Weighing the Pros, Cons of the BodyMedia

body-mediaAfter reviewing the Fitbit and generally liking it, we thought it only appropriate to delve a little further into the fitness-tracking/weight-loss technology waters. I’ve been curious about the bodybugg for years after watching contestants on The Biggest Loser wear it, but we’ve never had the opportunity to review them. And then BodyMedia, a similar product to the bodybugg, up and emailed us, wanting us to strap on an armband and go to Review Town. So we did!

I wore the BodyMedia fitness-tracking device morning, noon and night for a full week. I slept in it, ate in it, walked the dog in it, Fit Pitted in it. I pretty much did everything except shower in it (it’s not waterproof). And during that time, it gave me a crapton of info based on a mix of the information I gave it during set-up and stats coming in from the armband itself: calories burned, steps taken, hours slept, sleep efficiency and amount of time spent being active (both moderate and vigorous). It even gave me little kudos in the form of a beeping message when I’d do things like reach my activity goals. Every girl can use a little positive reinforcement, and I can truly see how being this aware of your activity can help you to move a little more and therefore lose a little weight.

But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself…because as simple as it is to strap on an armband and get enough data to make even the most number-loving gal giddy, by no means is this product simple. The science behind it is complex (complex enough for me to do pretty much a full Q&A with the PR folks to really understand it), as is the set-up and the somewhat sneaky pricing.

Let’s tackle the science side of the BodyMedia first. The armband pulls its info from four sensors: galvanic skin response (when you sweat, your skin becomes more electrically conductive—this measurement helps to see your activity), skin temperature, heat flux and a three-axis accelerometer that measures your motion and steps taken. Together, using a highly refined set of algorithms, these measurements give you medical-monitoring accuracy for your data, the BodyMedia peeps say. In fact, the armband can even tell the difference between when you’re sleeping and lying down. It does so through the heat flux. See, when you fall asleep, the heat of your body gets sucked into your core, making your extremities cooler. Because the armband is on your arm, it can tell when the heat moves from your arm to your core. It’s like Bill Nye the Science Guy created this thing…

So the science—to the best of my techie know-how at least—seems legit. So what is the set-up like? Well, it’s not impossible, but it definitely takes some time. Think of it like a cell phone or a GPS device; expect to have to read the directions, charge it and generally just get used to how it works. While it’s not uncomfortable, wearing the armband does take a little getting used to, just because it’s weird to always being wearing a Velcro strap around your arm. Not to mention that it totally messes up your outfit sometimes (read this like a valley girl). Oh, and expect people to ask you about it. I’d get stopped at least a few times every day with inquires on what it was and how it worked.

Now that leaves me with the final sticking point of this body-monitoring device: the price. Prepare for some sticker shock. While you can just buy the armband for less than $200, toget any benefit from the armband, you need to also sign up for the software that helps track your results and allows you to log your foods (all the working out in the world isn’t going to reach your weight-loss goals unless your diet is on point, too). And the software has a monthly price tag of $6.95 to $12.95 a month, depending on how long you sign up for the service. Then, if you’d like to be able to flip through your stats in real-time throughout the day without plugging the armband in your computer (which is really handy, I found), you’re out another $79.99. (You keeping a running total in your head here?!) Finally—and this was the last straw for me, regarding the cost—if you’d like to wear that little display as a watch and not just clipped on your waist, that will cost you another $19.95. When it’s all said and done, you’re out well over a $300 total bill with a monthly service that will continue to cost you.

While the pricing is high when you get all the bells and whistles, I think that as long as you’re prepared for and aware of the financial commitment, this body-tracking device can be an amazing health and weight-loss tool. Although I felt that my calories burned number was a touch high—2,400 calories a day when only doing a 30-minute workout and having a fairly sedentary job seems inflated even for me—who am I to argue with algorithms and heat flux sensors? Overall, this little piece of expensive technology is pretty darn amazing, and if you really use it, there’s no doubt that it’ll help you to better reach your goals. —Jenn 


FTC disclosure: We often receive products from companies to review. All thoughts and opinions are always entirely our own. Unless otherwise stated, we have received no compensation for our review and the content is purely editorial. Affiliate links may be included. If you purchase something through one of those links we may receive a small commission. Thanks for your support!


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    As a mama-to-be who is desperately trying to stay fit along the way, I think this product seems SO helpful. I have read lots of reviews about it and everyone who tries it seems to really like it. I know that after Baby Key arrives in November, I will want to lose weight the healthy way and tracking my calories burned seems to make so much sense. After all, that’s the right way to do it. If you lose weight the smart way, you’ll keep it off!

    Unfortunately, with a new baby coming, the financial commitment is just out of our reach right now. Ugh.

  2. Rose says:

    I loved this at first. Every day I’d look at the watch and get all my info. Then the watch “filled up” with data and I found out the only way to get it “emptied” and usable again was to subscribe to their service which I had no interest in at all. Because I didn’t want to pay $6.99 a month to upload data that I didn’t want uploaded to their site, the watch and armband were then rendered completely useless. I was furious. Total scam. I felt completely deceived. It’s too bad because I’d probably still be using the armband and watch today, they were awesome.

  3. Kimberly says:

    I’m not keen on paying a monthly fee. I have Adidas’ Micoach and it is almost the same. It tracks my workout stats and plenty of them too. It also coaches me on my workout depending on what program I have selected. I’m using the teach me to run program. And I really is teaching me to run! I love it!!!

  4. Tora says:

    It’s interesting that the one thing we would be interested in (I’d have thought) – the How Many Calories Did I Burn question – seems to be inflated on this device. For someone who has little idea about how many calories they are burning, they could easily start munching away at extra food in the belief that their BMR is higher than it really is. D-a-n-g-e-r-o-u-s territory for someone trying to lose weight, surely?

  5. Sharon says:

    This looks tempting but …ultimately, it sounds simply too time consuming. I don’t need one more thing to obssess about. I’ll just do the “cut back” on food and exercise more thing and let it all work out how it works out. Life is too short to get too caught up in minutia.

  6. Melanie says:

    Some things about the bodybugg… I have had 3 in 3 years. Spent close to $1,000 already. Their customer service is horrible! The device itself is good and provides great feedback. But with much cheaper options out there that now do the same thing… I would go with those. What Body Media admitted to and bodybugg does not ( although they are the same thing) is that there are very few android phones that they are compatible with. Beyond frustrating to deal with them.