Health & Fitness Tech Treasures [2011 Cool Yule Tools]

Get off the couch and start working out with these cool gadgets!

Making a big comeback in this year’s holiday gift guide is the health and fitness category. Whether you’re just starting out on the path of exercise, or are a seasoned athlete, the number of consumer electronics products dedicated to a person’s health has increased steadily over the past few years. Here are some of our favorites that can make a good gift under the tree for your favorite fitness enthusiast:

Making a big comeback in this year’s holiday gift guide is the health and fitness category. Whether you’re just starting out on the path of exercise, or are a veteran athlete, the number of consumer electronics products dedicated to a person’s health has increased steadily over the past few years. Here are some of our favorites that can make a good gift under the tree for your favorite fitness enthusiast:

Watch a slideshow version of some of these products.

Products reviewed in this category

Sport Elite muscle stimulator, by Compex

Jabra Sport Bluetooth Stereo Sports Headset, by Jabra

iHealth Blood Pressure Dock, by iHealth

SensoGlove by Sensosolutions

Sport i-20 sport strap, by Armpocket

BioBrite Sunrise Controller, by BioBrite

TCL 200 Digital Alarm Clock with Vibration Pad, by Amplicom

Sunrise Alarm Clock Advanced, by BioBrite

Zeo Sleep Manager – Mobile, by Zeo, Inc.

SPIbelt Messenger Bag, by Overton Enterprises

The reviews:

Sport Elite muscle stimulator, by CompexThis device is a small portable electrical muscle stimulator that can help people with their workouts, both for warmup or post-workout muscle recovery purposes. If you've been working out for a while, or if you're just starting out and need something to help your muscles recover faster, this device can help.

The device comes with a number of different programs, including ones that help with endurance, resistance, muscle strength or "explosive strength", as well as warmups, recovery and a massage program. The device comes with four color-coded cables that you attach the snap-on/sticky electrodes, along with instructions on how to attach the electrodes and use the device.

At $849, this is an expensive purchase for a person who may be just starting out on a fitness program, and you may feel that if you're not an elite athlete that this isn't for you. But I disagree - one of the hardest things to do when beginning a workout program is the recovery time for your muscles. If there's a device that can help you recover faster, you're more likely to stick with the program, getting you even more benefits to get you to that next level. That is definitely worth it.

Cool Yule rating: 5 stars

Price: $849

Reviewed by Keith Shaw

Jabra Sport Bluetooth Stereo Sports Headset, by JabraIf you like listening to music while running or working out, the headphone or earphone cords tend to get in the way when your arms move forward or back, making it likely that you’ll yank the cord away from the music player’s headphone port. The Jabra Sport Bluetooth Stereo Sports Headset aims to eliminate that issue, as the music travels wirelessly via Bluetooth from the music player to the headset. There is a cord, however, which connects the two earphones together, but this goes behind your head, and shouldn’t really get in the way.

To make sure that the headset doesn’t fall out of your ears, the system comes with three different Eargels that fit on the outer portion of the inside of your ear. In addition, the behind-the-ear design also keeps the earbuds in place. After a while the eargels started to get uncomfortable, but they should be comfortable long enough for you to complete your workout.

Jabra recommends that the user put their phone or music player on their right side in order to get a good wireless signal from the headset (the receiver is on the right ear headset), if you put it on the left side your body may interfere a bit with the signal. Also, most people will likely need to buy an armband for their music player or phone, one isn’t given here. However, the headset will work with the Endomondo Sports Tracker app, which helps track your fitness and analyzes results; the app will be an audio coach during the workout, giving you updates on speed, distance, calories burned, and even give you pep talks through the headset while you work out. If you don’t want to bring along your music player, there’s an FM stereo button on the headset, but it’s hard to know exactly how to tune it, you can hold down a button that performs a “scan”, but that tends to give you static-y reception.

The headset also lets you answer phone calls should one come in, but it’s a bit weird for the person on the other end of the call, since the microphone is located on the right earbud, so you’ll likely be talking louder than with other Bluetooth headsets – and really, who talks on the phone when they’re working out? Still, it was a nice feature to have for post-workout calls.

Cool Yule rating: 4 stars

Price: $99.99

Reviewed by Keith Shaw

iHealth Blood Pressure Dock, by iHealth Billed as the “first ever blood pressure monitoring system for iPod, iPhone and iPad”, it’s hard to argue against that statement, as I’ve never seen anything else like it. The docking station has a connector port for your i-device, and it comes with a blood pressure cuff that can plug into the docking station. Users can download a free app from iHealth that lets you take blood pressure readings instantly. Readings are saved on the app, and they can also be shared with others, via Facebook, Twitter or email. It was easy to setup, and you can recharge the base via an included USB cable.

Why on Earth would anyone want a device? Clearly this is aimed at people who need to take regular blood pressure readings for disease management or other health purposes. In theory, a patient could take a set of readings and then email it to their doctor instead of having to go into the doctor’s office.

For others who don’t need such a device, it’s an interesting conversation piece, and it also shows that the iPhone, iPad and other devices could be used for future health care devices – I could see similar things that monitor glucose levels, heart rate, etc.

Cool Yule rating: 4 stars

Price: $99.95 (list)

Reviewed by Keith Shaw

SensoGlove by Sensosolutions Nobody loves their tech toys more than golfers. If you’ve ever been in a pro shop or seen the ads for wacky golf gadgets, you know what I mean.  A German company called Sensosolutions has come out with “the world’s first digital golf glove,” aptly named the SensoGlove.

According to the company, the SensoGlove “improves the golf game with built-in digital sensors that continuously read the user’s grip pressure to ensure a consistently accurate, smooth and powerful swing for greater distance and lower scores.”

