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.
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!
- 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:
- 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”)
- 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 :).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. (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?