by | Apr 30, 2014 | 29 comments

I was sent a Polar Loop way back in December, without any commitment to review it.  I thought it would be fun to try it out, since personal activity trackers all the rage these days (digital fitness trackers grew to over $330 million last year!). However, I honestly did not expect to enjoy the Polar Loop, and expected to take it off after a few short days. Well … that was four months ago, and I’m still wearing it almost every day!  It’s something I can’t really explain – I like the feeling of seeing how I’m doing, I appreciate the motivation to get in a walk when I can, and I’m a huge data nerd anyway, so I love things like this. Screen Shot 2014-04-29 at 9.40.47 PM

Would I have ever bought it on my own? Probably not. I use my Garmin religiously, and I assumed that’s all I would have wanted.  I knew I wouldn’t wear my Garmin and my Polar Loop on runs, so I kind of considered it useless.  But then again … like I said, I’m still wearing it after 4 months with absolutely no obligation, so I guess I do like it after all :).  So for Workout Wednesday today, I’m going to share my 7 thoughts on the Polar Loop, and why I won’t give it up now.  Enjoy! polar loop

  1. Ease of set-up. You know that I am not a technically-gifted person, but even for me, this was pretty easy to set up. The Loop comes with a kit to help you cut the strap down to fit your wrist, a simple USB cord to hook up to your computer, and that’s it. When you plug in your Loop to charge, it opens the “FlowSync” portal on your computer, and you can see your progress there.  Your recommended activity level is also automatically calculated (based on age and gender).  Here’s what it takes to fulfill my daily requirements, according to the Loop: photo 1
  2. Synching with iPhone. You can also download the iPhone app, which I frankly didn’t find that useful, given that I really only looked at the total number of steps / active time I had each day, and didn’t monitor over time, track calories, or use the alert system.  If I were to take the time to view it regularly, the display is pretty cool.  Here’s what it looks like for yesterday, where the darker the color, the more intense the activity.  (Interestingly, the “warning” for inactivity” fell when the Loop was sitting on my desk as I was out for a run!  The other darker periods are my T25 workout and my Girls on the Run “workout”) photo 2
  3. Exercise monitoring vs. preventing a sedentary lifestyle. You all know that I run on most days of the week, so my activity goal would often be met by running alone if I were wearing my Loop.  However, as we have discussed before, exercising for brief periods throughout the day does not counteract the detriment of an otherwise sedentary lifestyle, and I think the Loop is fantastic for preventing the sedentary lifestyle portion.  Even though I don’t wear it for my daily runs, I still find myself striving to fit in the recommended amount of activity.  I can’t tell you how fun it is to see the fireworks the Loop gives you if you meet the goal!  I did wear the Loop for cross-training, going on walks, and general activity around the house, so I often found myself more likely to hit my goal on rest days from running, when I would sometimes walk to the gym, do some elliptical or yoga, walk home, do some chores throughout the day, and generally be more active.  Here is my total number of steps (minus the run) on the day of a long marathon training run … oops :). 894
  4. Easy to forget throughout the day.  This one is partially my fault, since I never got the inactivity warnings to work (you are supposed to get a warning through your iPhone … and there’s a good chance I just didn’t see it or didn’t know how to set it up).  Without the warning system, though, the bracelet is fairly discreet, so it’s not like I was constantly reminded to stay active.  If I had a free spot in my day, or if I got on the phone (standing is my rule!), I would often check my Loop to see if I should try to squeeze in a walk, but on occasion, I just simply forgot about it.
  5. Heart rate strap.  Polar also sent me a heart rate strap, and I haven’t even opened the box.  (This is a good thing for you, as it just might show up as part of a huge giveaway coming on Monday!).  If you want to be more serious about tracking activity with the Loop, I think hooking up a heart rate monitor would give you a much more accurate calorie reading, better monitor cross-training (see #6), and increase accuracy overall.  However, I’m not really into wearing a heart rate monitor all the time (or even when I exercise, although I know there are great benefits!), so I didn’t test it out.
  6. Cross-training “fairness.”  Due to the nature of the device, activities besides walking and running seemed “unfairly” counted at times.  For example, doing the elliptical “counted” as running (and I sometimes pedal very lightly on the elliptical while reading a magazine and using it as a recovery day!), whereas doing 5 minutes of mountain climbers or planks would count as lying down.  Activities like yoga, T25, and gardening all had mixed readings as well.
  7. Relatively limited data.  I wear my Garmin on almost every run.  I’m spoiled by viewing my distance, pace, time, elevation, lap time, and so much more on the Garmin, so the Polar Loop really isn’t a fair comparison as an exercise tracker. I only wore the Loop on one run, and it just didn’t work for me without a total distance or a “start / stop” feature.  So, for running monitoring alone, I would say this is too limited to be useful. garmin(This is obviously a bike ride, not a run, but the only Garmin picture I could find already on in my WordPress media files :)).

Overall, like I said, I have been surprised to find myself so hooked on the Polar Loop.  It’s been useful as a gentle nudge to get moving when I can, but hasn’t taken the place of my Garmin, and definitely doesn’t stress me out or worry me when I don’t hit my goal (which is somewhat often!).  For office employees, those trying to prevent a sedentary lifestyle aside from daily exercise, those who don’t have a consistent exercise program, or those who are just starting activity, I highly recommend the Loop!

