Why I Chose BodyMedia

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review of quantified self tools by measured me blogA couple of readers asked me why I chose BodyMedia for self-tracking, and whether I considered other tracking devices before purchasing BodyMedia. Was it simply that special discount that swayed my decision? The short answer to both questions is yes. I did carefully review other self-tracking devices, and yes, the special offer played an important role in sealing the deal. But trust me, BodyMedia have been on my wishlist for a long time before that. If you would like to know why, keep reading this post.

Several months ago I started researching different devices that could help me automate the self-tracking and data recording. From the beginning, I decided to focus only on those tools that are: (a) versatile, in a sense that they let me track more than one aspect of my life, and (b) offer data portability, i.e., would allow me to export my data to conduct my own analysis. So while there were quite a few self-tracking gadgets out there available for general consumer (Zeo, Withing, Nike+, Polar and Garmin heart rate monitors, etc.), my initial criteria narrowed the choice to only four: FitBit, Body Media, Ki Fit, and MotoActv. Folks on the internet spilled gallons of virtual ink reviewing each of these devices, so I will focus only on critical points that led to my decision.


fit bit and other self tracking tools review by measured me blogThe FitBit Ultra is a tiny tracker (with the weight of only 11.3 grams and the size of a regular flash drive) that is designed to be clipped on your belt, pocket, or other piece of clothing, or worn on a wristband. Its 3D motion sensor and altimeter measure the number of steps you walk and run, number of flights you climb, and overall physical activity level (based on the intensity and frequency of movements). Using additional data, it also helps you to estimate the distance you walked or ran (manual stride calibration required), calories burned (you need to manually log activities for more accurate estimation), and duration of sleep (based on how often you toss and turn in bed). It also offers two useful utilities that most of other tools don’t: it shows time, and can be used as a stopwatch, both features very handy at the gym. My understanding, based on the reviews, was that the best features of FitBit are its size and a pedometer function. The most reported downside was the clip (it often breaks and tracker gets lost). At the price of $99.95 (although I recently spotted some online vendors selling it for $56), and basic data available for free (premium plan includes additional features like advanced analytics and personalized recommendations, for $49.99 a year) a lot of people find it to be the most affordable self-tracking device. My personal conclusion, however, was that FitBit is just a pedometer, although fancy, and won’t provide me with enough serious and reliable metrics.


bodymedia and other quantified self tools review by measured me blogThe BodyMedia tracker is slightly bigger than the FitBit and is designed to be worn inside the armband on your left arm. In addition to built-in accelerometer and motion sensor, it also has two metal plates on the inner side. These plates are specifically designed to measure your sweat level, body temperature, and heat dissipation rate. These data, combined, are used to estimate the caloric expenditure at any moment. BodyMedia site and blog report accuracy as high as 92%, and these numbers seem to be supported by published research studies. The tracker measures steps taken in the same manner as FitBit, and so is duration of sleep. Overall, the the reviews are very positive, and most people find caloric expenditure reports satisfactory and trustworthy. Most of negative reviews focus on food logging (not flexible enough) and that you have to pay monthly subscription fee of 6.95 to access data and dashboard. My main concern was that some report BodyMedia underestimating caloric expenditure for activities like cycling and biking. I bike a lot, both for fun and exercise, and need to be sure that my calorie loss is registered in my daily workout log properly. Overall, however, BodyMedia seemed like a good choice for self-tracking to me, and the price ($149) seemed fair enough for device with this level of versatility.

Ki Fit

ki fit and other fitness trackers review by measured me blogThe Ki Fit is a repica of BodyMedia under different brand name, offered in UK. It provides exactly the same metrics: daily caloric usage, physical activity, steps taken, and sleep duration and efficiency, however, at the higher cost. The full package, including equipment plus 12-month data subscription, starts at over 400 dollars, if converted from British pounds to US dollars. This option definitely was not affordable for me.


motoactiv and other trackers review by measured me blogMotoActiv is a small ipodNano-like device with touch screen, designed to be worn on a wristband. It has built-in GPS receiver and motion detector that allow you to measure distance and speed. The MotoActiv is fully ANT+ compatible, so additional workout metrics could be collected by connecting it to other tracking equipment, like NikePlus, Polar heart rate monitors, bike sensors, etc. To increase the accuracy of caloric expenditure estimates, MotoActiv requires you to manually select the type of workout on display. It is compatible with Android-based mobile phones, but being an iPhone user I did not see much utility in that. Features like built-in MP3 player could be handy during workout, but are not a must-have for me. The price of $300 (additional equipment like heart rate monitor chest-straps will have to be purchased separately) was the most frequently mentioned negative factor in reviews. To my knowledge, I could not find any mentions of MotoActv used to measure quality of sleep.

After thoroughly reviewing all four gadgets, I decided to purchase BodyMedia. My final choice fell on the cheaper version, BodyMedia Core. You know the rest of the story.

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4 Responses to Why I Chose BodyMedia

  1. atxb says:

    You may want to consider include Nike+ Fuelband.

  2. Hi atxb,
    Bodymedia provides the most accurate estimates of the calories burned because unlike Fuelband and Fitbit, they use skins sensors in addition to accelerometer. If your exercise regimen includes weight lifting, plyometrics, biking, etc, and not just walking/jogging, then Bodymedia is the better option.

  3. Maggy says:

    I am a big fan of “The Biggest Loser” TV show, and they feature Bodymedia there a lot, so I bought in November, and have been using it since then. It helps me a lot!

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