Whether you are new to exercise or a seasoned veteran hoping to add an extra edge, choosing from all of the available gadgets can be mind-boggling. Here’s a quick overview of three popular current items and ways they can benefit you.
Once used only for mapping and navigation, GPS technology was quickly adopted for athletic use. Runners, walkers, cyclists and hikers want to know how fast, how far and how high they have gone. A GPS receiver picks up several satellite signals and calculates the user’s exact location. These units are best used outdoors.
If you want feedback about time, distance, speed and heart rate, new GPS units most commonly used by exercisers allow this and more. Monitoring pace and heart rate can help you achieve your fitness goals. GPS units come in many forms, including cell phones, computers, and personal digital assistants (PDAs). A wristwatch style suits many fitness enthusiasts.
One advantage of the new GPS models is that they are the most accurate way to monitor distance and speed. By downloading details from a workout or course, you can use this information to compete against previous workouts. GPS units are great in open areas, but can cause problems if you run, walk, bike or hike in wooded areas or among tall buildings. The strength of satellite connections in your particular area may affect how well your GPS unit functions.
The most accessible product for the fitness enthusiast is the Garmin line of GPS units. A variety of flexible products range in price. Garmin also offers good online customer support.
Many brands of pedometers are now on the market, and range in price. Test the product in the store to see if it seems accurate. Put it on, set the counter to zero, cover it so you cannot see it, and take a walk around the store while counting your steps. If the pedometer seems accurate, then it might be the right one for you. If it does not reflect the number of steps that you counted, you may want to look for
a better model.
Stores across Canada
The Running Room has heart rate monitors, pedometers
and GPS units.
SportChek also offers heart rate monitors and pedometers.
These monitors have been around for quite some time. They effectively read the electrical impulses of the heart, usually using a chest strap sensor and a wristwatch receiver. Heart rate monitors can help in several ways, but are most commonly used during exercise.
These monitors have been designed for athletes of all fitness levels. Basic models provide information on heart rate, time and estimated calories burned. More complex versions also track speed and distance, assess fitness levels and set heart rate ranges for specific workouts. These high-end models allow you to download information to your computer for graphing. Such information can improve general fitness or take athletic performance to a higher level.
Many versions of the heart rate monitor exist, and each manufacturer suggests that their unit is the most accurate. The resulting variety in make and model is both an advantage and a disadvantage. Many can be used during aquatic activities, as well as on land.
Keep in mind that less expensive heart rate monitors may pick up other people’s monitor activity. You may get an inaccurate reading of your own heart rate if you exercise next to someone else wearing a monitor. Higher-end models are able to ignore the signals of other heart rate monitors in the area. Downloading information about your workouts to a PC is possible with some models.
Pedometers count the number of steps taken or the distance covered in a day or during an activity. They are small, light and generally do not get in the way. Feedback is immediate. Each time you take a step, a lever arm inside the pedometer moves a pendulum, recording the movement.
Pedometers are part of the ‘10,000 steps’ initiative, which encourages walking as a way to improve health. A pedometer can help those who want to be more active and choose walking as a primary form of exercise. If you are walking to get fit and want to track your success, the pedometer may be the right choice. It can also measure the actual amount of walking or hiking you do while traveling. These units usually clip to a belt or waistband, and can be hidden under or worn over clothing.
The advantage of pedometers is that they are usually inexpensive, lightweight, easy to use, and able to provide instant feedback. However, they do not measure duration or intensity of a workout session. They cannot measure upper body exercises, water sports or cycling. They have been known to underestimate steps taken, and are not accurate for those who do a lot of bending or have significant abdominal fat. However, pedometers offer an affordable way to help stay motivated and on track in your fitness program.
Whether you are just getting into fitness or are already a die-hard exerciser, you must make your own choice about such devices. These products can give you visual feedback and proof that you have accomplished your exercise goal for the day. If you want to improve performance, your needs will be different. Make your decision based on your own needs and pocketbook. Finally, get clearance from your doctor before getting active.