A few years ago, while paging through an issue of REAL SIMPLE Magazine, I noticed a short review of a device called the Jawbone UP. It was touted as a fitness device used to track your steps, monitor your sleep cycles, and more. I thought it looked neat but since I didn't have a smartphone at the time, didn't think I could get much use out of it.
I upgraded my phone this last December and started researching fitness trackers again. I added the Jawbone UP to my “someday” wishlist, yet was pleasantly surprised when my sister gave me one for Christmas!
Since then, the little black band on my left wrist has provided me with motivation, insights into my activities and sleep habits, tips for a healthier life, and encouragement when I reach my goals.
How Does It Work?
The band contains sensors and an accelerometer to track and measure your movements. The data is stored to a flash memory in the band, and that data is synced to a free app you install on your phone. I have to plug my band into the microphone jack on my phone to sync it with the app, but the newer UP24 band syncs via Bluetooth anytime you are within range of your phone.
The band comes with an instruction booklet, a USB charger, and little else. It's easy to use — just charge it, download the app, enter your information, sync and calibrate the band, and you're good to go. The adapter is located at the end with the logo, and the other end has a small square button used to toggle between motion tracking and sleep tracking modes, marked respectively by a sun and moon LED symbol that glows green for a few seconds when you switch between the two.
There are three main features of the band and app: movement tracking, sleep tracking, and food tracking.
Anyone with a pedometer knows that it can be incredibly rewarding, motivating, and sometimes surprising to have a real-time count of the number of steps one takes in a day. The UP tracks not only the number of steps you take, but also the intensity and duration of the steps, the amount of active time versus inactive time during your day, how many miles you've walked based on the number of steps, and an estimate of how many calories you've burned based on information like your age, gender, weight, and height.
There is also an option to time and track a work-out, which gives you more specific information about a period of time than if you simply left it on the regular movement-tracking mode. The app presents the information to you as an overview of the entire day in bar graph form, with percentages and numbers underneath. Here are some screenshots of the daily graph and data:
And one from when I recorded a workout — in this case, a hike in the mountain:
Sleep Tracking and the Smart Alarm
Note: Though this device can track your sleep patterns, we actually recommend you DON'T sleep with electronic devices of any kind. See Wardee's podcast episode #93, Sleep Smarter, for the whole scoop.
How long does it take you to fall asleep? How many hours of deep sleep versus light sleep do you get per night? How many times do you wake up during the night? A sleep tracking device is a great way to answer these questions.
The JawboneUP's Sleep Mode tracks your movements during the night to help calculate your light and deep sleep cycles. You do need to activate the sleep mode by pressing and holding the square button at the end of the band until the moon symbol flashes and the band vibrates.
The Smart Alarm feature is designed to wake you up during the lightest part of your sleep cycle by gently vibrating on your wrist. Simply choose the time you want to wake up, and the band will vibrate 10, 20, or 30 minutes beforehand, during the lightest part of your sleep cycle. Waking up from a light sleep is much easier than waking up from a deep sleep, and helps you to greet the day feeling energized and refreshed instead of tired and groggy. Below are some screenshots of what the sleep tracking data looks like.
Again, please note: although this device can track your sleep patterns, we actually recommend you DON'T sleep with electronic devices of any kind. See Wardee's podcast episode #93, Sleep Smarter, for the whole scoop.
This is the part of the app that requires the most interaction from you. Since the band can't tell what you're eating when (it's smart, but it's not that smart) you'll need to manually log your food and drink if you want to keep track of what you're eating. The app contains a pretty extensive library of pre-loaded food and drink options, and you can add your own, as well as photos of your food and drink if you wish. It then assigns you a food score, with 10 being the best, based on the nutritional contents of the meal. Each meal/drink logged has its own score, and you are also given an average for the day. I use this part of the app just to log my food and drink and don't pay too much attention to the scores and nutritional information, since it seems to be based on mainstream nutrition instead of the traditional nutritional research I accept.
Motivation and Encouragement
The UP app allows you to set goals and accept challenges, and also provides tips for a healthy lifestyle with the Smart Coach feature. When you reach your goals and successfully rise to a challenge, it provides you with encouragement and becomes your “cheerleader”. For example, it congratulates you when you reach your first 50,000 steps, when you achieve a “3-Day Streak” of meeting your daily steps or sleep goal three days in a row. It also presents you with the opportunity to “up your game” by challenging you to take more steps or get more sleep with the “Today I Will” feature and congratulating you at the end of the day or night for a job well done. In addition, you also get weekly emails from Jawbone with an overview of your best days, your best nights, and how you rank in the UP community as a whole.
While I really enjoy tracking my activity and sleeping habits with the JawboneUP, I know it's not the only fitness tracker out there. Jawbone makes two other fitness trackers — the less expensive Move tracker (which clips onto your clothing or into a wristband) and the high-end UP3 tracker (which includes a Heart Health tracker for those who want to monitor their heart rate).
You can also download the UP app on your phone and use it without the fitness tracker by manually logging everything yourself, but you will get better and more accurate results with the tracker. The tracker can also be synced to other apps, which are listed on the Jawbone website.
While I personally haven't used the FitBit line of fitness trackers, I've heard they are great, too. As far as I can tell, they do the same basic thing as the JawboneUP — track movement, sleep, and food. You can also use the FitBit app without the tracker.
Do you have a fitness tracking device or app? Is it something you'd find helpful? Tell us in the comments!
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