Posts with «fitness» label

The best fitness gifts for your friends who workout

Fitness fanatics can be pretty intense. You’ll probably identify us from miles away, decked out in workout gear, obsessing over the food we eat, or discussing our gains nonstop. A fitness lover has probably invested a lot of time and money into tools that can help improve performance, which can make us tough to shop for — we probably already have everything we need! But we’re also very likely to be super excited by any new toy that could boost our workouts. Plus, the most dedicated of us probably wear out our favorite gear quickly enough that we could always use new stuff.

What to get a fitness lover

It’s natural to assume that gifts for fitness lovers must be used during workouts, but recovery is an equally important (and frequently overlooked) part of anyone’s fitness journey. And presents for fitness lovers don’t have to be tech-infused, either. Gift cards to their favorite athleisure or fashion brands would probably be well-received, while compression braces or socks can provide them physical support. A pair of gloves would also help your weightlifting pal avoid getting more calluses, and special insoles can turn decent running shoes into great running shoes.

A versatile gift for anyone trying to keep active would be a resistance band, which suits a variety of strength levels and is very travel friendly. And, as my sports chiropractor constantly reminds me, a foam roller is the best thing for my sore muscles.

Tech gifts for fitness fans

Of course there are plenty of gadgets targeting exercisers and our muscles. From traditional machines like treadmills to smart skipping ropes and VR boxing simulators – the land of fitness tech gets stranger by the day.

As someone who’s recently become somewhat of a workout fiend, I would enthusiastically welcome anything that’s related to improving my performance. I’ve tested all manner of devices — whether it’s Gatorade’s sweat patch and hydration-tracking bottle or smart mirrors and form-checking cameras. From my experience, single-purpose devices are the most likely to sit around unused. Things like the Gatorade bottle and Fiture mirror, for example, which actually serve a purpose even if they’re deactivated, are more likely to withstand the test of time. Here are our favorite tech products for fitness lovers.

Garmin Forerunner 745

Engadget

Serious runners swear by Garmin’s Forerunner series. They’re the gold standard for running watches, thanks to their accuracy and comprehensive suite of features. You can track your cadence, stride length, ground contact time, balance and more, but Garmin also helps monitor your recovery time and training load.

It’ll analyze your performance and workouts, using your aerobic and anaerobic data to see what effect your exercise is having on your endurance, speed and power. The Forerunner 745 will also tell you if you’re training productively, at your peak or if you’re overreaching. Like most other smartwatches, this will also track your sleep, control your music playback and alert you to incoming notifications from your phone. It may have a more basic-looking operating system than the Apple Watch or Galaxy Watch, but the Forerunner 745’s best trait is that it will last up to a week on a charge. — Cherlynn Low, Deputy Editor

Buy Forerunner 745 at Garmin - $500

Apple Watch Series 8

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

For iPhone users, there is no better smartwatch than the Apple Watch. Whether you opt for the maxed out Ultra or the basic SE, you’ll be getting your loved one a well-rounded and competent wearable. The Series 8 sits between those two models and offers a great balance of features and comfort. It’s not as chunky as the Ultra and has an onboard skin temperature sensor that the SE doesn’t.

Your giftee will receive reminders to stay active, have their walks automatically detected and be prompted to take mindfulness breaks throughout the day. Apple’s workout tracking also does a great job of logging time elapsed, calories burned, distance traveled and other key metrics. Plus, with watchOS 9, the workout pages now show what heart rate zone the wearer is in, so they can better understand when to push themselves harder or take it easy.

If the person you’re shopping for is more of an endurance athlete or outdoor adventurer, the Ultra’s enhanced GPS and special features might make it a better gift, but at $800, it’s wildly expensive and you might want to split the cost with others. — C.L.

Buy Apple Watch Series 8 at Amazon - $399

Fitbit Inspire 3

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Compared to older Inspire models, the third generation comes with a color touchscreen that’s easier to navigate. While Fitbit OS remains pretty basic, it will at least deliver smartphone notifications to your wrist. Plus, the lowkey software translates to 10-day battery life, even in that small, lightweight frame. If the person you’re shopping for prefers to leave their phone at home when they go on a run, the Inspire 3 lacks the onboard GPS necessary to route their journey, so you’ll need to look for something else. But for almost everyone else, the Inspire 3 is a great, low-profile way to keep track of your activity. — C.L.

Buy Inspire 3 at Amazon - $100

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5

Samsung

Samsung’s line of smartwatches remains the best on the market for Android users. Though the Galaxy Watch 5 runs the relatively basic Wear OS, the company has managed to bake in its capable health and fitness-tracking system to help the user stay active. Its auto-detection is among the most accurate in the industry, and it tracks an impressively long list of workouts, including swims. And if your loved one already uses Samsung phones and appliances, they’ll find some useful integrations like smart home controls from their wrist.

The Watch 5 is also a capable sleep tracker, and though it doesn’t offer as many mindfulness-related features as Apple and Fitbit, Samsung does have some meditation guides in its Health app. It’s also the only smartwatch on this list with a round face, which fans of traditional watches may prefer. — C.L.

Buy Galaxy Watch 5 at Amazon - $280

Apple Fitness+

Apple

If you’re shopping for someone that wants to get more active but is intimidated by gyms, a Fitness+ subscription is a great way to help them get started. Apple’s library of video workouts caters to all levels, but it’s especially friendly to beginners. Fitness+ contains comprehensive guides, as well as collections designed for pregnant people or new parents, giving plenty of options for those who may find themselves in different life situations.

Starting in October, Apple opened up Fitness+ so you no longer have to own an Apple Watch. Now, your giftee just needs to have an iPhone, and they can follow along the routines through their TVs, iPads or, yes, iPhones. If they also own an Apple Watch, they can pause and resume the classes from their wrist, as well as see their heart rate and Move ring progress on the screen.

Since the videos can be viewed on iPads, Fitness+ is suitable for people who travel a lot. They can take the classes in hotel rooms, RVs, cruises and more. It’s also a great last-minute gift. Just know that for anyone that has a specific favorite sport and doesn’t want to explore new types of activity, Fitness+ might feel too easy. — C.L.

