I have been recently looking at various activity monitors and apps as I am developing an interest into stress related research and wellness. Most of the research published in this field in the last twenty years suffers in fact from lack of technology to quantify more aspects of wellness and physical activity. Original studies in this field had to rely on questionnaires (reported activity/sleep/food intake), but now with the development of small portable technology measurement opportunities have improved.
In the last few years I used mainly heart rate monitors, actigraphs, and the sensewear armband to look at activity patterns, energy expenditure and sleeping patterns of athletes.
One of the most interesting tools I have come across is the Jawbone bracelet and its iPhone® app.
Jawbone seems to be a true wellness device. In fact it is capable of tracking your activity, your sleep and your meals. The Jawbone band has a built-in precision motion sensor that automatically tracks your movement (steps, distance, calories burned, pace, intensity level and active vs inactive time ) and sleep (hours slept, time to fall asleep, light vs. deep sleep and sleep quality). No information is available on validity and reliability of its measurements, and at the moment I am not aware of any study published using it. The reviews from various bloggers and magazines (see this one on Wired) have been positive. However I still have not managed to see one in action as it has been impossible to buy one online (perennially out of stock). If I can get hold of one, I promise I will write about it.
This seems to be potentially a great product for wellness and elite sport which can allow us to understand more about activity patterns, sleep and eating patterns of our athletes/clients. If it is precise and reliable.
Here is a quick article to share with you some recent apps I have been using/trying. The first one is an app developed by Philips called Vital signs which works on an Ipad 2.
The Vital Signs App by Philips, allows for heart rate and breathing rate analysis. Simply place an iPad 2 on a table in a well lit room , place your face inside the box on screen and the app will determine your heart rate and breathing rate.
Heart rate is actually calculated by comparing the tiny changes in colour of your face which occurs as a result of changes in blood flow. The measurement of breathing rates occur via simply detecting and counting the rise and fall of the users’ chest.
The accuracy seems to be pretty good in well lit areas and in normal breathing conditions. I will do more testing in the next few weeks and present some results here.
The other very interesting app is again free and has been developed by Dr. Grant Abt called Training load. Training load allows anyone to record and track the ‘dose’ of exercise for a single person with two common methods used by sport and exercise scientists – Session-RPE and the Training Impulse (TRIMP). Both methods integrate training intensity and training duration into a single number (arbitrary unit) representing the overall dose of training. The app allows the storage and sharing of the training data and it is completely free. Training load is available on the apple store and works on iphone and ipod touch.
Tapping on ‘View Graph’ will display the data as both individual sessions (labelled DAILY) and as weekly totals (labelled WEEKLY). The weekly graph for TRIMP also displays the percentage change from the previous week. The weekly graph for Session-RPE also displays the monotony, percentage change from the previous week, and strain. Monotony is a value that describes the variation in the training load, with higher values representing less variation.
Strain is calculated as load x monotony and displayed on the weekly graph as a black circle connected with lines. Strain represents the combined value of load and monotony, so if the load is high and there is little variation in that load then the strain will be high.
The monotony values are colour-coded green (good), orange (caution), or red (danger). As for monotony, the percentage change in weekly loads are colour-coded to show the magnitude of change – green (optimal), orange (high), and red (too high).
It works really well and it is a simple free tool to track the training dose and the perception of loading of your athletes wherever they are.