuel Band, Fitbit Flex and Jawbone UP to name a few. The function of all of these trackers is to provide you with information on your levels of activity throughout the day - they are usually worn on your wrist and work via motion trackers. They work really well as a motivational tool - letting you know when you've reached your activity goal, with several of them offering extra functions like monitoring your sleep and connecting to apps for real-time tracking. Some of them you can also link up to other tools like MyFitnessPal to track your calories and map it against your activity.
I'd been wearing my Fitbit Flex on most days for several weeks prior to receiving the Polar Loop from Nigel O'Hara so I was in a good position to be able to road test the Loop as well as compare it with its main competitor.
Getting started with the Polar Loop
You have to cut the strap down to size to begin with prior to use, which was slightly scary! You measure your wrist using the ruler and then cutoff the strap until it fits snugly (I made Tom do this, I was too scared!) It takes about 15-20 minutes to get to full charge and then you're good to go. I really like the sleek, black, style, it felt more like a chunky bracelet than a fitness tracker, which was a massive win. My Fitbit Flex is bright pink and looks more plastic-y so the Loop definitely wins points for being more discreet.
Once it's charged via USB it also installs the software onto your computer and you can sync the Loop and add your personal details into the Polar Flow website. This gives you more personalised tracking data and you can change settings like the time format and which hand you're wearing it on.
What information does it give you?
All of the indications on the tracker are controlled by the 'touch button', a symbol on the tracker that given a light touch, will scroll through the different options (I had to Google 'Where is the touch button' to begin with as it's so discreet!). It will tell you the time (meaning you don't have to wear a watch as well as the tracker, which is another bonus), how many steps you've taken, how many calories you've burned, and how far you are towards your activity goal. This is shown using a battery bar graphic, so when the battery is full you've reached your goal (it tops up throughout the day as you undertake activity).
The other cool thing about the activity indicator is that it tells you what you'd need to do to meet your activity goal - so it might tell you that you'd need to jog for 10 minutes (or do high impact activity), or walk for 40 minutes (or another medium impact activity), or 'up' which indicates underaking low impact activity for say, 2 hours. It's a great way to keep you motivated and it has worked for me - when I realise I'm nowhere near my activity goal I'll go out for a walk after dinner or make an effort to have a more active evening rather than sitting on the sofa.
More detailed activity information - Polar Flow app and website
What is it good for, and what types of activity can it measure?
It's really good for running as it's very accurate at calculating (using its own motion analysis technology) the amount of time that you spent running (you can see this in more depth on the app). I've worn it constantly for the last few weeks apart from when it's been charging so it's tracked all of my runs. Obviously it doesn't have GPS so it can only track the time you spent running, rather than distance.
Naturally the way it interprets the motion using an accelerometer means that it's very good at tracking certain activity like walking and running, but not so much at less obvious motion like cycling, weights or yoga etc. It indicated that I'd been more active on days when I did a workout DVD or a very movement filled workout, but not when I'd been cycling or doing kettlebell. The only way you could track this is by buying the bluetooth heart rate sensor (£41.08) and connecting it to the Loop. You wouldn't want to wear the heart rate monitor all day, but it would be good for those activity sessions which it finds it more challenging to track.
So, is it any good?
Overall I must say that I absolutely love the Polar Loop and will definitely be sticking to this over my Fitbit Flex. It is a really powerful motivational tool and great for getting you off your bum on those days when you're not feeling as active. It's also really interesting to get data you'd never normally be able to track, like how well you've slept, and how active you are over a weekly or monthly view (I must watch those lazy Saturdays!). My only gripe with it would be that it wasn't always perfect at syncing to the iPhone app but as soon as you sync it with the computer via USB it automatically updates. The battery life is good - it lasts about three days without a charge and then goes back to full battery within about 15 minutes. I also think it's really good value - it retails at around £70, which isn't bad for such a nifty piece of kit. I'd definitely recommend it if you're looking for an easy way to track steps, calories burned and levels of activity, particularly if your preferred methods of activity involve walking or running.
Have you ever tried any of the activity trackers? Do you find them motivating?