Subscribe to Apple Fitness+

Withings Body+ smart scale

Engadget

The right weighing scale can deliver more readings than just weight alone. Case in point: Withings’ Body+ smart scale. It’ll tell you how heavy you are, sure, but it also uses multi-frequency bio-electrical impedance analysis (BIA) to get your muscle mass, fat mass, bone mass, water percentage and visceral fat level. And like all good connected scales, it’ll send all that information to an app on your phone so you can track your progress over time.

The Body+ scale also offers Pulse Wave Velocity (PWV) tracking, which measures the speed at which your blood travels to see your vascular and nerve health. At $100, it’s not the cheapest, but it does produce a wide range of data that regular weighing scales don’t. You can also consider less premium devices from Withings that also offer body composition measurements, like the Body Scan or Body+, which will serve your friend perfectly well. — C.L.

Buy Withings Body+ scale at Amazon - $100

Theragun Mini

Therabody

It’s important to take care of your body even after you’ve completed a tough workout. The Theragun Mini can take your recovery routine to the next level by helping you massage out tension points in your muscles with more force than you could even provide on your own. It has three different speeds, all of which work better on different muscle groups, and its ergonomic design makes it pretty easy and comfortable to hold while using it. Sure, you can get more speed options, smartphone connectivity and more with the high-end models, but the Mini is great not only for its relatively affordable price, but for its compact design as well. Weighing only three pounds, it could easily live in your gym bag for daily muscle maintenance but you could also throw it on your carry-on before a trip so you can work out those cramps and knots you’ll inevitably get after sitting in an airplane seat for a few hours. — Valentina Palladino, Senior Commerce Editor

Buy Theragun Mini at Amazon - $199

Shokz OpenRun Pro

Shokz

The Shokz OpenRun Pro Bluetooth headphones provide a unique way of blending music with an active lifestyle that’s ideal for runners, cyclists and more. They use bone conduction to deliver sound to your inner ear through your cheekbones, leaving your ears open so you can remain aware of your surroundings.

The OpenRun Pro model is the company’s premium offering and provides one of the richest bass experiences available for this style of headphones. They’re IP55 water-resistant, offer a useful 5-minute quick charge for 1.5 hours of listening and last up to 10 hours on a full charge. You should keep in mind that the open-ear design is a tradeoff, since they’re not great for noisy environments.

This is an interesting gift for fitness enthusiasts because they’re probably not the first style of headphones that they’d consider. But once they’ve taken them for a run or a bike ride, the benefits of having music while also keeping track of nearby traffic or pedestrians is game changing. — Jon Turi, Homepage Editor

Buy OpenRun Pro at Amazon - $180

Withings ScanWatch Horizon

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

There are smartwatches, there are fitness watches, and then there is Withings’ ScanWatch Horizon. It’s the French company’s gussied-up version of its class-leading hybrid that remains my only pick for people who want something smart, but classy, on their wrist. Horizon comes with activity, fitness, sleep and heart-rate tracking as well as a built-in ECG to monitor your heart health. But it’s been styled like a diver’s watch, with the OLED subdial the only clue that it’s a lot smarter than it looks at first glance.

Maybe it’s the fact that what makes Horizon so good is how well-hidden its smarts really are, and how good it looks on your wrist. And that’s before you get to the practical stuff – it’s $500, so it’s cheaper than a Submariner and does plenty more. The battery will last for a month at a time, reducing the need for you to keep your charger close by at all times. And Withings’ Health Mate app remains one of the best on the market for giving you insights about your body you might not have noticed yourself. — Daniel Cooper, Senior Reporter

Buy ScanWatch Horizon at Amazon - $500

The best fitness gear to upgrade your workout routine

Maybe you like to run, or perhaps you’re many years into a regular gym habit. You’ve dabbled with fitness wearables and thought about treating yourself to a massage gun, but never got around to buying one. Perhaps your foam roller is starting to crumble, and that free tee you got with protein powder has seen better days. You might be fitter, but your fitness equipment and tech are due for an upgrade.

The Engadget team has picked some of their favorite exercise tech purchases that have made our fitness journeys less of a struggle. From the best wearable tech to our favorite smart scale, some selections command premium prices, while a few are surprisingly affordable.

Oura Ring

Mat Smith / Engadget

As we said in our review, the Oura ring is a wearable for people who hate wearables. It also offers more robust sleep tracking than many watch-like devices. Despite the size and weight remaining unchanged from the second-gen Oura ring, it’s incredible how much technology is crammed into this thing. The third generation has sensors that can track your heart rate continuously; temperature monitoring; blood oxygenation; and period prediction.

The Oura ring is very serious about tracking everything it can. Given the lack of a display, you’ll need your smartphone to check on your recovery scores and how well you slept. These scores are synthesized from biometrics, including your heart rate variability, body temperature, resting heart rate and breathing rate. With a subscription – yes, something you may have to pay beyond the $299 asking price – you’ll get weekly summaries to show how your activity levels and sleeping hours are trending. I like Oura’s ability to tell when you’ve been training a little too hard and that the app suggests taking a day off to recover.

The ring isn’t perfect. The company has let some features drag for months – especially frustrating when some users pay a monthly sub. For example, blood oxygenation (SpO2) level tracking was promised when the third-gen Oura Ring was first announced and has only just arrived on most rings – almost half a year late.

A warning: If you’re planning to track weight lifting workouts with the Oura ring, the black edition is likely to show some conspicuous scratches if you’re gripping metallic bars and plates. I also struggled with pull-ups, as I’m not quite used to wearing a ring while gripping for my life. – Mat Smith, UK Bureau Chief

Buy Oura Ring - $299

Apple Watch Series 7

Cherlynn Low / Engadget

The most popular smartwatch series continues to lead on the feature front – if you ignore sleep tracking. The Series 7 has the biggest screen yet of any Apple Watch. It’s over 50 percent bigger than the Series 3 and 20 percent larger than the Series 6 that came before it. With more screen space and bigger buttons, it’s easier to stop and start workouts and check your heart rate and time elapsed during exercise. In addition, since watchOS 5, Apple’s wearables have been able to auto-detect specific workouts, which is great for when you forget to start logging a run or a spin session.

