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Eight fitness gadgets that actually work


Getting fit is often an exercise (ahem) in getting good data. Taking a walk on a blustery fall day helps, but the more you know about your calories burned, your actual steps taken, and how many days in a row you hit an optimal heart rate the more you can make changes and see some success.

These ten gadgets were tested over a period of several weeks and produced real results – we lost weight using them. Some motivate you by their sheer innovation; others dangle a carrot of helping children in an impoverished nation when just go for a long walk.

Adidas-miCoachSpeed_CellAdidas miCoachSpeed_Cell, $70

This new monitoring system works like the Nike+ system in that there’s a sensor you insert into the sole of your shoe (we used a pair of Adidas AX outdoor trainers). The $70 sensor communicates using the Garmin ANT protocol. Once you go on a run or a walk, the sensor records up to six hours of data about your pace, distance, and where you went. Then, you use the miCoach Connect adapter, which connects to your PC or Mac, and the miCoach app to review your workouts. Once you upload the data to the app, you can then share the results on Facebook for accountability with friends. Eventually, Adidas will release an iPhone (and maybe even an iPad) app that can communicate with the sensor directly.

WattBikeWattBike, $2,995

We’re big fans of anything that can go beyond basic calorie tracking. The WattBike, made in the UK but available in the US for $2,995, tracks your actual power output for a more accurate training session. The idea is that, when you bike, you want to consistently produce a specific level of wattage. As you use the stationary bike, which mimics a real pro cycle, you can connect to a PC monitoring system that shoes your watts in real-time, along with a visual representation for how smooth you are pedaling. There’s also a social network sitewhere you can upload your workouts.

FitBit-UltraFitBit Ultra, $99

The FitBit Ultra, which costs $99, is one of the smartest gadgets we’ve ever used, but the “smarts” are in how it tracks your walks, runs, and stair-climbs without your intervention. In fact, once you clip the small plastic device to a belt or even stash one in your laptop bag, you never have to think about it. When you charge the device using a USB adapter (about every few days), the device automatically uploads your stats to FitBit.com and shares the data on Facebook and Twitter. Better yet, you get e-mails when you achieve “badges” like your longest walk or climbing up 50 flights in one day.

Striiv-CollectionStriiv, $99

Striiv is not that different from other step counters that clip to your belt or on a car key ring, but it has one compelling feature: As you walk or run, the $99 device tracks your total results. When you hit 60,000 steps, for example, Striiv donates one vaccine to a child in India or a daily supply of water. As you gain points, you can also use them to play games on the device — unlocking rewards and treasures. The device has a color screen and lets you see your daily steps, calories burned, stairs climbed, etc.

Withings-WiFi-Body-ScaleWithings WiFi Body Scale, $150

This $150 scale, which is about an inch tall and weighs about 5 pounds, has been out a while, but it’s an essential part of a data-driven workout. The scale connects to a standard Wi-Fi access point to share your weight (and body mass index) over Twitter. The device also supports various workout services like DailyBurn.com, RunKeeper, Google Health, Microsoft HealthVault, and GymTechnik for uploading your weight. The scale can sense the person being weighed automatically (based on the last measurement).

Nike+-Sportwatch-GPSNike+ Sportwatch GPS, $199

This modern-looking watch, which costs $199, connects to a sensor in your Nike shoe and can record your workouts, including where you go, average speed, and calories burned. To upload the data, you connect the watch to your computer using a built-in USB stick. Accountability is critical in daily exercise, and the Nike+ system is one of the best services around: You can compare runs with other users, upload your workout data to Facebook, and set goals like running a set number of miles per day.

Reebok-InTouch-Heart-Rate-MonitorReebok InTouch Heart Rate Monitor, $99

Most heart-rate sensors strap around your chest and are cumbersome to use. The Reebok InTouch Heart Rate Monitor is much easier to use: You just wear it as a watch to track your calories burned, total distance for a run, and your heart rate (as monitored from your wrist). As you run, you can touch the watch to get an instant measure of your heart rate without fumbling around for buttons.

garmin_ant__iphone_adapterGarmin Fit, $50

The Garmin Fit system works with the shoes you already own, and connects to a free Garmin app. The ANT sensor can be attached to the shoelaces of your running shoes. Then, the sensor connects to your phone using an included 30-pin connector and streams data about your run speed, distance, and calories. You can then upload this data to the Garmin Connect website and, from there, post workout data to Facebook. The app also lets you play music at the start of your workout.