The practice of self-tracking can encompass just about any piece of personal output possible. You can install software onto your work computer that maps out your productivity and identifies where you spend most of your wasted time. You can install apps onto your phone that make it easy to graph out how many times you’ve performed a new habit over the last 4 weeks. But most impressively, and perhaps most powerfully, devices such as Body Media’s armbands allow you to measure, track, and evaluate your vital physical data passively.
The passive nature of the Body Media device is perhaps its most powerful feature, and we’ll discuss why shortly, but for now let’s kick off this Body Media review with an explanation of what sort of data accumulation this keen little device practices.
What is the Body Media Device?
At first the Body Media device looks like any other sports-oriented armband. It’s composed of an adjustable strap attached to a small piece of plastic, all of which is coated in a neutral color that’s best understood as “athletic gray.” Yet don’t let this device’s unassuming looks fool you- inside that boring square of plastic lies a few extremely useful measuring devices.
You see, when you wear your unobtrusive Body Media armband your tiny tracking device will be able to measure three core characteristics related to your physical health and wellbeing:
- Exercise. Inside your Body Media device lies tracking mechanisms that determine how many calories you’ve burned during exercise and how much time you spent performing either moderate or vigorous exercise every day.
The data your Body Media accumulates provides you with a much more accurate picture of how much intensity you’re really putting into your exercises, allowing you to spot opportunities for greater exertion and greater fitness development. The Body Media device’s ability to precisely measure calories burned during exercise also allows you to identify which exercises produce the greatest effect on your body and which exercises provide a smaller benefit than you originally believed.
- Constant Calorie Counting. The Body Media device doesn’t just track how many calories you burn when you’re working out, the device monitors how many calories you burn all day and night. Not everyone is aware of this, but your body is constantly burning off calories. How many calories you’re burning at any given time relates to a number of factors, including your body’s volume of muscle mass and your current activity level. The more muscle you have, the more calories your body burns every hour. The more vigorous the activity you engage in, the more calories your body burns during that activity. Even though your body is burning calories when you’re sitting on the couch watching TV for an hour, your body will burn far more calories if you spend that hour on the treadmill.
The sensors built into the Body Media device will tell you exactly how many cumulative calories your body burns every day. Additionally, Body Media provides its clients with an online food-logging tool that counts how many calories they consume. By automatically combining these two data sources, Body Media can give you an incredibly accurate picture of the calorie deficit, or calorie surplus, you’ve created on any given day, week or month.
Seeing as we know restricting calories by 3,500 below weekly maintenance levels will result in about a pound of fat loss, Body Media turns slimming down into a personalized science.
- Sleep Monitoring. Your Body Media device will capture thousands of data points a minute to determine the duration and quality of your sleep cycles each and every night. As Body Media’s website points out, sleep not only plays an important role in your general feeling of health and wellbeing- getting enough high quality sleep also directly impacts any effort you make to lose weight. The less sleep you receive the more hungry you will feel during the day and the less satisfied you will feel after eating a full meal (due to a lack of sleep producing high Gherlin and low Leptin levels within your body). By giving you the ability to track your sleep, the Body Media device makes it easy to identify and eliminate any sleep problems you experience.
The Power of Passive Tracking
All of the above measurements offer useful data you can use to lose weight or otherwise improve your health and fitness. Knowing exactly what your fitness profile looks like, developing a precise image of your calorie-in-calorie-out profile, and developing a sharp understanding of what your sleep cycles actually look like… you will find all of these data points useful when taking charge of your health and developing the body you’ve always wanted.
Yet all of these points can be tracked without the Body Media device. You can write about your workout intensity in a simple spiral-bound notebook. You can use a couple calculations to determine your Basal Metabolic rate to create an accurate picture of how many calories you burn every day. There are a thousand and one ways to create a calorie-tracking food log. And measuring your sleep quality and quantity is as simple as writing down when you go to bed and when you wake, and then noting how you feel in the morning. Body media can perform all these measurements for you with a greater degree of accuracy than you can produce on your own, but you don’t need a Body Media device to accumulate accurate-enough data to guide your actions.
So what makes Body Media such a powerful device? The simple fact the device tracks all of these data points for you passively whenever you wear it.
While we all know we’d be thinner and healthier if we measured our calories, and if we paid attention to our exercise habits, and if we noted how well we slept, at the end of the day most of us just can’t be bothered to calculate these measurements by hand. It doesn’t take a lot of work to do so, but actively tracking the day-to-day reality of our physical experience is too inconvenient to break through our natural human inertia, no matter how deeply we understand doing so is “good for us.”
Yet most of us can quickly and easily build the habit of strapping on a wristband and plugging our device into our computer once a week to upload the personal data it’s accumulated.