Jawbone UP: A Wristband and App for Improving Your Health

Remember Jawbone? The company that made such nice Bluetooth headsets they were almost cool enough to wear in public? Well, Jawbone is at it again, but get ready for something completely different. They’ve taken their tiny gadget know-how and applied it to a problem we’ve all encountered: improving our health and fitness.

Jawbone UP is a wristband that you wear to track your physical activity, meals, and sleep habits throughout the day. It works in tandem with the UP app for your iPhone, which takes information gathered from the wristband and crunches it into visual statistics to track your progress. Jawbone believes that by tracking your health decisions throughout the day (everyday), you’ll be more apt to fulfill your health and fitness goals. Fair enough, but are the features worth using?

With such a large amount of data flowing into the app, UP is able to provide some enticing functionality to keep you on the wagon. For starters, the Activity monitor shows day-to-day and aggregate statistics for your daily movement. It tracks your total steps and distance traveled, estimates calorie burn, and suggests activity goals in line with your weight loss objectives.

UP takes a simple but clever approach to tracking your meals. Rather than counting calories, UP encourages you to snap photos of every meal and, a few hours later, asks you how you feel. You’ll quickly learn which foods leave you energized and which leave you wishing you’d had a salad instead.

Sleep is probably the most undervalued health-related activity in our lives. UP puts a premium on your sleep by monitoring your hours of rest and even tracking how much you fidget in bed. Is it time for a new mattress? UP will help you attain your perfect sleep schedule, and the wristband will silently wake you at your optimal time (vibrations, ooooo…).

Do you need some competition to keep you motivated? UP includes a solid array of Challenges for you to join, either against yourself or the world. Do you have a group of friends that exercise together? Invite them to a private Challenge and see who can be the first to walk 100,000 steps or erase their slept debt. The idea is to keep your activity varied and your mind engaged to maximize your long-term health.

Jawbone has created yet another compelling and attractive piece of technology that may be just what the doctor ordered. UP costs $99.00 (which includes the wristband + app), which isn’t bad when you consider how much you paid for that heart monitor watch last January. Currently, the wristband plugs into the headphone jack of the iPhone for syncing, but knowing Jawbone, it’s only a matter of time before wireless functionality (Bluetooth or radio) is added.

As Christmas approaches, the Jawbone may be the gift that keeps on giving. Solid hardware and excellent app design will keep you coming back, and hopefully lead you to a sustained healthier lifestyle.

Image credits: Jawbone.com

Five Free Android Apps to Improve Your Health & Fitness

Most of us could stand to lose a few pounds, but a sustainable lifestyle change isn’t always easy. A missed day at the gym can give way to a cheeseburger, and before you know it you’re back on the couch two weeks deep into a black hole of inactivity and junk food. These things happen, but your Android-powered phone can help you dig yourself out of that rut and improve your overall health, fitness and (probably) happiness.

The Android Marketplace offers a wide range of health- and fitness-related apps for the choosing. Here are some of my favorites that have helped me avoid a catastrophic health meltdown.

1. Diet Assistant

I tend toward no-frills, easy-to-use apps and this one fits the bill nicely. Diet Assistant tracks your daily meals and offers calorie estimates, which are tracked and graphed to show your progress. Similarly, it will keep tabs on your weight and give you a graph to show to your friends. Just kidding, don’t show your friends — they won’t be as excited as you. Anyway, you’ll be surprised how the momentum builds as you see your weight drop with your reduced calorie intake. Soon you’ll be making smarter food choices just to keep your graph looking nice. Oh, and there will be the added bonus of weight loss.

2. Push Ups

Again, a simple app that serves its purpose well. Push Ups is a virtual trainer that allows you to set goals for consecutive push ups and creates a routine so you can achieve it at your own pace. This may be my favorite app on the list because the gains impressed me. [Bragging alert] I’ve been using Push Ups for a couple of months and started my program barely able to do 20 push ups in a row. With the help of this app, which accounts for off days, I can do over 50 without rest. Push Ups transformed me into the total stud I am today. Hey — don’t roll your eyes at me.

3. Adidas miCoach

Motivation is a major obstacle that miCoach aims to solve. This app is a trainer for a variety of sports, including custom workouts, that measures your distance, pace, calories burned, and more. MiCoach monitors your workouts and offers assessments that keep you steadily improving. Trust me, it’s a lot easier to reach your goals if you have a program telling you what is acceptable and what is lazy. MiCoach is feature-packed (even GPS!) and will keep you rolling with whatever form of exercise you choose — yoga to basketball. Definitely worth a try.

4. Softrace

If you have a competitive streak in you, Softrace is probably your ticket to reaching your fitness goals. You can choose from a variety of race types (biking, skiing, running and more) and compete against others on pre-defined tracks in your area. Softrace tracks your statistics like altitude, pace, and time and keeps it all in a convenient workout diary. Sometimes you just want to race somebody, and Softrace makes this exceedingly convenient, even if you don’t have any competitive friends.

5. Music Therapy For Sound Sleep

Face it, if you’re a working sap with any amount of ambition, you probably aren’t sleeping well. If you spend a lot of time on your computer at night, that just makes matters worse, and believe it or not, it affects your diet and exercise by making you lethargic during the day. Sound Sleep offers ambient sounds to help you relax at night and get to sleep more easily. Match this with some light reading and you’ll be snoozing in no time. Remember, a good day starts with a good night’s rest.

As they always say, change comes from within, but don’t be afraid to seek help from your friendly Android phone in your journey to self-improvement. Mix and match the apps that work for you and maybe one day you’ll be able to do as many push-ups as me. Ha, yeah right!