The Series 7 can track your VO2 Max levels, measuring your cardiorespiratory fitness level. What’s cool here is how the wearable notifies you when your levels tangibly change. So if you start a new intensive workout regime, you’ll see these figures creep up. Your iPhone will notify you when you make tangible improvements, say moving from below to above average cardio fitness levels, possibly even to its high fitness level. I’ve been hovering around 50 VO2 Max, but I’ll get to 52 eventually.

The Apple Watch also has its own connected workout platform in the form of Fitness+, offering HIIT, dance, pilates, yoga classes and more, streaming classes to your iPhone, iPad, Mac or Apple TV. Your heart rate will show on screen during many classes, indicating how you’re faring compared to other Fitness+ members and hopefully inspiring you to push a little harder. 

Of course, Apple Watch Series 8 (as well as a new 'pro' Ultra model) are both launching very soon. The Watch Ultra, in particular, packs longer battery life and a brighter screen — perfect for outdoor sports. – M.S.

Buy Apple Watch Series 7 at Amazon - $389

Theragun Prime

Mat Smith/Engadget

Theragun’s unique triangle design helps its devices stand out from a legion of other massage therapy guns. Multiple ways to grip the Theragun make it easier to target trickier body parts. As one of the more premium massage devices, it offers 16mm amplitude (typically only bested by devices several hundred dollars more) and speeds of up to 2,400 percussions per minute. Some health claims (like improved performance) are backed up by limited studies, but others (including sped-up muscle recovery) are not. I love using mine to target specifically tight areas; it even feels good ahead of a workout.

The Theragun Prime is better than most of the massage gun competition. It’s more flexible, too. Compared to Therabody’s own more basic options, the Prime comes with three extra attachments in addition to the standard ball: a cone, a dampener with a flattened head, and a thumb attachment, which can help dig deeper. The battery is thankfully long-lasting, too. – M.S.

Buy Theragun Prime at Amazon - $299

Eufy Smart Scale P1

Eufy

It’s time to throw away that chunky analog scale with the wobbly dial. Instead, for a more aesthetically pleasing design and deeper insight into your body weight and composition, it’s time to go digital. Several smart scale options are available, but I’ve used the sensibly priced Eufy Smart Scale P1. This smart scale connects with your smartphone to sync your data, and you just need to remember to open the app. Otherwise, it won’t track your progress.

It can monitor your weight in imperial or metric measurements and even make a rough guess at your body fat and water percentages. However, it’s worth noting that domestic smart scales are often not hugely accurate at gauging these measurements.

There are even more advanced smart scales too. Still, they are usually over double the price of the Smart Scale P1, often adding unnecessary features like multiple user profiles, Alexa voice activation, athletic modes for pro athletes and more. At some point, it’s diminishing returns, but the ability to digitally track (as well as set up weigh-in reminders) helped me form better habits to monitor my weight. – M.S.

Buy Smart Scale P1 at Amazon - $45

Beats Fit Pro earbuds

Mat Smith / Engadget

Many true wireless earbuds, let alone conventional headphones, weren’t made for working out. Some have non-removable parts that can get gunked up, while others lack water and dust resistance or have wires liable to tangle up or tug at you during workouts. For many of these reasons, I swear by true wireless earbuds and the Beats Fit Pro deliver on everything I want from workout buds. That includes active noise cancellation (less weight slamming and awful gym music), an understated profile, and a comfortable fit with a convenient fin design to lock it into your ear without making your ears ache.

Thankfully, they don’t stick out your ears like many earbud options. The company recently launched a series of even more subtle skin-colored buds in collaboration with Kim Kardashian. With Apple’s H1 chip, the Beats Fit Pro can offer hands-free Siri functionality and enhanced Find My item tracking. – M.S.

Buy Beats Fit Pro at Amazon - $200

On-demand fitness subscription

Peleton

One of the best things I've done for my fitness routine as of late is introducing some variety. Since I work out in the morning right after waking up, it's pretty easy for me to fall into a routine of doing the same thing over and over again. However, I've found it much easier to switch things up by relying on an on-demand fitness subscription.

I've tried a handful of the many services out there now, but the ones I've stuck with are Peloton and Alo Moves. I don't own a single piece of Peloton hardware; I instead spend $13 each month for app access only, and that's where I take most of my strength-training classes. I like that they're constantly putting out new offerings every day, but the backlog of on-demand classes is bursting at the seams, too. The sessions are challenging and engaging, and there are plenty of options if you don't have any equipment at all.

Alo Moves is more focused on yoga, pilates and barre, and it’s a bit more expensive at $20 per month. I'm more interested in toning than bulking up, so I try to incorporate some of these classes into my strength training routine. I particularly like that Alo Moves has a "series" of sessions that fall under the same umbrella that you can take over the course of many days. When I really don't want to think about what I'm doing on a given morning for a workout, it's easy just to turn to the next class in the barre series I was already working on. – Valentina Palladino, Senior Commerce Editor

Subscribe to Peloton app - $13/montthSubscribe to Alo Moves - $20/month

Bowflex Selectech adjustable dumbbells

Bowflex

For a lot of us, space is at a premium. We might have enough space to roll out a yoga mat, but not much more beyond that. Consolidating (and shrinking) your home workout gear is a nice way to keep your exercise habits going without tripping over weights or resistance band. Bowflex is a well-established fitness company that’s made adjustable dumbbells for several years now. The weight range will depend on the model, but the Bowflex SelectTech 552i can be dialed (literally) down to 2kg (4.4 pounds) and up to 24kg (53 pounds) each, making them suitable for all kinds of full-body and dedicated muscle group moves. A dial on each side of the weight adjusts how many plates the bar latches onto, with the remaining weight staying behind in the included storage tray.

There are several adjustable dumbbells out there, but I prefer this classic ‘dumbbell’ look compared to some of the more squarish-looking rivals. One minor issue is that you’ll have to tinker with both sides to adjust the weight. Also, if you’re looking for an on-demand workout service, Bowflex includes a free one-year subscription to its JRNY streaming service. – M.S.

