The 10 best health and fitness accessories for your smartphone
1st Jan 2014 | 13:00
Keep fit with your phone
There was a time when exercise was a chore and staying healthy began and ended at eating your greens. But fast forward to today and we're suddenly obsessed with quantifying our lives, discovering data we never knew before in a bid to eke out every morsel of fitness we can.
A world where people have heart rate monitors that link to their phones and wristbands that track their steps.
Staying fit and healthy still takes work, but we have a lot more tools to help us achieve our goals and many of them are now aided by smartphones, which wirelessly link and provide additional data and feedback on your health and performance, or just give you a bit more motivation and make fitness fun.
There are loads of smartphone compatible health and fitness accessories out there, but hit up our list of ten fitness gadgets (and accessories to power you through) and you'll be in prime position to get in the best shape of your life.
1. Fitbit Flex (£79.99)
Fitbit has made quite a name for itself with its range of fitness accessories as we've become obesessed with 'gamifying' our lives. The latest device from the company, the Fitbit Flex, is a fitness tracking wristband which keeps track of how many steps you take, how far you've travelled and how many calories you've burned.
If you sleep with it on it can even track the amount and quality of your sleep and in the morning it can wake you up with vibrations, which is both a gentle way to rise and won't wake up your partner.
It's water resistant so you can take it almost anywhere and it has a fairly minimalist design, lacking even a display.
But if you want to see your stats you can just link it up to the Fitbit app for Android, iOS and Windows Phone, where you can then see all those stats along with your long term progress and it even has a section for logging your food.
You can also sync your data with select third party apps such as Runtastic.
If you'd rather have a display on your fitness tracker you could always opt for the Fitbit One instead, which has similar features and a little screen.
2. Nike+ Fuelband SE (£129)
Nike has also embraced fitness bands and the Nike+ Fuelband SE is the product of its labour. However where Nike's offering differs from competitors is in its use of 'NikeFuel', which is what it gives you in exchange for carrying out activities.
You can set a target daily 'NikeFuel' amount and then the Fuelband will use 20 coloured LED's to show you how close you are to reaching it, with them turning from red to green as you approach your goal.
The new SE version even allows you to track different activities more accurately through 'Sessions'.
It uses an accelerometer to judge how active you've been and as well as NikeFuel it can also show you how many steps you've taken or how many calories you've burned.
It looks surprisingly stylish and can even display the time, so you can ditch your watch. It's also water resistant and has a five day battery life.
You can get even more functionality by Bluetooth pairing it with the iOS app, after which you can sync it to the app and then see a breakdown of your activity over the last week, month or year.
It can also further incentivise you by showing unlocked achievements and you can change your daily fitness goal straight from the app.
3. Zephyr HxM Bluetooth Heart Rate Monitor (£79.99)
The Zephyr HxM Bluetooth Heart Rate Monitor is a bit of a mouthful to say, but its features are fairly straightforward. You can wear it on your chest with the included strap, use Bluetooth to link it up to your iPhone, Android or Windows Phone 8 device and then get running.
While you're going or once you're done, you can use your smartphone to check your heart rate, distance travelled, speed and intensity level of your workout.
However, while many accessories rely primarily on their own app, the Zephyr Heart Rate Monitor is compatible with numerous third party fitness apps, such as Endomondo, MapMyRun and Runtastic.
So if you already use a fitness app you can just slot this in to improve its tracking capabilities.
4. JayBird Sportsband 2 (£69.99)
Tracking calories, distance and heart rate is all well and good, but you shouldn't underestimate the value of a good tune during a workout. It can prevent it from becoming monotonous and even get you energised if you listen to something suitably upbeat.
The problem is that most head and earphones aren't designed with sports in mind, but that's exactly what the JayBird Sportsband 2 was created for.
The JayBird Sportsband 2 passes the first hurdle by being grippy enough to stay in place when running or playing sports. It also has a lightweight construction so it won't weigh you down or distract you and as it links to your phone via Bluetooth there aren't any wires to get tangled up in.
But it goes further than that with on-ear music controls, which let you change the volume or skip track all without fumbling with your phone or trying to find controls on a cord.
It can be used to take calls wirelessly too and to top it all off it looks damn fine.