Ha. As all hackers like me know, NOTHING is going to do all that.

But what the SensoGlove does do is measure the pressure that your fingers are applying to the club. The SensoGlove is a soft, leather golf glove that has an LED digital monitor about the size of an iPod shuffle attached to the outside of the Velcro snap that you use to tighten the glove. Sensors at the fingertips of the glove relay information to the readout, which audibly beeps when you exceed the recommended pressure and then visually indicates which finger is committing the offense.

Of course, we all know that it’s better to have a relaxed grip on the club and continued practice with the SensoGlove will help you in that regard. Will it cure your slice? Will it help your putting? Will it materially affect your score? I doubt it. But the SensoGlove is a unique, techie gift that the golfer in your family will certainly have some fun with.

Cool Yule rating: 3 stars

Price: $89

Reviewed by Neal Weinberg

Sport i-20 sport strap, by ArmpocketThe Armpocket Sport i-20 and I got off on the wrong foot from the get go, and it was never able to quite recover from my first impression. The first time I went running with it, I struggled to get my headphones through the “Flexi-lock Audio Port.” The Armsport claims that this audio port will set the perfect length for my ear-bud wires, lock the ear jack into my music player, and resist disconnection during workouts. I just found it a little too tight to get my audio jack through. Once my headphone jack was through the port, it was hard to attach the headphones to my iPod. I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with the Sport 20, it was just frustrating.

Once I started running, my music kept skipping to the next song. The Sport 20 is intended for use with the iPhone, but I wanted to use my iPod. Because it didn’t fit very well, the Sport 20 kept pushing the buttons and moving my playlist forward. This is pretty much where it sunk it for me.

I did like the multiple pockets so everything could be organized. I could store my iPod, my license and a credit card in a back pocket, my house key, and some tissues. What I didn’t like was that I also could have carried a camera and a deck of cards. The Sport i-20 felt like a fanny pack for my arm. I might feel that way because I have small arms though. It may feel more comfortable for someone with more arm muscle.

Armpocket says the Sport i-20 is made out of memory foam that will contour to your arm to resist slipping. The material also aims to keep you cool and dry, and this was true for the most part. This also keeps moisture away from the electronics stored inside the pocket. During a major rain storm I was using this, and my iPod remained safe. However, I was a bit worried – I wasn’t as sure about the cloth sleeve compared with a typical Otterbox plastic case.

All in all, it was a good product, but I really think it needs to be used with the iPhone as it recommends on the packaging.

Cool Yule rating: 3 stars

Price: $29.95 (Amazon)

Reviewed by Jennifer Finn

BioBrite Sunrise Controller, by BioBriteBioBrite is a company creating “innovative light therapy products,” and the Sunrise Controller fits in this line precisely. The alarm clock and controller aims to simulate a sunrise via any regular lamp. To use this, you plug the lamp into the controller, then plug the controller into the wall. You also need to have an incandescent light bulb under 75 watts. After that, setup is relatively simple.

I’m a fan of the Sunrise Controller. It’s a very gentle way to wake up in the morning. I used the setting so that the light starts turning on 15 minutes before the alarm, but you can also set it for 30, 45 or 60 minutes before the alarm goes off. In addition, the alarm can be set to turn on a radio, a light beaming sound, or a flashing light (from the lamp). Personally, I needed the radio or beeping to wake up; the light didn’t do it alone. However, I did find I was more pleasant and it was easier to get out of bed when the room wasn’t still completely dark, as my eyes could gradually adjust to the light.

Another feature I originally thought I would hate was that the controller controls the lamp all the time – as long as the lamp is plugged into the controller. In order to turn the lamp on, you have to use a button on the controller. My first thought was, “Ugh! Really?” Clearly, I overreacted. Because of this feature, it’s essentially attached to a dimmer, and it lets you create mood lighting or dim lighting if someone else is sleeping and you want to read/use as a night light.

Additionally, the clock face dims out when the light is off. The face is large and extremely easy to read. The icons are easy-to-read as well, so you know what to expect with the alarm. And this is the only alarm clock I’ve seen with three radio presets, so you can quickly bounce around to your favorite stations. There isn’t a dial for tuning the radio – it’s all operated by buttons (like your car stereo), so you can easily and accurately find the station you’re looking for.

As an alarm clock, I liked the idea of waking up to a “sunrise” during dark months (even for early risers in the summer). I loved the dimmer light switch feature, and the radio station options. This is a really good product and it would make a unique holiday gift.

Cool Yule rating: 5 stars

Price: $149.95 (Amazon)

Reviewed by Jennifer Finn

TCL 200 Digital Alarm Clock with Vibration Pad, by Amplicom Do you have a loved one who is the polar opposite of a morning person? This is the gift for them! I loathe having to wake up even remotely early and I battle with my alarm clock on a daily basis, which is why I love testing out new alarm clocks. The Amplicom TCL 200 has a very interesting design. It comes with a vibration pad that you slip under your pillow and when the alarm goes off, the vibration pad literally shakes the bed. I found it very effective.

The TCL 200 lets you have a beeping alarm go off, the vibration pad go off, or both. Additionally, there’s a light function that illuminates the snooze button on top when the alarm goes off. Or you could also use that light function in conjunction with your telephone every time the phone rings, the snooze button flashes. The snooze button can also announce the time when pushed if you turn that feature on.

Amplicom says the alarm (for wakeup or the phone ringing) can be set up to 90 decibels. Personaly, I don’t like to be scared witless out of my slumber, so I left it at the very lowest volume setting, and found this was perfect for the gentle wakeup. However, like the other features on this clock, this volume setting is aimed for users who are hard of hearing.

1 2 Page 1
Page 1 of 2
IT Salary Survey 2021: The results are in