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7 High-Tech Helpers to Get Fit

From Wi-Fi to motion sensors, technology is giving fitness a makeover, promising simple ways to track performance progress and stay connected with like-minded enthusiasts, as well as adding a little more fun into that daily workout.


Packed with technology, this little clip-on device tracks a person’s physical activity and more.

Just like other pedometer-type gadgets, the Fitbit measures physical activity based on the number of steps and distance a person travels using a 3-D motion sensor like the one found in Nintendo Wii. But while pedometers stop there, the Fitbit keeps an eye on the wearer’s sleep quality as well.

“The motion sensor in the Fitbit also helps measures sleep quality: how long it takes the wearer to fall asleep, how often they wake up over the course of the night, and for how long they are actually asleep … [which] is all based on one’s movements while sleeping,” a spokesperson at Fitbit said.

WiFi Scale

The Withings WiFi scale makes tracking your weight a little easier (and more fun). Instead of writing down your weight and body fat, the scale sends this information to a personal, online account, which keeps track of your stats.

Like many modern scales today, the WiFi scale determines body fat by sending a small electrical current through your feet and measuring the resistance of the current, said Jean-François Kitten, spokesperson at Withings. (This works because body fat doesn’t conduct electricity, unlike the muscles and water in your body.)

You can also soup-up the WiFi scale.

“The Withings scale is like an iPhone,” Kitten said. Just as apps make the iPhone more than a phone, online services make the WiFi scale more than a scale.

For instance, a person’s weight stats can be sent via WiFi to a personal Google Health account, which stores health records that can be shared with doctors and other healthcare providers. Or, if you want, “you can tweet your weight to your followers and maybe receive some encouragement from [them],” Kitten said.

There's also a free iPhone app for the scale.

Hi-Tech ID Bracelet

Runners will no longer need to lug around a wallet full of cards and money thanks to a new hi-tech ID bracelet, called VITAband.

Similar to a dog tag or medical bracelet, this new wristband displays an ID number that links to an online database of the wearer’s medical information.

Unlike other ID bracelets, this one also lets runners, cyclists and other fitness enthusiasts make purchases on the go. Each wristband contains an RFID-chip that links to a personal money account. To make a purchase, the wearer needs to hold the bracelet within about a finger’s distance away from a terminal that accepts this type of payment.

The VITAband isn’t available for purchase yet, but should be by late summer or fall of 2010.

Nike Plus

A fitness buddy and coach, of sorts, the Nike Plus system includes a small sensor that slips into a slot under your insole and measures your run performance – time, distance, calories burned and pace. This data is stored on your iPod (or other compatible device, including a Nike sports band), and can be easily uploaded to a personal, online account.

The system also lets you set daily goals for mileage or pace, for example, and choose motivating music for your workout. And you don’t need to wait until you get home to get the low-down on your workout; instead, watch it on your iPod screen on the road.

Performance-enhancing Swimwear

Techified swimsuits were made famous by Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, who has worn several made by Speedo, including the Fastskin FS-Pro and the LZR Racer.

Key to these performance-enhancing swimsuits is a special type of fabric, which reduces drag, allowing wearers to “fly” through the water. For the Speedo FS-Pro, this fabric is a mixture of chlorine-resistant Spandex and ultra-fine threads of polyurethane.  A water-repelling material, polyurethane creates an air pocket between the swimmer and the water.

Energy-boosting Fabrics

Saucony’s AMP PRO2 fabrics promise to amp up your workout. Based on a man-made microfiber called Celliant, these fabrics promise to recycle energy emitted by your body back through your skin – increasing oxygenated blood flow in the body. The hi-tech apparel, which will hit the shelves on July 15, comes in two flavors:  training and recovery. The training line shows off its ability to reduce energy lost due to excess pounding and muscle vibration during a workout. The recovery fabrics are less ambitious in energy recovery but are meant to be worn for longer periods of time.

Nintendo Wii

Instead of actually hitting the court or the track, Nintendo Wii lets you play sports – and get a workout, too – without leaving your living room. The Sports video package lets you “virtually” box, golf, bowl, and play tennis and baseball.

While it’s hard to believe that these video games could actually get you fit, a study completed by exercise scientists at the University of Wisconsin begs to differ. According to the study, these “virtual” sports don’t fall too far behind their “real” cousins. Boxing, for instance, was shown to burn 10.2 calories per minute in real life, and 7.2 calories per minute in Wii land.