Buy Bowflex SelectTech 552i at Amazon - $219

Withings has a new smart scale and 'Health+' fitness subscription platform

Withings is today announcing yet another in its range of class-leading smart scales, Body Comp. The device is pitched as a “complete body assessment scale” which can look at the sort of facets of our bodies normally reserved for clinical settings. That includes weight, muscle mass, fat mass, water percentage, bone mass, BMI and visceral fat counts. You’ll also get information on your standing heart rate and your vascular health (based on PulseWave Velocity), as well as analyzing your nerve health. And, of course, it’s the first Withings product that will be sold to be compatible with Health+, the company’s other new announcement.

Health+ is Withings’ new subscription platform, since recurring revenue is now the one way that most hardware businesses make money these days. It promises to “unlock additional features in the Health Mate app,” offering insights on how to strive for a better body. These include six week habit-forming modules, all of which is contextualized with the data offered by your Withings devices. They will also be offered meal plans and suggested workouts to help them achieve their goals faster. (Health+ will set you back $79.95 after the first year of use, and is only compatible so far with this and any future Withings' products.)

Now, this is actually a different product to Body Scan, the scale that Withings announced back in January which came with its own electrode handle. That, much like other high-end body composition scales, asks you to hold the handle at waist height in order to better read your vital statistics. Armed with the data, it’ll tell you the fat and water ratios in your arms, legs and torso, as well as monitoring your nerve activity. That product hasn’t actually hit stores yet, but it’s already clear that Body Comp will offer the bulk of the same features with a little less fine grain data.

There is now a significant number of devices that have Withings and Body in the name and you’d be forgiven for struggling to keep them all straight in your head. The existing flagship is the Body Cardio, which has all of the current bells and whistles, including weight, BMI, body composition, heart rate and vascular age. Below that, the Body+ offers weight, BMI and body comp, while the vanilla Body just offers weight and BMI.

Nike Training Club adds adaptive workouts to make exercise more accessible

Nike wants to make fitness apps accessible to more people with disabilities. The athletics gear maker has introduced adaptive workouts to the Nike Training Club app (available for Android and iOS) that you can perform whether or not you have a disability. The seven classes in this set target a wide range of movement and equipment, ranging from upper-body strength training with dumbbells to yoga.

A Nike athlete with limb loss, Amy Bream, leads all the classes. You'll also find guidance from an adaptive training-focused physical therapist. Training Club already offers an exercise program for expecting and recent mothers.

The company isn't alone in making these apps more accessible. Apple added Fitness+ workouts for pregnant people and seniors last year and has Apple Watch wheelchair workout tracking, for instance. Still, Nike's move is an important step that could bring exercise apps to a wider audience.  

The Fiture mirror wants to improve your at-home workout form

Maybe the pandemic made you rethink your gym membership, or maybe you just don’t like working out in the presence of other people. Thankfully, there’s a slew of gadgets and connected equipment that can help you exercise well at home. Without proper form guidance, though, you risk using the wrong muscles for some actions or worse, you could end up hurting yourself. That’s why more recent devices like the Tempo Move or the Peloton Guide purport to watch while you exercise and teach you better form. A new smart mirror launching today promises to offer “real-time feedback through form correction as well as pacing, timing and movement feedback” through its “Motion Engine technology.” The company is called Fiture (future of fitness, get it?) and the $1,495 interactive mirror is just the beginning of its offerings.

Like the NordicTrack Vault Complete and the Lululemon-owned Mirror, the Fiture has a screen embedded inside a reflective surface. In fact, the Fiture and the Mirror both have a 43-inch display, though the former stands 12 inches taller at 68 inches. It’s also slightly wider and thicker than Lululemon’s gadget, yet surprisingly weighs 10 pounds less. At just 60 pounds, Fiture's offering was easy enough for me to lift and move over short distances (but that’s just me flexing).

At a recent demo event, I tried out some workouts on the Fiture mirror. About 200 to 400 workouts will be available at launch, with sessions ranging from 5 to 60 minutes in length. They span categories like strength, HIIT, yoga, boxing, pilates, barre, cardio sculpt and stretching for cooldowns. You’ll need to pay a $39 monthly fee to use the device and these classes, which is similar to what Lululemon and Peloton charge with their hardware. Though Peloton allows for up to 20 user profiles, Lululemon only supports up to six, and requires a “one-year minimum commitment.” Meanwhile, Fiture lets you have up to seven users on one membership and you can subscribe month-to-month.

Cherlynn Low / Engadget

My personal gripes about buying hardware with mandatory subscriptions aside, I can understand charging a recurring fee for services that push out new content all the time, and Fiture said it will be adding new videos every week and that live classes are in the works.

I’m more intrigued by the ability to customize workouts. Through the companion app, you can select one of three preset durations (5, 10 or 15 minutes), the type of activity (HIIT or Strength) and the difficulty level. The system generates a set of moves, like squats, hip hinges, lunges, presses or raises — all of which you can edit by tweaking the duration of each set or number of reps. You can also add any number of exercises from Fiture’s extensive library of movements, and when you’re done, stream your custom class to the mirror.

The custom workouts won’t have a trainer walking you through the entire session like the pre-recorded ones, but I love the idea of being able to create my own targeted sets or supersets. More importantly, the device will still count your reps and monitor your form while you do those.

This is the highlight of the Fiture system. It has an onboard camera on the bottom third, and it blends so well into the looking glass that I can only see the sensor at extreme angles. The company includes a cap that magnetically attaches to the mirror so you can cover up the camera when not in use. Using 4K video captured from the camera and its “Motion Engine” algorithms, the device not only counts your reps, but it can also judge your pace. According to Fiture, if you’re flying through your reps, you should consider using heavier weights. If you’re moving too slowly through a motion, you should try something lighter.

Cherlynn Low / Engadget

At the demo, I did about a dozen upright rows, front and lateral raises with a pair of 8-pound barbells (which is lighter than my usual 10 to 15 pounds). In the beginning of the set, I sped through the reps, and my pace was reflected onscreen, at about eye level. I slowed down a little, and hit what Fiture deemed to be the optimal pace. Reps performed at that speed notched a higher score, but every move contributed to my total for the workout.

I tried another session that involved an Arnold overhead press and noticed that some of my reps weren’t being counted. Helpfully, a diagram popped up at the bottom right of the screen, telling me to straighten my arms when overhead. Once I started paying attention to that part of the move, the system started counting my reps again.

