Fitness Helpers for the Truly Wired

An old management adage says “what gets measured gets done,” and with the evolution of electronic sensors and personal computers, many people are discovering that measuring themselves is a great way to keep motivated.

The Koko FitClub in Henderson uses this idea in its computerized SMARTrainers. At Koko, computerized exercise machines provide customers with immediate feedback while walking them through customized workouts. After customers work out, their data is saved on a thumb drive and made available on a private Web page so they can see their progress over time. So far the response has been uniformly positive, with many customers saying how much the feedback helps keep them interested in continuing to exercise.

Computerized workouts are hardly new, of course. The Wii Fit has offered similar customized workouts, feedback and tracking for more than five years. But as more people appreciate the benefits of tracking their own physical health, the number of devices and services to help them has grown tremendously.

For example, Nike+ iPod used to be just a fancy pedometer but has since evolved into an app that now includes GPS tracking and can connect with a Polar heart-rate monitor. Nike+ also has the FuelBand, which fits around your wrist and tracks your activity. GPS manufacturer Garmin has introduced its own line of GPS and heart-rate monitors for runners and cyclists, and many of these devices work with other services like RunKeeper and iMapMyRun that blend exercise tracking and social networking. A new product called FitBit, which is designed to be worn 24 hours a day, tracks how much exercise people get each day and even collects information about sleep activity.

As health monitoring moves beyond just exercising, medical companies are also starting to get into the game with devices such as Bluetooth-enabled blood pressure and glucose monitors. Soon we’ll nearly have the equivalent of a real-time physical exam just by checking the combined stats of all our devices online. In the meantime, if a little automated feedback can get us to haul our asses to the gym a little more often, there’s certainly benefit in that, too.