By Star Cunningham, 5/29/15
This week on the 4D Healthware blog, I’m going to talk about a problem health-conscious people are all too familiar with: the overwhelming number of health trackers on the market today. There are hundreds out there, and that much noise inevitably leads to chaos and confusion when trying to select the perfect one.
It can be difficult to prioritize function over form while wading through the clutter of health trackers available, and unfortunately, most people simply pick the one with the cleverest marketing campaign.
Instead of just complaining about this problem, I thought I’d do something about it, so I put together this quick guide to help you make the most informed decision about which health tracker is best. Here are the five questions that will help get the right device for you:
1. What is your health goal?
There are myriad different health goals, and a device that works for one goal may not work for another. For example, a fitness tracker may help with weight loss, but clearly it won’t do anything for pain management. That may be an extreme example, but it points to how a well-defined goal goes a long way to picking out the best tracker. If you’re trying to get a sense of your overall health, check out the FitBit One; I never leave home without mine. It’s a clip-on device that monitors my daily activity, the calories I’ve burned and even the quality of my sleep (when I sleep, that is).
2. Which features are most important to you?
Some health trackers are perfect for their simplicity. Others come with all the bells and whistles. Do you want your health tracker to wirelessly sync with your phone? Do you want it to remind you to get up and exercise? Figuring out what features are truly necessary will prevent you from wasting money on unnecessary add-ons. There are dozens of blood-glucose monitors out there, but Grove Instruments recently released a bloodless, noninvasive glucometer. It works just like a standard glucometer, but it uses infrared technology to render a reading instead of drawing blood.
3. What type of device do you want?
Health trackers come in many shapes and sizes. Mobile apps are perhaps the most convenient because they integrate with your mobile device and as a bonus they are often free or inexpensive. Wearable health trackers – watches, bracelets, clip-ons – tend to serve as a stylish visual reminder of your health goal. They can wirelessly sync to mobile devices so you can see your progress throughout the day. Biosensors, the newest type of health tracker, are incredibly accurate since they gather critical health information, like blood pressure and cholesterol, from the wearers skin.
If you decide to take the biosensor route, I highly recommend looking into a company called MC10. It makes “bio-stamps” that last for two weeks and can measure heart rate, brain activity, and exposure to UV rays.
4. What do you want out of your software?
Health trackers are all great at accumulating data – but they leave it to you the user to make health decisions from the information they collect. And unfortunately, few of us have the knowledge to do so. As a result, if you want to know what to do with your data, you need software that complements your device. Whether on the desktop or smartphone, there are a number of apps that can provide deeper insights into your health. My company, 4D Healthware, takes health data from any type of device (wearables, smartphones, biosensors, etc.), compile it, and then deliver health recommendations customized to your needs. It’s easy and effective, and, well, we like it.
5. What is your price range?
Price is always a factor in a purchase decision, and health trackers run the gamut from free apps to expensive wearables. Device prices tend to be more than apps, though they are typically a one-time cost while apps often come with monthly subscriptions. Figuring out your budget will help steer you in the right direction. For a free fitness mobile app, check out My Fitness Pal. It’s simple and beautifully designed, and it predicts how long it will take to reach your weight-loss goal. Or if you want a top-of-the-line fitness tracker, try the $200 Basis Peak. It comes with a sleep detector, heart rate monitor and accelerometer, and it can even measure you skin’s temperature.
The health tracker industry is oversaturated, and it can be incredibly difficult to differentiate between each device. Asking yourself the right questions can mitigate some of the confusion and help you find the perfect health tracker to get you on your way to reaching your health goal.