Fiture also offers timed sets instead of specific numbers of reps. Another session had me sitting in a chair pose for a minute, and the mirror only started counting the seconds when it determined I had sunk low enough and had my arms raised high enough. When I gave up at about 58 seconds and stood up, it stopped counting.

Fiture

The mirror can also detect exercises performed on the floor, like hip thrusts, planks and mountain climbers. I blazed through about 20 hip thrusts, and Fiture counted every single one. I did struggle with keeping an eye on the onscreen trainer when doing alternate side bird-dogs, but that’s a problem with following any workout video with floorwork.

At the end of every workout, you’ll see a summary of calories burned, time spent and also your position on the app’s leaderboard. Fiture will also suggest a follow-up video that’s usually stretching for a cooldown. You can raise your hand and hold it up for a few seconds to automatically start the recommended activity, which is pretty convenient. I tried this out a few times and the camera was quite accurate at noticing when I had my arm up.

Because the Fiture isn’t touch-enabled, you’ll mostly interact with it via the companion app, the onboard volume and power buttons or by gestures. Voice control is coming, the company said, and it’ll offer options for you to pause a workout, for example. At the moment, though, after you launch a video from your phone, the app will become a remote control for the mirror, showing controls for play, pause, volume, skipping sections and fast-forwarding or rewinding in 15-second increments.

I didn’t get to test this out at the demo, but Fiture also comes with a heart rate tracker that you can strap on to see your cardio performance on the screen. You can also connect your own Bluetooth-enabled heart rate or fitness tracker, like the Apple Watch, and see your pulse on the display. For now, Fiture doesn’t offer videos that make use of that information for tailored workouts based on your real-time cardio performance, but the company said it’s looking into that option.

Fiture

Based on my brief time with the Fiture mirror, I have to say the system seems sound — my glutes were sore the next day. In parts of the brightly lit event space, the onscreen video was slightly difficult to see, particularly when sunlight was streaming directly onto the surface. But in pretty much every other part of the indoor space, the display was crisp and easy to read. The background music and trainer’s voice in the workouts were also loud enough to hear.

In the fitness mirror space, Fiture is a fairly elegant option. Though it doesn’t come with equipment like resistance bands or weights (you’ll have to use your own or rely on bodyweight workouts), its motion detection and form guidance are built into the device. That’s different from the Lululemon Mirror, which, outside of live classes, requires additional connected weights to count reps and offer feedback. The Tempo Move also requires you to use its custom color-coded barbells and plates before it can effectively count your reps.

Best of all, for someone like me who lives in a tiny studio, the Fiture’s small footprint is extremely appealing. It’s also one of the best-looking smart mirrors around, and comes in five colors. But before you spend $1,500 on the Fiture mirror, I’d recommend waiting till we can do a bit more testing in the real world to see if it’s worth the big bucks.

What we bought: Echelon's Connect Sport bike pairs well with Apple Fitness+

To say the pandemic threw off my exercise routine would be an understatement. I was a gym regular who thrived on treadmills and weight machines, and I suddenly had to improvise with pushups and runs. I struggled to maintain a routine, and for a while gave up entirely. How was I going to stay fit at a time when merely ordering dumbbells was a challenge? Late last year, though, I resolved to get back into shape and bought a $599 Echelon Connect Sport exercise bike to use in tandem with an $80-per-year Apple Fitness+ membership. I haven’t regretted it.

The math behind my decision was simple: I wanted a quality bike that wouldn’t tie me to one service or empty my bank account in record fashion. That quickly ruled out Peloton, whose Bike ($1,495 as I write this) and full subscription ($39 per month) were overkill for someone who mainly wanted to shake off some cobwebs. The Connect Sport was appealing precisely because it didn’t chain me to anything; I could put my phone on the built-in stand and use a lower-priced service like Fitness+ to guide my workouts. I was poised to save hundreds of dollars per year, even if I had to buy the virtually mandatory Apple Watch. (I already own a Series 5.) An iPhone is also required, of course.

Yes, the Connect Sport amounts to a Peloton Bike doppelgänger without the screen, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Echelon’s machine feels solidly built, and it’s stable even in the midst of an intense workout. The flywheel-based mechanism is also remarkably quiet. Apart from a clacking sound that disappeared after the first three weeks, the loudest noise I’ve heard was my own breathing. The handlebars and seating are highly adjustable, and the pedals use cages to keep your feet in place (thus letting you use ordinary shoes) instead of clips. This is a bike that’s easy to live with, letting me concentrate on the task at hand rather than my equipment.

Jon Fingas/Engadget

The quirks mostly stem from the inherent nature of full-size spin bikes like this. The Connect Sport isn’t as compact as some alternatives, particularly folding models like Echelon’s own Flex Ultra. At 92 pounds, it’s also too heavy to casually move between rooms. And while you don’t need electricity unless you intend to use the built-in Bluetooth telemetry, the included power cord isn’t lengthy. I wouldn’t choose this bike if I was a space-conscious apartment dweller.

I’m happy with its Apple Fitness+ performance, though. To start a cycling workout, I just need to put my iPhone on the stand, launch the Fitness app and go. The exercise data I care about (heart rate, calories burned, duration) comes from the Apple Watch, so I don’t even need the Connect Sport’s Bluetooth functionality. I would only want to plug the bike into power if I craved the Echelon Fit app’s cadence and resistance info, which aren’t necessary with Apple’s service. Just be prepared to buy a tablet if you plan to use Echelon’s app (in its open-ended “free ride” mode) and Fitness+ at the same time, as you can’t juggle both on one screen.

Fitness+ works about as well as it did when Engadget tried it on launch, but that’s plenty for someone getting back into shape on the Connect Sport. Apple’s cycling coaches are friendly, helpful and accommodate a wide range of ability levels. Instead of demanding precise cadence and resistance ranges like you might see with some services, they frequently ask you to match a song’s beat or tweak the resistance to feel enough leg strain. That may be too fuzzy if you’re eager for consistent numbers, but for me it’s perfect: I’m measuring progress in terms of how well I can sustain an all-out push, not how closely I mimic someone else’s settings. The bike’s resistance knob is easy to adjust, so it’s trivial to ramp up the difficulty if a ride is too much of a cakewalk.

