Tuesday, June 19, 2012

BodyBugg: Early Thoughts/Review

Because I have been struggling with figuring out a more precise number of calories burned during the day, I started looking at heart rate monitors. There are so many to choose from that I found myself overwhelmed by the process and not wanting to delve any farther into the process. As I was seeking out an appropriate HRM, I happened upon the BodyBugg. Best known for its use on The Biggest Loser television show, I honestly hadn't paid any attention to it, despite the fact that it's been on the market for several years now. After reading several reviews and finding it marked down to a third of it's original cost, I figured it would be worth a try.
Image source here
Although I have had this little contraption for less than a week, I wanted to get out some initial thoughts on this product, and see how my opinion changes over time. Basically, the user buys a little monitor that sits on an elastic armband which monitors the individuals activities throughout the day. It is intended to give the user an idea of overall calories burned, rather than specifics for a given activity. It also permits the user to add in food intake so that at the end of the day, there is a tangible number of calories burned vs calories taken in to the body.

My initial impression of this monitor is that it may not be the most efficient or effective tool, depending on the users needs/wants/desires. I purchased the "SP" model of the BodyBugg so that I could use my phone to check on things throughout the day, rather than buying the digital display for the alternate "v3" model, or having to download the information all the time with the USB cord. I have found the app on my iPhone 4s to be a bit of a pain, and not entirely accurate for up to the minute information. The app itself is persnickety and if you touch the wrong thing while it's connecting to the bluetooth, well, you can pretty much forget getting any information out of it.
Image from Apex
As for the monitor itself, I remain up in the air about it. I guess when I was reading through all of the information I didn't quite take in the fact that there is no actual heart rate monitoring associated with the BodyBugg. It's set up so that it monitors body heat, sweat, and electric currents across the skin. I am not an expert, but it seems a bit strange to me that there wouldn't be some type of heart monitoring in this device to get the most accurate burn.
Sample screen shot for a given day
I have also found that I question how well it's tracking the burn. My morning kickboxing class runs from 9:30a-10:20a, and when I looked at the time line later in the evening on the computer software, it only showed a rise in calorie burn for 31 of those 50 minutes... and we are definitely working for the entire 50 minutes - quite intensely. The total calories burned during that time, including my bike ride to and from the workout, were about 690 calories. It also showed that during one morning from 6:45a-9:00a I burned 826 calories while I was doing absolutely nothing except sitting on my rear and eating some oatmeal. I find it a bit strange that I burnt more calories doing nothing for 2 hours than I did in a very, very intense exercise class for almost an hour, as well as riding my bike too and from the class.

The BodyBugg claims 90% accuracy, which is better than a heart rate monitor from what I can tell, but it's difficult for me to understand the numbers when I see them laid out in front of me because they just don't seem to make sense.

As for the food portion of the BodyBugg, I have found that there aren't many foods in the system, and that it will not allow me to do specific amounts. For example, I routinely have 3/4 cup of oatmeal (measured in its dry state) for breakfast. However, the BodyBugg will only allow me to enter 1/2 a cup or a 1 cup amount. So, I'm either under or overestimating what I'm consuming - either of which defeats the purpose of having this device. Instead, like so many others who've gone before with this product, I have found myself using another online program to enter my calories consumed, and using the BodyBugg merely as a test of how many calories I'm burning during the day.

The one thing that is still troubling to me is that I wanted to know if I was eating too much or too little. While the program does assign a number of calories for a person to consume based on your activity level, weight, height, goals, etc, I still don't know if it's possible that I'm under eating. The program itself doesn't seem to have an issue with a person eating fewer calories than assigned, but I know from the past that it can be dangerous or counter productive when not eating enough calories. I do seem to be getting enough to feel satisfied, so I guess that is what I'll have to go on for now.

For my purposes, I wanted to know a more precise number of calories burned on a daily basis, so I've used it as a gauge on a few different days to discover how off I've been with calorie burn. While I don't think it's provided me any earth shattering information, I will say that for the few days I've had, I do seem to have lost weight. I don't know if my body has just decided to cooperate finally, or if I've been unconsciously working harder, knowing that I'm being "tracked." Regardless, I think it has been useful thus far, if for no other reason than to get a better idea of calories burned... even if I don't choose to wear it all the time, or every day.

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