(All opinions are always my own.  I was given a free Polar Loop and heart rate monitor, but was not required to post and was not compensated for the post).

So tell me in the comments … Do you use a personal activity tracker?  What are your thoughts on this trend?

29 Comments

  1. Michael Anderson

    I’ve been looking forward to your thoughts – I got a bunch of other Polar stuff late last year, and am getting the Loop any day now. My thoughts in general are very similar to yours on exercise vs. sedentary lifestyle. I had mentioned the very busy and active period we just went through on my project, but now that is over – and I have to work harder to maintain my ‘steps’ during the day. I wish I had the loop back then, and look forward to having it now to see the difference (because another very active period will hit again in a month or so).

    I already have a few heart-rate monitors, and have mixed feelings about them with activity monitors. It is one thing to wet them and my chest when going out for a run … but when I am walking around during a normal day? Not gonna happen. 🙂

    As for the trend – there is a part of me that wanted to be a little cynical at first … but really, WHAT is the downside? It is like the 10,000 Steps/Day challenges my company has twice a year (just started one yesterday) – if it gets people moving, it is all good!
    Michael Anderson recently posted…Thought for Tuesday – On Bandits, Blog-Scrapers and Proportional ResponsesMy Profile

    Reply
    • Megan Lyons

      Leave it to you to “already have a few heart rate monitors” … you’re my favorite tech nerd! I completely agree about initially feeling cynical and then realizing there is NO downside!

      Reply
    • Megan Lyons

      Aww! See what I mean that it’s similar to Lisa’s? Her bands have the diamonds more embedded (no idea what the technical term is) but we both have a more standard-looking engagement ring, surrounded by bands of smaller diamonds. When we were shopping for wedding bands, I picked out the one band, and said how cool it would be to get the second for a 10 or 15 year anniversary. Halfway through our wedding reception, Kevin pulled me out of the reception hall …. I was initially kind of annoyed but went anyway. And he surprised me with the second band! Isn’t that sweet? 🙂

      Reply
  2. Deborah Brooks @ Confessions of a Mother Runner

    Ironic you just posted this. I tried to start using the loop when I started your #springreset and I just couldn’t get it track all of my activity or sync correctly. I did wear the heart rate monitor as well but just couldn’t get everything to work. I am sure I did something wrong but it didn’t pick up a lot of my activity. I never got the inactivity alerts either. When I’m not so frustrated with it I will have to try again.
    Deborah Brooks @ Confessions of a Mother Runner recently posted…Liebster AwardMy Profile

    Reply
    • Megan Lyons

      I’m sorry it was so frustrating for you, Deborah! Did you even get to see your steps taken and how active you were? That’s the part that I love, without plugging it in or using my phone app at all. I’m afraid I’m not the best person to help, but I’ll try if you have questions!

      Reply
  3. Sara @ LovingOnTheRun

    I have actually REALLY wanted to try one of these, but unfortunately it has never been in the budget since they came out. I wish they were a LITTLE more affordable (well at least for me) but i know they come with a lot so I can see why they are. Loved your thoughts- hope to be able to try one of them one of these days!
    Sara @ LovingOnTheRun recently posted…Post Marathon RecoveryMy Profile

    Reply
    • Megan Lyons

      I hope you can try one, too, Sara! If we lived closer, I’d let you borrow mine for a week! In the end, for someone as active as you, I think it’s a “nice to have” rather than a “need to have,” but still fun!

      Reply
  4. Becky@TheSavedRunner

    Things like these have become so popular, but I haven’t used one yet mainly because of the price. They are pretty expensive, and we don’t have the money for it right now. However, I wouldn’t be opposed to using it one day. I think it is a neat way to see how active you are being throughout the day.
    Becky@TheSavedRunner recently posted…How a Trip to the Hospital Changed the Way I Viewed FoodMy Profile

    Reply
    • Megan Lyons

      Becky, I just said to Sara that if she lived closer I would let her borrow it, and you DO live closer! So if we ever meet in person, I’m happy to let you borrow my Loop for a few days if you’d like! It’s fun, but not necessary when you’re on a tight budget!

      Reply
  5. Lisa @ Running Out Of Wine

    Like you, I felt like I didn’t need anything like this and since I wear my garmin running that’s all I need. My mom and sister have fitbits and LOVE them. I heard that Garmin has something similar and everything can be linked on the website. I haven’t looked into it but if I read good reviews maybe I would consider it. While I am curious, I think there are just other things I would rather spend my money on:)
    Lisa @ Running Out Of Wine recently posted…Meal Planning and Changes to the BlogMy Profile

    Reply
    • Megan Lyons

      I hear you, Lisa! This is definitely a fun thing for me, but not a “need” at all. I bet if you tried it, you’d get hooked, too. It’s kind of ridiculous to walk in the house and trade my Garmin for a Loop, but hey, whatever keeps me active and entertained I guess ;).

