Recently I’ve been intrigued by those little devices that track your fitness – Fitbit, Jawbone Up, Nike+ FuelBand, etc. They’re like fancy pedometers that track your steps, but also connect to an app or website that gives you more information about how active you’ve been, how many calories you’ve burned, how well you’ve slept, and so on. Some even have little lights or displays that tell you how close you are to your day’s fitness goal. Some clip onto an item of clothing and some come in the form of cool-looking bracelets.
No surprise here: I’m a bit of a gear head. I especially like gadgets that give me statistics and information; I love the MapMyRun app because it gives me distance, time, calories burned, and a handy little map to see where I ran, and last year Drew bought me the Adidas MiCoach Speed Cell that fits inside my football boots and tracks how fast and how far I run during soccer games. (Sadly I haven’t played soccer since he got it for me, but hopefully someday soon I’ll get to try it out!)
Given my gear-head tendencies it’s really no surprise that these fitness tracker gadgets piqued my attention. A few friends at work have Fitbits and say they really like them, and it wasn’t long before I started doing my research to see which one I’d get if I decided to get one. They’re a little expensive, especially since I have my eye on other fun gadgets like GPS watches, so I’ve been hesitant to take the plunge.
I read a blurb about it in Fitness magazine, and my antenna of interest went up when I read that the company that developed it is based in Boston. I’m not the biggest fan of their other big app – RunKeeper, not because it isn’t a great app, but because I prefer MapMyRun – but the description of this new app intrigued me. Basically, it does what Fitbit and all those other gadgets do, but it doesn’t require you to purchase another gadget – it just works through your phone. (Disclaimer: Currently it only works with the iPhone 5S, due to the kind of processor the phone has. They’re working on making it compatible with other devices.)
For me, Breeze is a great trial run into the world of fitness tracking. Because I already had the phone and the app is free, I didn’t have to buy a fancy gadget to use. Some of the other devices you have to remember to turn on, or you have to connect to a computer to view your activity, whereas Breeze just runs automatically in the background (which doesn’t drain your battery!), even if you don’t have the app actively running. In fact, when you first download the app, it pulls your activity from the past week (which is stored in the phone anyway, and which is a bit creepy, if I’m honest) to set up realistic fitness goals for you. The goals adjust daily depending on how active (or inactive) you’ve been. It sends you notifications to remind you when you should be getting up and moving around, and it gives you a fun progress bar so you can track how many steps you’ve taken and how many more you need to take in order to reach your goal.
As with any app or gadget, there are some cons as well. Breeze only tracks steps, not calories burned or sleep quality or anything else. Obviously the fact that it only works with one kind of phone is a negative, but it’s good to know the developers are working on that. You do have to make sure you take your phone with you, too, which is something you don’t have to worry about with the bracelets or clip-on devices. Another con for me was the constant pinging of notifications. I know that’s the point – it’s meant to get us up from our desks during the day and move around a bit – but there were way too many notifications for me and I shut them off.
Here are some screen captures of my Breeze app in action (don’t judge my ridiculously inactive days too harshly… I’m trying to get better!):
All in all, I think Breeze is a great step-tracking app – as long as you have the correct phone and as long as you take your phone with you everywhere. It’s a good motivator if you, like me, sit at a desk for most of the day and need to walk more, and I like following my progress along the little wheel thing. I do wish it tracked things like sleep and calorie intake/burning, but since it’s an app and not a wearable device that seems more difficult to finagle. For my purposes – testing out an activity tracker before I spend the money to buy a Fitbit or similar device – it’s done its job, and I’m interested to see where the developers go with it. (For more information, check out the developers’ blog.)
For a runner’s perspective, check out Runner’s World’s review.