Jon Fingas/Engadget

I’ve found Apple’s cycling workouts challenging enough as someone relatively new to spin bikes while still well-acquainted with structured exercise. For one, there’s a healthy variety of classes now that Fitness+ has been available for over a year. Many of them rely on a familiar hill climb metaphor that alternates between intense pushes and easy recoveries, but I’ve sometimes encountered welcome twists, like rides that get progressively harder without significant breaks. While these classes likely wouldn’t push a pro athlete or dedicated amateur to their limits, they’ve gracefully scaled with me as my abilities improved.

More importantly, the sessions are engaging. I find myself picking workouts based on well-chosen music with some surprisingly deep cuts. Ever rally to nostalgia-inducing late ‘90s dance tracks, or a coach’s favorite heavy metal band? I have. And while the inspirational talk is borderline cliché, the personalities often shine through and help me look forward to classes from my favorite instructors. I just wish there were more episodes suiting my exact music tastes. It’s no fun to “settle” for a rock workout when I really hoped for dance, no matter how thrash-worthy that rock might be.

Jon Fingas/Engadget

As a result, the combination of a Connect Sport with Fitness+ works very well for me. Exercise is a pleasure I look forward to, and I’ve seen tangible improvements to my leg power and even my posture. I wouldn’t recommend the pairing to everyone, though. As you might have guessed, Fitness+ is a no-go if you’re either an Android user or seriously considering a switch. You’re thoroughly locked into Apple’s ecosystem if you sign up between the iPhone, Apple Watch and subscription. I would also pass if I were a pro or serious amateur racer — you just won’t get the detailed stats needed for targeted improvements. Spring for a dedicated sports watch and a more demanding membership instead.

If you do live in Apple’s universe and aren’t competing for glory, though, this duo is easy to recommend. It’s an affordable, effective way to cram some cycling into a packed schedule. Moreover, Echelon’s bring-your-own-device strategy offers a convenient escape hatch if you ever want to ditch a service without replacing your bike or rigging an ad hoc solution. For me, the results speak for themselves: I’m in the best shape I’ve been for two years, and I can’t ask for much better than that.

Oura’s third-generation Ring is more powerful, but not for everybody

The wearables business is hard, especially if you’re a small startup with a device you could, perhaps uncharitably, call “niche.” Oura, which makes activity-tracking rings worn endorsed by a numberof celebrities, recently released its third-generation model. This new hardware is a technical marvel, packing many of the features that most wrist-worn devices take for granted. But the need to keep the cash rolling in has seen Oura, like Fitbit, Apple, Wahoo and others, pivot to a recurring-revenue model. Oura says that this is key to shift from the idea of buying a device that never changes, to supporting its broader goals of building an evolving fitness ecosystem.

Hardware

Daniel Cooper

Before we get into the specifics of this new Oura ring, let’s take a moment to remember that this device is still a marvel of engineering. Taking the sensors from a smartwatch or fitness tracker and shrinking them into a ring is worthy of enormous praise. For all of its imperfections, it’s amazing to see Oura push the limits of what is capable in such a small form factor. And there’s much more tech crammed in this time around, despite the size and weight remaining the same as the second-generation version. The headline features these new sensors enable include continuous heart-rate tracking, temperature monitoring, blood oxygenation and period prediction.

The sizing process is the same for pretty much every smart ring I’ve ever tried: The company sends you a set of plastic dummy rings you have to wear for a couple of days. Once you’ve determined the correct fit, which is tight and secure around the base of your index finger, but not to the point where it’s uncomfortable, you can order the real thing. This actually was the most stressful part of this review, since I felt that one size was too loose, the other too tight, but I opted for looseness rather than sacrificing a digit to the gods of fitness tracking. Oura says that the index finger is the best place for its ring, but you can stick it elsewhere if you prefer.

Unfortunately, the one thing you can’t do much about is the size of the ring itself which is a bit too big. I’m a big-ish guy with big-ish hands, but it feels a bit too ostentatious on my fingers, enough that people notice and ask me what it is as soon as they spot it. If you have more slender hands, I’m sure you might have a similar issue with folks pointing it out. I suspect that the smart thing to do is visit Parts Of 4 to get some more adornments to balance out the look.

Software

Without a screen, Oura is yoked tightly to the iOS or Android app where all of this data will be displayed. The Oura app is clean and tidy, only giving you the deepest data when you go looking for it. The app breaks down all of the information generated from your finger and compresses it into three scores, which are shown on the homescreen. These are for Readiness, Sleep and Activity, representing how prepared you are to face the day, how well-rested you are and how much exercise you’re doing.

The only other thing you’ll find on the homescreen is a breakdown of your heart rate across the day, showing you where the peaks and troughs are. You’ll also get advice on your ideal bedtime, which is useful when you’re working late nights and need to juggle sleep with getting things done. You’ll also get periodic reminders to move if the app detects you’ve been still for a while, and advice when it’s time for you to wind down for the day.

Go into one of the categories, like Readiness, and you’ll get scores for your recovery index, sleep, as well as your HRV balance, body temperature and resting heart rate. You can also see that my figures dropped quite substantially during a three-day period when I got food poisoning from a New Year’s Eve takeaway meal. During that period, I was given plenty of warnings telling me I wasn’t rested or well enough to do much else – not that I felt like I was gonna go for a run or anything.

As part of Oura’s plan to add extra value to its platform, the company is adding a series of video and audio guides for meditation, breathwork and sleeping. These guides, which are essentially guided meditation audio tracks, can be backed with a white noise option of your choice. You can pick the hum of a train station, the crunch of a forest stroll, the sound of the tide lapping at the land or rainfall, amongst others. These are a thing for people who find those things useful to fall asleep and feel restful but I, personally, do not find them that great.

That said, where Oura differs from its rivals in this space is that it’ll break down your vital signs during your meditation. If you’re wondering how to get better at meditating then you’ll be guided to more appropriate tracks that’ll help prod you toward nirvana.

Oura is working on adding more features to the Ring v3 over the next year, including more content as well as more accurate sleep and period tracking. These will not actually appear as new features so much as they are behind-the-scenes improvements in the underlying systems. Finally, at some point this year, the ring will be able to identify your blood oxygenation (SpO2) while you sleep in order to help detect disorders like sleep apnea.