      Reply
  6. Carina

    I’ve been wearing Jawbone since early September. It’s smaller than the Loop and so I almost always wear it, including when I’m running, and I’ve found the distance to be crazy accurate. It usually matches up almost exactly to my Garmin. But it’s hard for me to do much with the alerts. They’re fine on the weekends, but if I’m working, I’m there to work, not to stand up and walk away from my computer every hour.
    Carina recently posted…AgonyMy Profile

    Reply
    • Megan Lyons

      WOW! I can’t believe it’s so accurate – that’s crazy! Yep, I totally hear you about the alerts in a standard office environment. My old co-workers would have looked at me like I had three heads if I said I needed to go for a walk in the middle of the day! It’s a little more flexible for me now!

      Reply
  7. Julie

    I’ve heard really great things about the FitBit from others, including trainers. Apparently there is a really great community aspect to the that device. I’ve really thought about getting one… Loved hearing your thoughts. I’m totally a numbers nerd too so I think I would be obsessed 🙂 daily activity outside of exercise is SO important!

    Reply
    • Megan Lyons

      Yes … the numbers nerds like us are the perfect users for this kind of thing!!! Interesting that FitBit has a good community … I had never really thought about interacting with a community around this kind of thing, but I guess never say never!!!

      Reply
  8. Kim

    I started wearing the Fitbit Force right before the first of the year and have worn it pretty much all the time since – I love it. Mostly it just helps me stay active throughout the day – because I like to boost my steps every day!
    Kim recently posted…Home is the BEST!!My Profile

    Reply
    • Megan Lyons

      I’m glad you like your Fitbit, Kim! I feel the same way … it’s like a mini competition with myself every day 🙂

      Reply
  9. emma @ be mom strong

    I do like this trackers because they make movement interesting… however I think it can start an unhealthy addictive pattern. I did My Fitness Pal for 2 days just to see what it was like and I found myself counting EVERYTHING that went into my mouth and being obsessed with it!
    emma @ be mom strong recently posted…Every. Single. Moment. Cherish it People.My Profile

    Reply
    • Megan Lyons

      That’s such a great point, Emma! Luckily (at least from the obsessive standpoint), the Polar Loop doesn’t require you to track food (or even have that capability, as far as I know). Even just from an exercise standpoint, I can see how it could potentially get obsessive. As for me, I’m perfectly OK with just hitting the hay even if I haven’t had as much activity as I “should,” but I think the fact that I’m usually running outside of the Loop tracking kind of helps with that. Thanks for raising, and I hope you’ve found peace with your My Fitness Pal ordeal!

      Reply
  10. Megan @ The Skinny-Life

    I do not have a Polar loop, but I do have a Fitbit. I like my Fitbit for tracking my steps, but like the Polar I have found it does not accurately calculated my activity like cycle class, weight training, eliptical or stairmaster. I use my Garmin for my runs and my Polar heart monitor for my gym workouts. I’m with you the activity trackers are a trend and not worth the investment. You’re better off purchasing a Garmin or another heart monitor watch.
    Megan @ The Skinny-Life recently posted…Arizona Women’s ExpoMy Profile

    Reply
    • Megan Lyons

      Thanks for the thoughts, Megan! After claiming I wasn’t a heart rate person, my Polar contact ended up asking me to give it a shot, so I’ll be trying that portion, too!

      Reply
  11. Jen @ Pretty Little Grub

    I appreciate your thoughts on the Loop. I have been very interested in one of these devices but can’t justify the cost right now. Good to know it might be worth the money though.
    Jen @ Pretty Little Grub recently posted…April Wrap-Up and FavouritesMy Profile

    Reply
    • Megan Lyons

      Anytime, Jen! Yep – it’s not something I would absolutely stretch financially to get, because it’s certainly not necessary, but if you get a little wiggle room in the budget in the future, it’s fun!

      Reply
  12. Maria @ Lil Mys Ninja

    I bought the Garmin vivofit since I already have a Garmin. I like that you can upload both to Garmin Connect but the downside is that both my watch and vivofit data is not integrated together somehow. For example, on days that I ran a long run, it’s obvious I’d be way over my steps goal but you can’t tell that on Garmin Connect. I, like you, enjoy seeing how active or non-active I am on other days. More or less, I’m watching my patterns. I had wanted one to check my sleep patterns and the vivofit does, but only if you set it to the sleep mode and it only tells you your movement through the night. I’ve heard another tracker can actually give you your periods of REM and such. I’ll be posting a review of it soon. I wanted to give it a good few weeks before I do.
    Maria @ Lil Mys Ninja recently posted…Friday Favorites: #Selfie EditionMy Profile

    Reply
    • Megan Lyons

      Sounds well-thought-out, Maria! If you aren’t satisfied with your vivofit sleep tracking capabilities, I use an app called Sleep Time (free for iPhone) and I LOVE the data it gives me! It tells you when you’re in deep sleep, when you wake up, tracks your sleep duration, and more. So fun!

      Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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Hi! I'm Megan Lyons,

the voice behind The Lyons’ Share. I love all things health, wellness, and fitness-related, and I hope to share some of my passion with you. Thanks for stopping by!
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