Can activity trackers really help? iHealth Wave review

Even though I consider myself as being very fit and healthy, unfortunately, I have to admit that outside my regularly scheduled exercise sessions I sit just as much as a couch potato. I actually calculated that out of my 15 hours of being awake on an average weekday, I spend at least 11 hours sitting: this includes my commute to work by car (2 hours in total), working at my desk (7 hours), eating my meals at the desk (1 hour in total); relaxing on the sofa in front of Netflix/writing my blog/catching up on social media (3 hours in total). I never realised how shocking this was, until I added up the numbers. I guess this makes me a ‘fit couch potato’, a new breed!

If you know me well, you know that I am one of those people who very comfortably fulfils the recommended weekly exercise requirements, as prescribed by the universal guidelines of ACSM. So why am I making such a fuss about this, you might ask.

Sitting too much – the modern day epidemic

It has been proven through various different studies that sitting for long periods of time during the day can adversely affect sports performance and could even become a recipe for injury – for example, think about your hip flexors which are not extending whilst you are sitting, therefore they become shorter, tighter and have a more limited range of motion.

Sitting too much has also been associated with various health issues. Just to mention a few, this includes potential organ damage, certain types of cancer (such as colon and breast cancer), muscle degeneration, obesity due to metabolic shut down, a bad back, heart disease, increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, and a foggy brain. After all, it is clear to see that over a lifetime of sitting too much, these adverse health effects can add up and shorten your life expectancy. Our bodies were simply not designed to sit for long periods!

Just as I was starting to feel really uncomfortable about this, an opportunity arose to review the iHealth Wave activity tracker watch – perfect timing! My Hubby regularly uses a Fitbit activity tracker watch (a birthday present from me) and he finds it incredibly useful to keep himself on track with his daily goals. Therefore I was keen to find out if the iHealth Wave could benefit me the same way. I have summarised my thoughts below.

My experience with the iHealth Wave activity tracker

What is the iHealth Wave?

This watch is designed for tracking your general activity levels, your sleep and swimming. The watch works with the free iHealth MyVitals mobile phone app, which has personalized health tools to help you get the most out of your data and better manage your health goals.

Set up

Being a techno-fobe, I was relieved how easy and effortless it was to get the watch up and running after taking it out of its box. In fact, I did not even need to call on my Hubby’s help! The watch comes with 2 bracelets, a ‘quick start’ installation guide and a USB charging dock. Simples!

As a final step in the setup process, enter your goals into the app, which you can do under ‘Settings’. My daily activity goal is hitting 10,000 steps, which adds up to about 5 miles. Why 10,000 steps, exactly? Well, it has become a commonly-acknowledged goal for daily fitness across the world; it is a nice and round number that is easy to remember and track; and last but not least, it is a challenging, yet achievable goal.

Appearance

The watch comes with two identical straps – you can choose between black and blue colours, depending on your outfit or your current mood. I have found the black one easier to co-ordinate with my outfits as I got into the habit of wearing the watch all day, also at work. The bracelet comes with an elegant circular screen with a mirror-style finish. What I especially like about the watch is that it does not look too much like a sports device, its simple and not too bulky design blends well with smart or casual outfits, too.

Functionality

Tracking steps

Upon gently moving your wrist, you will be able to display the date, time, and battery status on the watch. If you tap the screen softly, you can also view the number of steps you have taken, the distance you have covered, and the calories you have burnt in total, and the % of your daily goal you have achieved up until that point in the day. I found this illustration of my daily progress especially motivating to keep moving more!

Having never used an activity tracker before, and having the tendency to be a bit clumsy, I have to admit that it took me some time to get used to flicking my wrist the right way to bring up all this information, however, as time progressed, it became second nature. Another thing I would note is that when I am outside in daylight, especially in bright sunshine, the information is hard to see on the screen; the visibility of the data is best when you are indoors in artificial light, or in the dark.

The watch automatically recognises when you are moving – this is another thing that I needed to get used to. There are no buttons to press if I want to go for a walk and get the stats measured. Unlike sports watches, this activity tracker recognises when you are out for longer walks (more than 10 minutes continuously, to be more precise) and when you stop. A few minutes after finishing my longer walks, the watch gives me a special workout summary report on the screen with a gentle vibration.

The watch does a good job tracking the number of steps you take, however, just to manage your expectations, I would not use it for anything other than tracking your walking, swimming or sleeping as these are the activities it has been designed for. If you are a runner, GPS enabled sports watches are the way to go to get more detailed statistics. If you want to track your gym based workouts, a heart rate enabled device would work best. I did try the watch during a gym class out of curiosity – it was a bootcamp where we worked with weights and different kinds of free equipment without covering much distance. The watch was only able to show me the actual number of steps I took during the class, and it calculated the number of calories I burnt based on that. I knew it was not a true representation of the effort I had put into the workout, as the watch clearly did not recognise the various other types of movements such as pushing, pulling, lifting, throwing, jumping etc.