In use

Daniel Cooper

The best thing about the Oura ring is that, once you’ve worn it a few days, you quickly start to ignore its presence. And while you’re not paying attention, it begins worming its way into every corner of your life, learning your working patterns and getting ready to make helpful suggestions. If you feel like crap in the morning but don’t have the mental wherewithal to comprehend why, you’ll be told as soon as you look at your phone. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing here that other platforms don’t do as well, but this is certainly an elegant implementation of the idea.

Sleep tracking is generally fine, by which I mean it works by tracking movement and therefore can’t tell when you’ve been rudely awoken but haven’t moved. As part of this new pivot, however, Oura is promising that the sleep tracking will soon become vastly more accurate as a consequence of behind-the-scenes changes. This will not be readily visible to users, however, since all you’ll get is a pop-up telling you that things just got more accurate. Still, it offers a fairly good indicator for how the night went, although I find the activity tracking to be a little more on the generous side. Yesterday morning, for instance, it told me that my morning shower was a strength training workout with plenty of burned calories for my trouble. Similarly, it’ll tell me around lunchtime that I need to take a half-hour brisk walk to finish my activity for the day, and then by early evening, having done nothing more than stand at my desk, make dinner and put my kids to sleep, it’ll tell me I’ve completed my goal.

One of the features that Oura is tempting its users with is Workout Heart Rate, which I find inadvertently amusing. Because the ring is so chunky, and it has such a hard edge, that I really don’t find it comfortable to wear during workouts. For instance, if I’ve got a pair of free weights, or I’m doing an incline push up on a Smith machine bar, the ring just pushes into the fleshy parts of my hand. For most of the proper “gym” workouts I’ve done, the ring has had to come off, lest I tap out too early or draw blood from the chubby parts of my fingers. But for more ring-friendly jobs, like running, walking, or cycling, you should find this to be a big help.

In terms of vital-signs tracking accuracy, I think it’s always wise to remember that wearables will not be as inch-perfect as a clinical-grade device. But in a number of random spot-tests, the Oura offered the exact same figures as the Apple Watch on my wrist. In fact, Oura’s reputation for accuracy has always been pretty high, and one of the reasons that the company hasn’t released some of these features is to ensure they’re ready to go when they do arrive.

Oura quotes battery life at seven days, although I rarely managed to get past five without having to drop it on the charging plate. Certainly, real-world stamina is a bit far from what the company is saying, but then it’s hardly a deal breaker since you can charge it full in two hours. It’s become common for me to take the ring off while I’m standing at my desk on Monday and Friday mornings and let it re-juice while I’m working.

Economics

The third-generation Oura ring will set you back $299, which gets you the ring in one of four finishes: Silver, Black, Stealth or Gold. In the box, you’ll receive the charging plate and a USB-C cable, and as part of the deal, you’ll get a six-month trial of Oura’s subscription service. Membership, which costs $5.99 a month for new users, will entitle you to “daily health insights,” “personalized recommendations,” as well as more video and audio sessions. Any existing Oura user who upgrades to the new ring will get a lifetime membership thrown in for free.

I want to be fair here and say that I understand why Oura is pivoting to this recurring revenue model. It’s not as if other companies in this space, like Fitbit, aren’t doing the same in the hope of bolstering their bottom lines. And that’s before we get to talk about how much lock-in the Apple Watch gets as a consequence of Fitness+. But I also think there’s a difference between the sort of product that those rivals are offering compared to Oura’s product.

After all, Apple and Fitbit can both offer coaching both on their devices and on bigger screens, which Oura can’t. Not to mention that Oura is really only able to offer guided audio clips (and short videos) through its app. And that while Apple and Fitbit are selling their devices as (having the potential to become) Capital-F Fitness gear, the Oura really isn’t. But, then again, that’s not what Oura is pitching here – it’s for the meditator, the runner, the cyclist, who doesn’t want to strap something beefy to their wrist.

Wrap-Up

Here’s the problem with reviewing Oura: It’s not a device that every fitness person will love. If you want something with more versatility, you’d buy a smartwatch and have done with it. Oura is more of a subtle product, for people who want to be less ostentatious about their health, or simply want something that slips into their lives and does the job. Honestly, since I’m not a gym bro, I really like the data the ring offers me without any fuss or muss.

As for the subscription, it’s likely that Oura will have to keep squeezing as many new features and insights as possible out of this new hardware. Between that, and vastly improving its currently slender content library, it’s worth it if you’re a paid-up member of the Oura family. But, and this is more a comment on the industry as a whole rather than a slight against Oura itself, I do find this need for every company to squeeze some rental income out of their users to be a little bit grating.

Apple Fitness+ will add an audio-based running feature on January 10th

Apple isn't slowing down when it comes to new features for Fitness+. It announced several more that will be added on January 10th, including Time to Run. That's a spin on the Time to Walk experience, in which celebrity guests provide narration and a playlist to accompany walks.

The aim of Time to Run is to help folks "become more consistent and better runners." It taps into some popular running routes from various cities, and features playlists designed to evoke the spirit of those locations and match the intensity and coaching of each run. The first three episodes that drop on Monday are based on London, Brooklyn and Miami Beach. A new episode will debut each week.

Rather than celebrity guests, familiar Fitness+ trainers will lead Time to Run sessions. On your Apple Watch, you'll be able to see photos taken by the trainer along their route. You can view these images in the workout summary and save them to your photo library. For those who use a wheelchair, the feature will be renamed Time to Run or Push, and they'll be able to select either a run or an Outdoor Push Running Pace workout.

Apple told Engadget that Time to Run episodes each last around 30 or 60 minutes, which is longer than the typical Time to Walk runtime of 25 to 40 minutes. Other fitness apps offer audio-guided running features, such as Aaptiv, Nike+Run Club and Runtastic. Apple isn't exactly breaking new ground here, but Fitness+ users will have another option for working up a sweat.

Apple

Also on January 10th, Apple will roll out Collections. It's a curated series of workouts and guided meditations pulled from the Fitness+ library. The feature will suggest plans to help folks make intentional training choices in the following days and weeks. Six Collections will be available at the outset, including Run Your First 5K, Perfect Your Yoga Balance Poses and Wind Down for a Better Bedtime.

