Health & Fitness Tech Treasures [2011 Cool Yule Tools]

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

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The clock could also set two different alarms, and it’s smart enough to let you have a Monday through Friday alarm, a weekend alarm, or an alarm for all seven days. You can choose two of those and have both set at the same time. Plus, you can customize how long you want the snooze to last – 5 minutes or 15 minutes. I wish there was a 10-minute setting, but hopefully someday they will.

There are a few things that I didn’t love – first, it was pretty complicated to set up. I made two attempts before almost calling customer service. Instead, my boyfriend took over and a fresh perspective let him figure out where I had gone wrong. My second issue was with the vibration pad – I thought it would be pad-like, but rather its radius is a little smaller than an audio CD, and it’s about as thick as a deck of cards. Sleeping on it wasn’t too terrible, my problem was that you need to charge the pad every single day. The supplied cord is only about six inches long – therefore, you have to remove the pad from your bed, plug it into the clock, and then place the pad under your pillow every night after it recharged. If you forget, it will lose its power in two days, and the vibrating alarm won’t go off. I’d prefer if the cord was longer so that it could be plugged in always, or figure out how to insert some batteries so it could last longer.

Overall though, the clock is totally different and the vibration is a new way to wake an anti-morning person. I liked it!

Cool Yule rating: 4 stars

Price: $124.94 (Amazon)

Reviewed by Jennifer Finn

Sunrise Alarm Clock Advanced, by BioBrite Are you the kind of person who wakes up so early it’s still dark out? Do you find that miserable? The BioBrite was made for you. Essentially, it’s a basic alarm clock. The added feature is that before the alarm goes off, it slowly turns on its own lamp, thus simulating the sunrise. It also has a back-up, beeping alarm. You can set your sunrise to last 15, 30, 45, or 60 minutes. Fifteen minutes after your alarm has been turned off, the light puts itself out slowly.

In my tests, I didn’t wake up to the sunrise feature, thus needing the beeping. It was a soft sound, instead of painfully loud or jarring like other clocks. The addition of an audio jack that would allow you to listen to an iPod would have been a nice addition. What was nice about the “sunrise” though was that our room was already lit when we woke up on dark mornings, plus our eyes were adjusted to the light. It was similar to a sunny morning; it wasn’t like someone startled us awake by flicking on a bright light.

You can also set it up for a sunset, as the box suggests: to help “calm you down.” I don’t understand this, but if you want a fake sunset, it can do it for you. Another feature is a security setting. If this setting is on, the light will randomly turn on and off between 4 p.m. and 11 p.m. to make it appear as though you are home. One last feature that comes with this clock, although it didn’t come with my model, is a white noise feature. For an additional $10, the clock will make the sounds of a babbling brook, ocean waves, gentle rain, or just white noise.

One issue I have is with the price – even with some of these unique features, paying $120 for an alarm clock is pretty steep – but if you really struggle with getting up in the dark and you can see this device making your mornings easier, the price may be worth it.

Another odd complaint – the clock is set to demo mode when you open it – in order to find out how to get it out of this mode, you have to head to the very last page of the instruction book (and they don’t mention that you’re trapped in demo mode until that last page). It took a few frustrated attempts to set up the clock because of this feature.

Cool Yule rating: 3 stars

Price: $119.95 (Amazon)

Reviewed by Jennifer Finn

Zeo Sleep Manager - Mobile, by Zeo, Inc. A couple of years ago I reviewed the Zeo Sleep Alarm clock, which included a headband that you would wear when sleeping. The headband monitored your sleep patterns (whether you were in light, waking, deep or REM sleep), and then tracked the information for you.

The company has expanded this idea to its Sleep Mobile offering – instead of an alarm clock, the system utilizes your smartphone and an app. The unit still comes with a headband and recharging base, but instead of the larger alarm clock, it connects via Bluetooth to your phone in order to make the sleep readings. The information it collects is then stored on the phone, and can be uploaded to the Zeo Web site to help you understand more about your sleep patterns. If you already own an interesting alarm clock (maybe one from this guide!), the headband/smartphone option may be appealing to you.

There’s one small downside – you need to keep the smartphone plugged in overnight when you’re tracking your sleep patterns – I’m assuming this is because the app is running during the process, and you don’t want to drain your battery. This likely means you’ll have to bring a power strip/surge protector up to your bedroom, in order to power your nightstand lamp, alarm clock, the Zeo base station and your smartphone. Still, this is highly recommended if you’re having some sleeping issues and you want to see whether you are getting enough good sleep for better health.

Cool Yule rating: 5 stars

Price: $99

Reviewed by Keith Shaw

SPIbelt Messenger Bag, by Overton Enterprises The original SPIbelt (SPI stands for small personal item) should be a must-have item for runners or other workout enthusiasts who want an area to hold their personal items (phones, keys, smartphone, etc.) while they run or work out. It’s more than a “fanny pack”, the stretchy material is meant to fit snug against the body and not jiggle or shake around when the person is running or moving quickly.

The Messenger Bag is their newest version of the SPIbelt, and it has two pockets available – one can snugly hold a smartphone like an Android or iPhone; the second pocket is larger, which can hold a tablet, Kindle or other e-reader device. Unlike the original SPIbelt, which fits around the waist, the Messenger bag is worn across the chest and over the shoulder. There are two straps to adjust for a comfortable fit, and the pockets are just large enough to provide a tight fit for the phone and tablet. In fact, I took the protective case off the phone in order to get it into the pocket.

Wearing the belt wasn’t overly uncomfortable, I did get some stares from co-workers when I was wearing it, leading me to wonder whether people would put this under a jacket (such as using it for traveling through airport security instead of putting their devices in a backpack or other travel bag). From an exercise perspective, I would find it difficult to think that people would want to run with their tablets on them – I could understand running with a phone, keys and credit cards, but there doesn’t seem to be a need to have an iPad with you when running. This seems more in line with a travel bag storage system than the other SPIbelts, which are definitely aimed at the runners/athletes on your list.

Cool Yule rating: 3 stars

Price: $49.95

Reviewed by Keith Shaw

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