The 3 Week Diet

A Health Bracelet: I Don't Even Know What This is, but I Want One!

A health bracelet that isn’t a pseudo-scientific marketing scheme? A Jawbone product that isn’t a Bluetooth headset?

Yes, on both counts. The Jawbone Up is a clever little device that is so potentially beneficial that I hate even calling it a ‘gadget’. By wrapping it on your wrist and wearing it throughout the day (and night), you’ll gain insight into what your body is really doing while your attention is elsewhere.

To be more specific, the Jawbone Up is a relatively inconspicuous and comfortable little bracelet that conceals extremely sensitive motion and vibration sensors. You’ll sync it with your smartphone via its standard-size 3.5mm plug, and view the results in a surprisingly extensive yet intuitive app (iOS version already out, Android on its way, sorry BlackBerry users – but you should be pretty used to that by now, eh?).

During the day, it tracks your movement, chiefly walking and running, whether you’re doing it specifically for exercise (“Workout Mode”) or simply sprinting to the bathroom after drinking too much coffee (“Active Mode”). Personally, I love discovering how much I’ve exercised during the day without even realizing it.

You can also program it to give you a gentle vibration reminder that you SHOULD be moving around a little bit more – this is important if you’re a cubicle worker that needs a mid-morning stretch, or a sofa jockey who has to be told to go out and play.

The bracelet can also calculate how many calories you’re burning, and cross-reference that info with your (photographic) food journal. The Up app has a number of options to help you optimize your eating and drinking habits, and there’s an integrated social element as well.

Through a system of Challenges and DailyFeats Points, you should technically be able to improve your health and lifestyle with the help and support of fellow Up users. The community is small but growing, and the Challenges cover everything from drinking more water to climbing the Eiffel Tower (virtually, at least). You can even unlock automatic charity donations on some devices, allowing you to give back along the way to feeling better.

The Up stays up all night, too. It can accurately determine when you’ve gone to sleep (via ‘micro movements’, with a little help from putting it into “Sleep Mode”). Of course you’ll get a breakdown on the total hours of sleep, but you’ll also get things like REM cycles and “sleep quality.” You may find it helpful (and/or annoying) to allow the Up to determine your optimal wake-up time. This may or may not help you achieve better health through improved sleep quality, depending mostly on how well you can sleep through a vibrating wrist.

Now, I don’t mean to be a wet blanket, but half of the health benefits that the Jawbone Up promises are simply due to paying attention to your activities. If you have to snap a pic of food, you’re going to think twice about eating, and if you know your activity level is being monitored, you’re going to boost it (by 26%, as the Jawbone website itself clearly admits). So in one sense, you’re paying $99 to tie a string around your finger.

On the other hand, I really like the idea of keeping track of both activity levels and sleep cycles, and the Jawbone Up is the single most convenient and inconspicuous way to do either of these things. Those of us who are already in the habit of using the built-in accelerometer and GPS functions on our smartphones know the drawbacks, not least of which are battery life and good ol’ user error (such as not really wanting to bother with an app half of the time). The Up takes care of the information-gathering part with minimal input; other than a mode change here and there, you won’t even have to think about it during the 10 days or so that it stays charged (oh yeah – you can even shower with it).

The social aspect, especially the Challenges, is extremely intriguing. If the Up user base takes off like it should, I see the support and creativity that you’ll get (and give) going a long way towards making the experience something special. At the risk of over-exaggerating, it wouldn’t be too hard to make the entire smartphone community your health club and support group and in that sense, the membership fee is very reasonable (not to mention ‘one-time-only’).


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    Category: Health Living Products

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