5. Withings Smart Body Analyser (£129.95)
The Withings Smart Body Analyser might just look like scales, but it's a whole lot more than that.
Yes if you step on it you can get an ultra precise measurement of how much you weigh, but it can also tell you how much body fat you have, tell you your heart rate and even check the quality of the air, so that you'll be better able to optimise your environment.
Couple it with the Withings Health Mate app for Android and iOS and it can also upload your data and let you set weight goals, which it will then break down into achievable weekly targets and let you see your progress.
6. Jawbone UP (£99.99)
The Jawbone UP is another fitness band, though perhaps one that's less well known on these shores than Fitbit or Nike's offerings.
It certainly matches them for features though, as it can track steps, distance, calories burned and the amount of time that you spend idle versus the amount of time that you spend being active.
It can also tell you how long you sleep for, how long it takes you to fall asleep, how many times you woke up during the night and how long you spend in light versus deep sleep.
It has a ten day battery life and while we wouldn't exactly call it stylish it's not the worst thing you could wear on your wrist either.
Like the Fitbit Flex it doesn't have a display, so you'll have to use the 'UP by Jawbone' app for iOS and Android to see how you're doing. As well as showing you all the tracked data, the app also lets you log food and drink and set goals.
And to allow you freedom with your exercise: the Jawbone UP is compatible with some other fitness apps, such as RunKeeper and MapMyFitness.
7. Tune Belt Sport Armband (£16.99)
There are loads of smartphone armbands out there and if you plan to use your phone for fitness tracking or listening to music while you work out, investing in one is all but essential.
The Tune Belt Sport Armband isn't much to look at but it does the important stuff, namely keeps your smartphone securely fastened to your arm while protecting it from bumps, scratches and the elements.
The strap is adjustable so it will fit arms of most sizes, it has a reflective logo to help drivers see you if you're running in the dark and you can fully operate your phone through the armband's transparent window cover.
It won't fit every phone, but there are versions of it available for a number of different handsets.
8. Wahoo Fitness Blue SC Bluetooth Speed and Cadence Sensor (£49.95)
The Wahoo Fitness Blue SC is essentially a cycling computer. Just mount it to your bike and it will track your speed, cadence and distance travelled.
The device itself doesn't have a display, but you can use Bluetooth to link it to the Wahoo Odometer app for iOS and view your stats- you can even attach your phone to the bike if you're feeling brave, but make sure it's securely fastened
Avid cyclists can also use the app to see how far they've cycled over the last week, month, year or the overall total distance.
Even if you don't have your iPhone with you while you're cycling you can still sync your data when you get home and the Wahoo Fitness Blue 5C has a replaceable battery which can keep working for up to a year with no charging.
As with many other fitness accessories it's also compatible with some third party apps, such as Cyclemeter and MapMyRide.
9. Sennheiser CX 685 Sports earphones (£45)
If you'd rather have earphones than headphones, a pair of CX 685's by Sennheiser is a great alternative to a JayBird Sportsband 2.
They use adjustable rubber hooks to ensure a secure fit, regardless of the size or shape of your ear. They're also shock absorbent, water resistant and durable.
When it comes to sound quality they're pretty good too, particularly if you like a lot of bass.
They block out background noise and don't suffer from sound leakage, so you can avoid distractions and avoid irritating others. That does mean they're not great for outside use as you won't be able to hear cars and the like (important if staying alive is your goal), but they're ideal for exercising in the gym.
Trust us - if you don't go for the more secured versions you'll be cursing within minutes as your earbuds slip out on the sweat you create. We've been there. It's not pretty. We fell off the treadmill.
10. Withings Smart Blood Pressure Monitor (£79.99)
If you want to keep track of your blood pressure, the Withings Smart Blood Pressure Monitor gives you all the tools you need while keeping things simple.
Like most blood pressure monitors you wrap it around your arm to get a reading. It connects via a cable directly to your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch and the results are displayed on the screen of your iDevice when you launch the Withings app.
You can get a single reading or a mean average and see your blood pressure history. You can even email your results straight to your doctor at the push of a button.
The app separates readings into am or pm so you don't get mixed up when comparing them and it supports multiple users if you've got a more health-concious family.