Things have changed a great deal since 2005, when I used to scribble down the day's points and activities in my little paper notebook I used for a tracker. I'm consistently amazed at the apps and devices that are available now to track and motivate you in keeping up a healthy and active lifestyle. There's so much to choose from!
I was asked recently by Samsung if I would like to trial the latest Samsung Galaxy S4 (one of the most sought after phones in the UK right now!) particularly because this new improved version of the Galaxy has a fitness tracking app they thought I might like. So I've been happily playing away with this device for a few weeks and thought I'd share how I've been finding it.
S Health is Samsung's fitness app, launched last year with the S3 but now it has some new and improved features for the S4 which transform the phone into a fully-fledged fitness tracker. The phone features a built-in pedometer for tracking the number of steps you take - or run - during the day, as well as general exercise tracking too. Diet tracking is integrated as well - the app is able to pull nutritional information from a database of common food items. You can also take pictures of your food (which you know I love to do) and add it to your daily diary so you have a visual record as well. You can even monitor the temperature and humidity as you workout and share your successes and tracking via social media if you're so inclined.
Basically, it can be as simple or as high tech as you like - I didn't go into for the blood pressure, blood glucose or sleep quality monitoring (these are all separate third-party monitors that the app is compatible with) but it was nice to have them as options!
But I've always been a big fan of tracking food and exercise when it comes to reaching a fitness or weight loss goal. It was what worked for me all those years ago - I had a record of what I'd done in the weeks where I felt particularly good or saw some great progress, and if things weren't going so well I had a record of what I'd done so I could look back over it and figure out perhaps where I was going wrong.
I'm not much of a tech head but S Health was really easy to set up and use:
|I loved the box it came in....almost blended in with my table!|
When you first open the app, you input some basic information like height and weight and your current exercise levels. Once you've done that, the side menu appears which offers shortcuts to all the areas of the app - walking mate, exercise mate and food tracker.
Now you can get playing!
I've enjoyed the food tracker aspect of the app. I don't tend to count calories or track my progress regularly these days but on the occasions that I have, just to keep myself in check, it's always been a bit of an eye opener. Particularly when it comes to food consumption, it's amazing how quickly it all adds up! It does me no harm to either a) be reassured I'm on the right track or b) reinforce the need to be a bit more mindful.....most of the time I'm somewhere in between!
I'll freely admit I didn't pay close attention to the calories that S Health tracked on my behalf but I enjoyed using it as a visual food diary. If I ever wanted to keep track of how many calories I was consuming it would be incredibly useful. The database it pulls information from is quite extensive but you also have the option of adding your own food items and their values as well. It also keeps track of the calories you've burned through exercise that day and adjusts your calorie allowance accordingly. Saves you having to figure it out!
I think what it also reminded me of was the importance of planning ahead if you have a weight loss or fitness goal. I remember in my WW days I used to have the bare bones of the day, food wise, planned out - I knew what I was going to have for dinner and usually lunch each day, so everything else could fit in around that. It's good to be reminded of these things :)
I love having a visual record of what I've eaten too and rather than turn my poor blog into a permanent food diary, the visual food tracker aspect of S Health is a great option for someone like me who doesn't necessarily want to show the entire world yet another soy latte or plate of avocado on toast but who enjoys having these little details of life recorded somewhere, somehow.
My favourite feature of S Health by far is the walking mate or built-in pedometer. 10,000 steps a day is what we should aim for for good health; this includes incidental activity and walking as well as planned exercise like a run or power walk. I got such a kick out of meeting my 10,000 steps goal each day - one night we had come back from a walk and it was sitting on 9700 or something and I went around the block again to tip it over!! I found having this really motivating. Tom did too - we deliberately structured our Saturdays with a walk into town, around the shops and home again to meet the target :)
I found having this very motivating to be more active during the day. The photo below is four days in a row, the days I was in South Tyrol last week. That was one active holiday!
As I mentioned, the app can be as interactive as you want it to be - I personally preferred it as a nice way to keep track for myself and to keep things simple as far as the actual tracking was concerned. For those who prefer something more interactive you can certainly take it up a notch as the app can do a lot of interesting things with your stats - do comparison graphs, show you the times of day you're most active....it's a clever thing!
So, to sum up:
- Excellent battery life - I only had to charge it every three days, on average
- Clear big screen with a bright display
- 13 megapixel camera
- Being able to keep a visual food diary
- A very motivating way to keep active - the pedometer/walking mate aspect especially
- As a phone it's excellent to use as well - all the features you would expect from a smart phone (email, internet, music, video, maps)
- My only complaint about the Galaxy S4 as a fitness tool is that I found it a bit bulky to take on a long run or workout. I took it for short runs only and had to hold it in my hand which in this weather became a bit sticky and slippery quite quickly! I would probably invest in the S Band, a pedometer bracelet, which you use to track your steps when you don't want to carry the Galaxy S4 around with you; you then sync the data from your run or particular activity back to the phone when you're done. That would make it perfect for me!
I was provided with a Samsung Galaxy S4 in exchange for writing a review about it. I received no other compensation and what is written above is my honest opinion.
Have you tried the Samsung Galaxy S4? What other fitness trackers do you use? How do you find them, do you think they're useful?