Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Exercise Made Simple

For people looking to lose weight or exercise more as a New Year's resolution, Philips DirectLife may help by offering a simple method for keeping track of your exercise goals. Here is David Pogue's review:

The DirectLife, from Philips ($80 until January, then $100), doesn’t try to track your sleep. It doesn’t have the wireless transfer, either; instead, every so often, you snap it magnetically into its U.S.B. docking cradle/charger connected to your Mac or PC...

[T]he DirectLife is a white, flat, one-inch square plastic doodad that you can wear on a neck cord under your clothes, carry in your pocket or slip into a belt pouch.

There are no numeric displays. If you set the DirectLife down on a flat surface, a row of little green indicators lights up to show you how close you are to your activity goal so far today — one dot, you’re a couch potato; nine dots, you’re a superjock. But that’s it.

Yet despite all that, if your goal is to lose weight or get in shape, the DirectLife is far more likely to help you succeed. First, it’s waterproof, so you can wear it swimming (or in the shower). Second, it’s crushproof... Third, the Web site and setup instructions are far more professional, complete, well-designed and classy...

But the DirectLife’s real killer feature is the personal coach that comes with it. The company employs a team of fitness and nutrition experts (20 so far) whose sole job is to look over your activity data, answer your questions and egg you on.

You get 12 weeks of coaching with the purchase price (thereafter, it’s $12.50 a month)...

I hate to admit that it took some plastic gadget to change my own habits, but I found plenty of tiny ways to move more. (My favorite: I’ve taken to parking in the farthest spot instead of the closest one. It took some explaining when I took my children to a movie, but they took it in stride.)

Other gadgets confer this same awareness, of course: you can put Nike’s $30 accelerometer in your running shoe and track the data on your iPod screen, or you can buy more expensive gadgets like the BodyBugg. Those are more elaborate, conspicuous approaches.

What’s so likeable about these new gizmos is that they’re so tiny and simple and cheap, it’s almost no effort to use them. We all know that few people actually stick to their New Year’s resolutions. But I’m betting that you’d stick with these wearable plastic bits longer than you would with a gym membership — and pay a lot less.

DirectLife is so simple, it is brilliant. No fancy data to interpret, no major changes to behavior needed to make use of it, no new interfaces you have to learn -- just e-mailing the personal trainers. (And you already use e-mail, don't you?) It has me tempted.

Reduce the cost of something and expect to see more of it. The neat innovation of DirectLife is that it reduces the cost of keeping track of physical activity so low, many people just might actually stick to it.

Read two reviews of this by Fast Company here. and here.

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