Posted on Mar 03, 2016 by rob.mcbroom
If you have spent any time taking public transit in Singapore over the past few months, you probably have seen one of the many posters advertising the Singapore government's National Steps Challenge. This challenge is part of the government's wider initiative to get citizens up and moving more, ultimately improving their health, and involves a campaign where people can purchase a fitness tracker and compete for prizes.
The challenge has so far proven to be quite successful with trackers selling out before the end of the enrollment date. If you were lucky enough to get one, you can compete through May to gain points and potentially win shopping vouchers, or even a trip. Unfortunately, if you missed the signup window you are going to have to wait until next year to compete, but this event highlights two things:
First, we could all probably use a little more exercise in Singapore, and it is a good thing that the government is putting effort into enticing people to strive to get more active. After all, being active has many benefits including a generally healthier lifestyle. The second thing this highlights is the fact that technology, more specifically wearable fitness trackers, has become a useful tool that can help many find the motivation they need to get fit.
As with many other tech devices, there are a wide variety of wearable fitness trackers available, and it can be a bit of a chore actually finding one that works for you. To help, we talked with our staff in our Singapore office to see what devices they are using. Here is a brief overview of the popular devices used in our office:
Fitbit is arguably the most widespread or well-known fitness tracker producer, with a variety of trackers that fit different needs and budgets - 9 devices are currently available or will be available soon as of the writing of this article.
According to PC Mag, which published an article ranking the best trackers from 2015 in September last year, the Fitbit Surge and Charge HR are among the highest ranked trackers on the market. There are two new devices coming in the near future, including the Blaze which looks more like a smartwatch than fitness tracker.
What our staff noted about the devices is the ease of tracking - simply put the device on and you are more or less ready to go - and, the extra features like fitness reminders and on some models notifications that are pushed from your smartphone.
Here in Singapore, these devices can be found at many large electronic and fitness stores, and cost anywhere from SGD 130 and up, depending on the model. Check out the Fitbit website to learn more about the products and where you can purchase the devices.
Jawbone is easily Fitbit's largest competitor, offering a similar number of devices with a similar number of features. Wearable Magazine voted the Jawbone UP2 as their pick for the overall best fitness tracker of 2016 while other sources have noted that the UP2 and UP3 are both solid devices that are well worth looking into.
Our staff who use these devices commented on how stylish they look, while also saying that the fitness tracking was accurate and features more than enough to make them useful devices.
As with the Fitbit, Jawbone devices can be found at major electronics retailers and other fitness centers. Jawbone devices can also be found at many Apple retailers as well, and will cost around SGD 180 for the latest version of the UP2. To learn more about the devices, visit the Jawbone website here.
XiaoMi Mi Fitness Band
If the bands above sound a little pricey, there is actually an interesting alternative that provides some of the same features - namely tracking of fitness activities like walking and running - at a fraction of the cost: the XiaoMi Mi Fitness Band.
Developed by popular Chinese electronics maker Xiaomi, this device is a no-frills band that tracks steps and sleep and has a couple of extra features some of our staff find useful, including an alarm that can be set on a mobile device and will buzz when it's time to get up.
While our staff did note that it is not as accurate as the devices above, it is often close enough for most users. The best thing about the Mi band however, is the price - SGD 19, which is unbeatable considering its quality is considerably better than one would expect with a device this price. It is available (as of the writing of this article) to order from the Xiaomi Singapore site.
The vast majority of people have a smartphone these days, devices which are packed with a multitude of sensors that in newer phones can track nearly every movement. Google figured that if this data is available, why not do something with it? So, they created an app - Google Fit - which uses your phone's sensors to track your activity.
In other words, you can turn your Android device into a fitness tracker! To help make the app even more useful, Google has actually made it compatible with a number of fitness trackers including the Xiaomi Mi Band and any Android Wear device (Smartwatch). Essentially it takes the data generated by these devices and combines it into one platform, linked to your Google account.
Our staff found that by itself the app is relatively accurate in tracking activity and distance traveled. One cool feature is that it tracks movement automatically. For example, one of our staff had his phone in his pocket while touring around Hoi An, Vietnam on a bicycle in October last year. He was shocked that at the end of the day the app using data generated by the device knew he we cycling and tracked with relative accuracy.
The app is available for free from the Google Play store, and should work on most Android devices released in the past couple of years.
Not to be outdone by Google, Apple has also released a health app, aptly named: Health. This app does almost exactly the same thing as Google Fit - track movement and information generated by devices like the Apple Watch, but there are extra features including the ability to track body measurements, sleep data, nutrition, and more.
The idea Apple is following with this software is that Health is like the central point for all health-related software and technology. For example, the software that powers Health (called HealthKit) allows integration of data across many different apps, which can be monitored directly from Health. For example, if you have a fitness app that also tracks nutrition, HealthKit allows you to enter your nutrition information in Health, which will then automatically share it with the fitness app - no having to enter information twice.
Our staff that have used this app have commented that the features available are robust and accurate, providing them with a sound overall picture of their health and activity. Best of all, if you have an iPhone with iOS 9 installed, you should already have the app installed! Simply log in with your information and start tracking your health.
Sure, this isn't a "fitness tracker" but it is an interesting solution for any business owner or manager looking to integrate a wellness plan into their company. The idea behind Globetrekker is that, as a team, you compete to beat other teams in an 8-week virtual trek.
If you are the manager of this program you can set goals, actions and even rewards which help to motivate your staff to get up, and get active. All tracking is done via a tracker and mobile devices, which makes it fairly easy to implement.
We have had a number of clients try this out and comment on how fun the initiative is, not to mention the fact that getting staff more active can have a positive impact not only on productivity but on the number of sick days taken and claims submitted.
Check out the Globetrekker website to learn more.
The impact wearables can have on health insurance
Believe it or not, wearables can have an impact on health insurance. The biggest identifiable impact is the fact that they can be a motivation tool for someone looking to get fit. There have been cases where people who lost weight and did not have any claims for a set period of time were able to have exclusions removed or decreased. Now we aren't saying this is a surefire thing, but having this data available can really help prove that you are indeed working to remain healthy.
Beyond that, the data generated can help doctors make more informed decisions. For example, if you are experiencing sleep issues, the data generated by a good fitness tracker - many of which also track sleep - can provide your doctor with some basic information from which they can start an investigation.
One thing is for certain, however, if you are going to start using a fitness tracker and getting more exercise, you are going to want consult with a doctor eventually. As an expat in Singapore this can be expensive, so be sure to secure health insurance before you need to receive care. Talk with the experts at Pacific Prime Singapore to learn more.