Thursday, Sep 27, 2012

Fit or fib?
Here's a way to help speed up your results
By MAG RUFFMAN, Special to QMI Agency

An accelerometer helps make getting fit both measurable and fun.

How are those New Year’s fitness resolutions holding up? Still gung-ho?

A recent StatsCan study has busted Canada as a nation of bum-sitters who think we’re way more active than we really are. Are you one of them? I am, and it took a little electronic device to prove it to me.

The study had each of 3,000 participants wear a tiny accelerometer, which is like a super-smart pedometer; it measures every step you take and every minute you’re moving, recording duration and intensity of exercise.

And although 50% of Canadians (count me in) report that they’re “moderately active” (i.e. 210 minutes of walking per week), the accelerometers showed that only 15% of the participants were achieving the minimum recommended level of 150 minutes of exercise each week.

Bummer. Literally.

Goal mine

An Ontario company called MyTrak Health System happened to have sent me a fitness accelerometer to test in December (it was still in the box).

I clipped it onto my waistband and synchronized it each day with my computer. For the first week, the unit gathers data to assess what fitness level you're at. I was somewhere around “slug.”

But I didn’t mind the evidence. I was actually enjoying checking the MyTrak several times a day, working toward the goal of getting the on-board ring to turn from red to green.

I decided to adjust the goal settings on MyTrak’s membership website. I set my Lifestyle Goal to move from “inactive” to “intense,” and set to work each day to make that ring turn green. I was having so much fun increasing my routines of walking, snowshoeing and jumping on my mini-trampoline that I actually achieved my first “intense” week after only three weeks. I also lost 5 lbs. and changed my body composition from 25% fat to 22%.

It’s kind of novel to lose weight by actually moving instead of by focusing on food. Who knew?

Oh, and my resting heart rate dropped from 68 to 56.

The MyTrak interface graphs all of your results and lets you choose goals for weight loss, fitness level or heart health. It also includes meal planning; fitness routine suggestions according to your personality type; total miles travelled; personal coaching; daily caloric input/output; and progress graphs. These features come with your annual subscription fee of $149 (which includes your device). It’s kind of like having a personal trainer on your hip.

The fatted graph

I wanted to focus on heart health, so I added a Polar heart rate monitor ($55, available at and other fitness retailers) – a chest belt that transmits heart rate data wirelessly to the MyTrak device.

Wearing a Polar belt enriches MyTrak’s data and adds a major degree of fun. For example, when I walked 8.4 km wearing only the MyTrak, it recorded 460 active calories. Two days later I repeated the exact same route (and pace) wearing the Polar belt, and with the additional data the MyTrak calculated 750 calories burned: way more inspiring.

If you’re the kind of person who enjoys measuring results, loves seeing evidence of change and enjoys the interactivity of a customized fitness program, you might like MyTrak.

TIP: Since most DIY-related injuries happen in spring, when out-of-shape Canadians tackle ambitious home improvement projects, it’s worth getting into better condition right now. With an accelerometer on your hip, you might find that your fitness interests become permanent and progressive instead of flat, boring and static.

MyTrak is available online at and works with Windows computers or an Intel Mac capable of running Windows (a Mac OS version of the software is in development). I did have one software problem in my first week and e-mailed the help desk. I received a phone call within an hour, and the technician was able to resolve it.

Mag Ruffman appears weekdays on Real Life on CTS. Visit her online at

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