It is 6.30 am and I am in a rush to get ready for my 40-minute morning walk. I have been walking religiously for over five years, ever since I was diagnosed with diabetes. But never before have I been so motivated to walk or, to be more precise, burn calories. In fact, I try and squeeze in a 20-minute jog after dinner in a bid to try and cross my 10,000 steps-a-day regimen. Those many steps will help me burn at least 330 calories every day, about a third of the 1,200 Kcal diet prescribed to me.
Calorie counts have always flummoxed me. But HealthifyMe tells me how to translate what I eat into calories. Unlike other apps, this one has a log of all Indian foods — from different types of dosas and paranthas — and that makes it very easy to get an accurate measure of what I am eating. Also, it has helped me discover that some seemingly harmless foods have very high calorie counts. For instance, a breakfast of four homemade plain dosas can eat up half your daily calorie quota.
HealthifyMe is among the new genre of health apps, including Vishal Gondal’s much-publicised GOQii (which also comes with a band) and global leaders like Edmondo and Runkeeper. Last week, Indian handset maker Micromax Informatics, invested an undisclosed amount in HealthifyMe.
Along with the app comes a wearable band called the Rist that collects data about how many calories are being burnt, and how. For those who pay a premium, there is a Pro service that allows access to three experts. The experts not only lay out an ideal workout for you, but even follow up with you on it. Almost everyday, the app pops up a notification with assessment of your progress, and stern messages from the expert to stick to the plan. You can even make regular calls to the expert and the goals they set for you seem attainable.
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More people who are using smartbands believe that the devices could significantly improve their lifestyle. Living Longer: Wellness and the Internet, a report by Ericsson ConsumerLab, has found that users believe a wearable monitoring and regulating device could increase their life expectancy by 1.9 years.
However, this doesn’t mean wearables are a sure-shot way of achieving fitness. The user, of course, will need to be smarter than the band itself and start using the technology to his or her advantage. The problem is no longer in gathering the data, but in figuring out how to use it.
This is where an app like HealthifyMe, with a strong offline element that includes experts who are constantly poring over your data, could start showing results. “We are democratising healthy living and fitness. What was available as expensive plans at exclusive fitness clubs and weight loss clinics is today accessible at your fingertips. We want to use the power of the mobile phone to deliver fitness and fight lifestyle diseases,” says Tushar Vashist, co-founder and CEO, HealthifyMe.
Moreover, wearables still have a long way to go before they become as popular as smartphones. “A study conducted by IMRB shows that just 1 per cent of respondents are aware of wearable devices as a category,” says Indranil Dutta, insights director, eTech: IT & Telecom Practice, IMRB.
The entry of Apple in the segment could spread more awareness about wearable devices, especially to keep track of their lifestyle. But since not all of them will be able to afford the Apple Watch or shift loyalties to iOS, the overall segment will get a boost, driven by the more affordable devices. According to Canalys, 4.6 million smart and wearable bands were shipped in 2014.
For those who are not self-motivated, a coach at the other end of an app or phone could be a good idea. The Apple Watch, meanwhile, will try and assess a lot of this data. Only time will tell which will be the healthier model, the one driven by a machine or data monitored by humans. Read more reviews of smartbands here.
Number of smartbands sold worldwide between July and September, 2014: 4,60,000
Share of Android wear devices: 7,20,000
What are basic wearable bands?
These devices serve a specific set of purposes, are accessories to smart devices and can’t run third-party computing applications
What are smart wearable bands?
Multi-purpose devices that are accessories to smart devices and can run third-party computing applications
Here are three apps for those who want to keep a tab on their activity, or the lack of it. They are free and don’t use up your data. But they will need more battery to log on to the GPS.
Moves (by ProtoGeo)
The app is as simple as it can be. It tracks your steps and where you have been through the days. It calculates the time spent walking, or running, and the overall distance covered. The app works in the background and tells you every morning how much you walked in the last 24 hours and where. The app does not have a calorie tracker of its own, but can lend its data to an app that does.
RunKeeper (by FitnessKeeper, Inc.)
This app is for people who are more serious about their daily walk, run or workout. The app uses GPS to tell you how much distance you have covered at what pace and what your overall speed is. The app also gives a real-time reading of calories burned during the workout. There is also an in-app reward system that eggs you on to do more.
Edomondo is very similar to RunKeeper but syncs with a lot of new wearable devices and apps. It also keeps a tab on more routines in comparison to other apps. Ideal for advanced users, the app all looks at other parameters like heart rate when you are working out. For those who like to see what they have been doing over the past few days, the app also offers a very good calendar view.