The gizmo for a healthy life

Timothy Barber
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CALORIE counting is out. That’s if you take your cues from WeightWatchers anyway, which is moving to another system based on levels of carbs, protein, fibre and fat in your diet.

Let’s face it, though, this is hardly the death knell for thinking about calories when aiming for a healthier lifestyle and leaner body – especially when technology is turning what can be a rather inaccurate activity (the accusation often levelled at calorie counting) into a targeted science.

There’s a gadget for everything these days, particularly in the health and fitness sector. But while heart monitors, pedometers and gym machine calorie counters are one thing, I’ve been trying out one that takes monitoring the body to a whole new level. It’s by turns very helpful, somewhat alarming, and maddeningly compulsive.

The Ki Fit monitor, which you strap to the tricep of your left arm 24 hours a day, reads your body like a book and tells you how many calories you’ve burned in any given period, how much you’ve exerted yourself, and even how deeply you’ve slept. Its sensors pick up on elements like motion, skin temperature and heat flux (heat produced by muscles working) to the tune of 9,000 data readings a minute.

Plug it into your computer, connect to an interactive website (for which you have to pay a hefty subscription) and numbers and charts appear breaking down your body’s activity hour by hour. There’s also a detailed meal-logging system to measure your daily calorie intake, producing a “calorie balance” – what you’re burning relative to what you consume.

The results can be surprising. In the first instance, you find that inactivity isn’t as inactive as you think – even sitting at your desk working or eating a snack you’re burning calories, and I could see my graph spike at more stressful moments. It can also be annoying – an hour’s bike ride I thought had worked me pretty hard showed only a few moments of vigorous – as opposed to moderate – activity.

But even that moderate activity produces results and this makes them tangible. To a natural shirker like me, the idea of cycling to work becomes that much more acceptable when you see the impact it has.

While this is all about being healthy, you could argue that it takes body obsessing to an unhealthy degree (for those who can’t wait to plug it into the PC, you can get a little portable display you can clip to your belt to check up on your burn rate at all times).

But I found it positive and encouraging, not least for the words that come leaping off the screen next to my calorie balance: “You are on a weight loss trend”. Well, that’s a start.

£194.99 three months subscription with armband, £318.55 for one year.