Fueling up for fitness with fashionable wristbands


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Don't let your New Year's fitness resolutions meet the fate of last month's Christmas trees -- kicked to the curb.

Try an activity-tracking wristband to keep you motivated. These techy bands combine the look of a bracelet or sports watch with the knowledge of a personal trainer and the support of a best friend. Wear them 24/7 to monitor everything from steps taken and calories burned to how many times you wake up in a night. Some will even alert you when you've been inactive for too long. Transfer the information to a mobile device or computer to see charts and graphs that map out your lifestyle.

The health and fitness world is no stranger to these bands, but what is new is many of their capabilities and their sleeker styles. Brands continue to release updated models and reinvent bands' looks so they blend better with day-to-day clothes and accessories. They can be spotted on such famous and fashionable folks as Serena Williams and Kanye West.

Here are some of the most innovative and attractive activity-tracking wristbands on the market:

Fitbit

• What it does: Fitbit boasts several activity- and sleep-monitoring devices, but the Flex and Force bands are among the brand's most comprehensive lifestyle trackers. The Flex measures steps, distance and calories burned by day, while at night it gauges sleep quality. The Force is more advanced and keeps track of steps, distance traveled, stairs climbed, total calories burned and active minutes in a day and also offers a sleep quality tracker. Both bands come with a silent sleep alarm that vibrates to gently nudge its wearer awake.

• Digital features: See stats without plugging the device into a computer or phone. Data syncs with Mac OSX and Windows operating systems through a wireless Internet connection and displays on select iOS and Android mobile devices via Bluetooth 4.0 technology. (Visit www.fitbit.com/devices for a complete compatibility list for mobile devices.) Free online tools and a mobile app help people further translate their movement into graphics so they can evaluate their lifestyles and set realistic fitness goals.

• Chic factor: Bands are slim and sporty, and, come spring, even more stylish options will be available when Fitbit debuts a collaboration with fashion designer Tory Burch. For now, choose from black, slate, lime and pink for the Flex or black or slate for the Force. Bands are adjustable to help ensure a perfect fit.

• Cost: $99.95 for the Flex, $129.95 for the Force.

• Info: www.fitbit.com.

Basis

• What it does: The Basis body monitor is like a video game in which the prize is good health. Select what you want to work on, such as sleeping better or moving more, and the Basis band will offer tips for how to achieve personal goals. When they are consistently achieved, the next level of goals will be unlocked. The Basis also measures heart rate patterns, movement, calories burned by activity, perspiration and skin temperature and adjusts according to the type of exercise being performed.

• Digital features: Applications for select Android and iOS devices and the Web enable people to view metrics related to heart rate, sleep and exercise. A USB connector is included so the band can be hooked up to digital devices.

• Chic factor: The Basis looks and adjusts like a wristwatch and comes in black. Straps in white and colored patterns are other choices.

• Cost: $199 for 2014 Carbon Steel edition.

• Info: www.mybasis.com.

Nike+ FuelBand SE

• What it does: Tracks all-day movement as well as how intensely people work out. Activities translate into "fuel points," which people can use to set goals for the number of points they want to earn in a day. The band also counts steps, tells time and tracks sleep.

• Digital features: The Nike+ FuelBand app and secure-nikeplus.nike.com/plus/ website help track progress. The app is compatible with iPhone 4S (or newer) and iPod touch generation 5 (or newer) devices, and Bluetooth 4.0 technology allows the band to remain connected with the app. A computer with a USB 2.0 port and a Windows 7 or 8, Vista or XP operating system for PCs, or a Mac with an OS v10.6 or newer system, are required to hook the band up to a desktop or laptop.

• Chic factor: Bands are thin, black and sleek and come with the options of accent colors of volt yellow, pink foil, total crimson or solid black with a rose gold clasp. LED lights display goal information.

Bands are available in small, medium/large and extra-large sizes. As Nike puts it, FuelBand is a "perfect intersection of sport and style."

• Cost: $149 for standard bands, $169 for rose gold edition.

• Info: www.nike.com.

Jawbone UP

• What it does: Understand day-to-day activities and habits better by tracking workouts (calories and intensity of exercise), moods, eating and sleeping. It also features a customizable idle alert that will notify people if they've been inactive for too long and a sleep alarm with gentle vibration.

• Digital features: Jawbone's latest activity-tracking band, UP24, wirelessly syncs data to iPhone 4s (and newer) mobile phones, iPod touch generation 5 (or newer), iPad generation 3 (or newer) and iPad Mini devices. The standard Jawbone UP model requires a USB connection and is compatible with some older iPhone, iPod touch and iPad generations and many phones with Android 4.0. Visit jawbone.com/up/devices for a full device compatibility list. Once connected, daily activities will be broken down to help people gain insights into their lifestyles and set exercise, nutrition and sleep goals.

• Chic factor: The slim band's wrap-around style is capped with silver-tone detailing on each end and comes in small, medium and large fits. Pick from onyx or persimmon for UP24 or onyx, blue or light gray for the basic band.

• Cost: $149.99 for UP24 (Bluetooth compatible), $129.99 for standard UP version.

• Info: www.jawbone.com.

BodyMedia

• What it does: The LINK and CORE armbands collect data related to heat influx, skin temperature, motion and more to calculate information about daily activities, calories burned and sleep efficiency.

• Digital features: The LINK band is Bluetooth-enabled and provides data in real time via a smartphone app. The CORE band uses online computer tools and smartphone apps to outline similar health and wellness insights. An optional display device for the CORE that can be clipped on clothes shows caloric burn, steps taken and more while on the go.

• Chic factor: While more athletic in appearance than some other bands, they are slender and come in neutral grays and whites. Add a pop of color with self-adhering vinyl skins in hundreds of shades and patterns. Custom skins also are available.

• Cost: $119 for LINK armband, $99 for CORE armband (excludes subscription fee for accessing online tools or extra costs for additional skins).

• Info: www.bodymedia.com.


Sara Bauknecht: sbauknecht@post-gazette.com or on Twitter @SaraB_PG.

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