On the same day, the third season of Time to Walk will premiere. The latest batch of guests include Rebel Wilson, Bernice A. King, Chris Meloni and Hasan Minhaj. Episodes will be added on a weekly basis. More Artist Spotlight workouts will be available on Monday too, featuring music from Ed Sheeran, Pharrell Williams, Shakira and an upcoming group named The Beatles.

Nike sues Lululemon over its Mirror home gym product and apps

Back in June 2020, Lululemon got into the flourishing home gym market in the midst of the pandemic by purchasing home fitness startup Mirror for $500 million. Now, Nike has filed a lawsuit against the company over Mirror, accusing it of patent infringement. According to CNBC and The Wall Street Journal, Nike's lawsuit allege that Mirror — a full-size interactive mirror that brings a live fitness instructor into the user's home — and its apps use technologies that it invented and patented. 

The sports apparel giant specifically mentioned that it filed a patent application in 1983 for a device that can prompt users to exercise, monitor their heart rate, determine their speed while running and the calories they burned. Nike also has a number of mobile apps for fitness, including the Nike Run Club and Nike Training Club. 

Nike sent Lululemon a list of patents it allegedly infringed on back on November 3rd. As you'd expect, the company more known for making yoga pants and other types of gym clothes disagreed with Nike's assessment. A spokesperson told the publications in a statement that the patents "in question are overly broad and invalid." They also said that Lululemon is confident in its position and "look forward to defending it in court."

Mirror operates as a standalone company within Lululemon, putting the workout clothes-maker in direct competition with the likes of Peloton and Tonal. Lululemon CEO Clavin McDonald previously said that the purchase was all about connecting with consumers, because they're bound to spend more the more they engage with the brand. Last month, however, the company halved its sales forecast for the device, calling 2021 "a challenging year for digital fitness." 

This isn't the only patent-related legal battle Lululemon is embroiled in. Last year, it filed a patent infringement lawsuit of its own against Peloton, alleging that the design the other company used for a new line of leggings and sports bras infringe on its intellectual property.

Withings' Body Scan scale can measure the composition of different parts of your body

Over five years after the release of the Body Cardio (and one flirtation with Nokia), French company Withings has released its far most technologically advanced connected scale yet, the Body Scan. The big change over the last model is the addition of a handle with four stainless steel electrodes that allows it to measure ECG, segmented body composition (fat/water in your arms, legs and torso) and even esoteric things like nerve activity. All of these features will also make it one of the most expensive scales yet when it arrives to market. 

Withings says it's the number one US smart scale manufacturer and created the Body Scan "because users are demanding more and more medical and health data and information," Withings CEO Mathieu Letombe told Engadget in French. 

Withings

The new scale is certainly designed to deliver that. Though the design and high-strength tempered glass construction are similar to the previous Body Cardio, it's loaded with extra sensors that can tell you more than ever about your body. That includes four weight sensors, 14 ITO (Indium tin oxide) electrodes within the platform and four stainless steel electrodes on the new handle. The battery can now go for a year between charges compared to nine months before and it packs a larger, higher-resolution 3.2-inch LCD color display.

The handle allows safe, low-level electrical signals to pass through your entire body, not just your feet — much as you may have seen on some advanced gym scales. To start with, that enables a new 6-lead ECG that can detect heart arrhythmias via two sets of electrodes on each side of the handle and one within the base of the sale. That compares to a single lead on smartwatches, so the Body Scan can deliver more specific results "that can easily be ready by a cardiologist," said Letombe. 

An embedded algorithm can detect heart patterns associated with atrial fibrillation, showing the results on the display or Withings' Health Mate app. Those can be stored to show trends or "shared with medical professionals from the app," according to Withings. "Each time you weigh yourself, the scale can deliver that information, thanks to the new handle." 

In terms of your weight, Withings claims the Body Scan is accurate to within 0.1 pounds (50 grams) or double the previous model, but that's just the start of showing your body makeup. It uses multi-frequency bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) to measure whole-body fat and water percentage, visceral fat, muscle and bone mass and extracellular and intracellular water. It can even provide readings for individual body parts, including your torso, arms and legs. All of that allows you to spot things used by health experts and sports professionals like dangerous localized fat or muscle imbalance, Withings said. 

Working with a French company called Impeto Medical, Withings also developed a feature to assess nerve activity. It can track sweat gland activity in the feet (sudomotor function) using a small direct current via the electrodes located in the plate. Impaired function in that regard could show signs of degeneration of small nerve fibers, something that can be corrected with regular activity and a healthy diet. 

"It's a useful function, because there are a lot of chronic health issues like obesity associated with poor nerve function," Letombe told me. "Impeto creates devices used by neurologists and others doctors that can cost upwards of 10,000 euros, and the Body Scan is a consumer product that, again, does that every time you weigh yourself." At the same time, Withings will be able to collect nerve activity data from millions of users that could be useful for medical research and patient care.

Withings

Along with the scale, Withings is also introducing (yep) a subscription service, with the price yet to be announced. It will "allow users to connect with medical specialists for advice and consultation while providing clinical teams with data in real-time," Withings said. It'll also offer personalized health plans, videos and more covering topics like nutrition, sleep, exercise and stress management to help users with their health goals. 

With the Body Scan, Withings will be offering consumers one of the more advanced health, sports and medical home devices out there — at a price. It's expected to cost $300 when it arrives to the US and Europe in the second half of 2022 following FDA clearance, or $100 more than the Body Scan's launch price. That will include three free months of the subscription service, but it's still big chunk of change for a scale. 

A lot will depend on whether it delivers on all the promised features with reasonable accuracy and if it receives its FDA clearance in a timely manner. That's not necessarily a given, as it took Withings well over a year to get its ScanWatch cleared by the FDA after it was first released. The company also had issues with its Pulse Wave Velocity (PVW) heart health feature, and pulled it in some regions over regulatory concerns. 

Given all that, it's fairly bold on Withings' part to introduce a scale with even more advanced medical and health functionality. "We think that's how we can advance a user's health, not by asking an extra effort, but delivering more targeted information on a product they use every day," said Letombe.

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