Tracking sleep quality

I found the watch to be quite comfortable to wear during sleep as it is quite lightweight and the strap can be easily made to fit looser around the wrist. It automatically recognises when you fall asleep so it goes into ‘sleep mode’. Thereafter the watch will carefully track your movements in bed such as tossing and turning, lying motionless and turn it into data. When you look at the sleep stats the next morning in the app, you will see the total number of hours you slept, together with a breakdown of periods you spent in deep sleep/asleep/awake.

Swimming

Under ‘Set up my devices’/Activity monitors’, you can switch on ‘swim mode’ to be able to track your swimming. I have not used the watch this way as I do not swim, so I cannot comment on this feature. However, it does have the ability to recognise three different swimming styles (freestyle, breast stroke, back stroke). As you might have figured, it is waterproof – up to 50 metres in fact.

Extra features

Reminders

In the app, you have the option to set up some really simple reminders under ‘Settings’. For example, I set a daily reminder for taking the pill. In each case, the reminder will pop up on your mobile phone screen (not your watch) with the tune you have selected (unless you put your phone on mute). I found this feature quite useful.

Other type of reminders you could set up if you are using this watch are for example sport related. Unfortunately, the app only allows you to select the type of reminder – so let’s say if you wanted to set yourself a reminder to go for a walk at midday every day during the week, you can only select the reminder type ‘Sport’, and then would need to rely on yourself to remember what you exactly meant by ‘Sport’. I feel that this feature could definitely be improved.

Wake up alarm

Not quite intuitively, instead of ‘Settings’, you need to go into ‘Set up my devices’/Activity monitors’ in order to set up an alarm clock. Once you have figured that out, it is relatively simple to set up an alarm for specific times and days during the week. Make sure to wear the watch whilst you are sleeping though, because the alarm itself is a gentle vibration around your wrist. It is quite discreet so it won’t wake up your other half, unlike traditional alarms. Quite a nice way to wake up, if you ask me!

Inactivity alarm

Under ‘Set up my devices’/Activity monitors’, you also have the ability to set up an ‘idle alarm’ for yourself at regular intervals to get a prompt to increase your activity levels. For example, you can set the watch to give you a vibrating nudge every hour to move around a bit. I have found this feature to be one of the most useful ones to have as I have the tendency to get so engrossed in work that sometimes I even forget to go to the loo!

Overall usefulness

For an average retail price of around £60, the iHealth Wave watch is a decent and budget friendly all-rounder, doing exactly what it says on the tin, putting aside some of the minor issues I pointed out earlier, but which did not affect too much my enjoyment of using the watch. You will certainly find it useful if you are looking to monitor and increase your general activity levels (including swimming) and improve on your sleep. However, if you are looking for an activity tracker that does more that this, I am afraid you will need to dig deeper into your pocket!

Using this tracker has helped me be more aware of how much (or how little!) I move during the day. It has also provided me with some interesting insights into my sleep patterns – apparently, even though I am quite good at getting 8 hours of sleep on average, unfortunately, only a fraction of that time is spent in deep sleep. Something I need to work on. I am now definitely feeling more in control over my activity levels; the watch is a friendly motivator to get me moving outside my workouts. So, in answer to the question ‘can activity trackers really help’, my answer is yes, as long as you choose a device that is suited to your specific fitness and health goals. Of course, it goes without saying that you still need to put the hard work in, wearing an activity tracker in itself is not going to get you fitter!

How to increase your activity levels

Finally, just wanted to share a few tips about how you can increase your activity levels throughout the day and get your 10,000 steps in! The secret lies in taking every opportunity to get out of your chair and add small amounts of ‘non-exercise’ activity into your routine. The good news is that even breaks as short as one minute can improve your health!

  • Take active micro-breaks: walk to the furthest coffee machine or water tank to grab a drink or find the furthest printer to print your documents on.
  • Stand up whilst you are talking on the phone or having a conference call.
  • Make frequent posture changes, wiggle around in your chair.
  • Try to schedule ‘walking meetings’ with your colleagues when possible.
  • Instead of calling or emailing a colleague, walk to their desk instead – face to face communication will also likely improve your working relationship as an added bonus!
  • Take the stairs instead of the lift.
  • Use your lunchbreak to go out for stroll and a bit of fresh air.
  • If you can, walk or cycle to work at least part of your total journey. For example, you could get off the tube or bus a stop earlier or park your car a few miles from the office and walk the rest of the distance.
  • Consider getting an adjustable standing desk which allows you to change your working position throughout the day.
  • Whilst you are watching the telly, use the ad breaks to stand up and mobilise, make a cup of tea or do some gentle stretching etc.

Do you track your activity levels? Do you move enough?

.

 

 

 

 

.

***

Disclaimer: I have received a free iHealth Wave watch from iHealth via PowerIT-2-Channel Ltd to try and write a review about. Thank you, Tessa! The views and experiences expressed in this article are my own.

Photo credits: iHealth, freepik.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *