Are fitness trackers a waste of money?

Want to lose weight? Improve your cardio? Lower your blood pressure? Then don’t buy a fitness tracker. In fact, some experts claim they can “do more harm than good”. Wondering why you might have wasted money on yours? Read on…

 

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Now let’s just get one thing straight before we continue. I actually use a variety of wearable devices. I have an Apple watch which measures my daily activity, I use the Nike+ app when I go running and I use a Garmin & Strava for cycling. And it seems that I’m not alone with an estimated 20% of Americans wearing some form of tracker and around 3 million being sold in the UK each year. People use them in different ways and for a variety of reasons. Personally I want to monitor my performance and am fascinated with the data that they produce (I know, I’m a nerd). Consequently I love them all, so before you launch into a tirade along the lines of ‘this guy hates Fitbits’ in the comments section please remember not to shoot the messenger…

Now then, why have the boffins got such a downer on trackers? Well firstly, they pour scorn on the whole notion of the 10,000 steps. It seems that this has no basis in any robust scientific research. According to Dr Greg Hager who is a professor of computer science at Johns Hopkins University:

  “Turns out in 1960 in Japan they figured out that the average Japanese man, when he walked 10,000 steps a day, burned something like 3,000 calories and that is what they thought the average person should consume. So they picked 10,000 steps as a number”

In fairness, that hardly seems very scientific. Unless you are an average Japanese man who is still living in 1960. A relatively small sample size, I’m guessing.

Just last week Prof. Hager pointed out that we we cannot have a ‘one size fits all’ solution and every individual needs a bespoke fitness plan which caters specifically for their needs. He goes on to say:

“I think apps could definitely be doing more harm than good. I am sure that these apps are causing problems. Without any scientific evidence base, how do you know that any of these apps are good for you? They may even be harmful”

Harmful? Seriously? Isn’t that pushing it a tad too far? Well in support of his claim, Hager states that someone with an underlying medical condition may not necessarily be capable of achieving the 10,000 steps and it could be detrimental to their health to try.

So, is Hager out there on his own in his thinking? Well, it seems not. A 2016 study of 800 people with activity trackers was conducted in Singapore which discovered that there were no health benefits to the research subjects when compared to a control group who didn’t use a tracker. What’s more, they even added a cash incentive to increase the number of steps they took. It made absolutely no difference.

In the UK, Hager also has support from Simon Leigh, a senior health economist at Nexus Clinical Analytics who has published several studies on fitness trackers in the British Medical Journal. He said:

“Dr Hager is spot on. A GP, endocrinologist or other fitness specialist would unlikely  recommend 10,000 steps for most people. Especially given that the majority of those who download these apps are likely to be unfit and in need of improvement in the first place” 

I understand what these guys are saying but surely in a population with rising rates of obesity, we need to encourage people to do some form of exercise and activity trackers can be a strong motivator in the right hands (or should that be on the right arm?). After all, surely it is better to do 10,000 steps a day than none at all? It beats lying on the sofa eating double cheese deep pan pizza and watching The Kardashians.

Surely it also depends on what you are doing on your journey of 10,000 steps. If you are having a brisk walk around the park with your Cockerpoo then that must have some health benefits. For you and the dog. However, if it’s a pub crawl around town on a Friday night followed by a stagger down to the kebab shop then I don’t think that counts. It’s really all a matter of balance.

Depending upon the type of tracker you use valuable personal information can be measured and monitored over time including heart rate, calorie consumption and sleep patterns. The aggregation of all this big / smart data can be of use to a medical practitioner, an insurance company or even the advertising industry. The implications of this are not only fascinating but have huge business potential.

 

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A doctor could offer a prognosis on potential medical conditions saving both money and lives. Your insurance company could use your data to offer you improved premiums on health insurance in the same way that they use trackers for safe drivers on car insurance. And the ad industry can use programmatic to specifically target you with dynamic creative to offer you goods / services that are highly relevant to the individual (e.g. new running shoes in your size and favorite colors).

 

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Dr John Jakicic from the University of Pittsburgh, seems to be of the same opinion as myself. In his studies, he found that fitness trackers could form part of a series of behaviours to encourage people to lose weight or improve fitness:

“we need to be careful about relying solely on these devices. However, there is a place for these, and so we need to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater in my opinion”

So are these trackers going end up gathering dust in the garage along with other defunct fitness gadgets such as the Ab-Cruncher and Thigh-Master? Well don’t be too hasty in ditching your Fitbit just yet. Accept it for what it is and use it accordingly. Figure out an optimum level of activity for your age, size and fitness level (if you are unsure, consult an expert or just Google it). Then simply incorporate it into your weekly workout schedule.

 

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What do you think? Are these trackers really useless or do they have some merit? Do you own one and now feel cheated or does the technology really work for you? As ever, I am interested in your viewpoint.

 

 

Written By: Steve Blakeman
Source: LinkedIn

How Big Food Brands are Trying to Blunt Start-Ups

Provided by CNBC

Historically large brand name products in the supermarket have commanded more demand and higher costs. Those days, however, may be numbered.

Analysts say that as more upstarts get into the game, major food conglomerates are reacting in ways that suggest their hold on the public is slipping. That means big established food brands are being forced to innovate in new and unusual ways — and must look outside their own company in order to boost growth.

For example, Campbell’s Soup  (CPB)recently announced a $125 million venture capital (VC) fund that the company wants to invest in the “disruption” in food trends. At a recent analyst’s conference, Campbell president and CEO Denise Morrison pointed out that 400 food start-ups have absorbed more than $6 billion in funding, which raises the stakes for big consumer brands who want to remain relevant.

Observers cite several trends are at work. Consumer tastes are shifting in ways that are putting big brands on the defensive, they say.

“Consumers are becoming very distrusting of the food brands they grew up with, rejecting the artificial ingredients those foods contain,” Vani Hari, author and activist at FoodBabe.com, explained to CNBC recently. “They’re now opting for new start-ups that are putting organic, non-GMO [genetically modified] foods on the market.”

Hari said it’s easier for certain companies to buy or partner with start-ups, rather than re-engineering their products. However, although buying out smaller competitors is the time-honored way to boost market share and lure in new customers, that strategy may not always pan out if smaller companies don’t want to play along.

Last month, yogurt maker Chobani recently rejected PepsiCo’s  (PEP)offer for a stake in the company. Chobani said its independence remained a key asset to the company and brand.

From Amy’s Soup to Justin’s Peanut Butter, increasingly health-conscious consumers are eyeing upstarts that may have little to do with branding, and more to do with trust. Health conscious companies, such as Jessica Alba’s The Honest Company, have been rewarded with consumer loyalty and stratospheric valuations. After only a few years in existence, The Honest Company is already valued at nearly $2 billion.

According to Hari, organic and non-GMO food is one of the food market’s segments that continues to increase in a straight line, and big brands are taking notice. Within the last year, companies such as Tyson Food  (TSN), McDonald’s  (MCD), General Mills  (GIS), Panera Bread  (PNRA) and Campbell’s, among others, “have announced major changes to the ingredients in their food,” she said.

Yet Darren Seifer, a food and beverage industry analyst for NPD Group, said it will take time for some legacy consumer brands to regain trust. “They’ve had a reputation for so long, for being a certain way, so it will take time for them to rebrand themselves,” he said.

“For marketers, it’s not that consumers are rejecting [their] brands, it just might take five to 10 years,” he added.

In the meantime, consumers are flocking to alternative brands that embody both health and trust, such as Aloha. The company is a wellness brand that creates and sells products — like green juice powder, plant-based protein, trail mix, and protein bars — that make eating healthy affordable.

“I’d repeatedly found that it was way too complicated to figure out what was or wasn’t healthy,” Constanin Bisanz, the founder and CEO of Aloha, told CNBC. “We’re exposed to too many false claims, conflicting health advice, and misleading advertising, and so many products get called ‘healthy,’ when on a true wellness level they’re actually bad for us.”

Bisanz says the idea for his business came as a result of trying to make a healthy lifestyle more accessible to everyone.

“I knew that there had to be a better and more trustworthy solution to leaving a long-lasting and positive impact on people’s bodies and minds,” he added.

Written by Uptin Saiidi of CNBC

(Source: CNBC)

McDonald’s tests Chicken McGriddle in Ohio: Report

Provided by CNBC

McDonald’s (MCD) is reportedly testing the Chicken McGriddle, a chicken-and-pancake breakfast sandwich, in Ohio.

While the Chicken McGriddle has been offered as part of McDonald’s unofficial secret menu, Columbus Business First reported that the fast food giant is testing the item in 11 restaurants in central Ohio.

The sandwich is essentially a McChicken with maple-flavored pancakes in place of the normal buns, the publication said. The item requires testing locations to add chicken to its breakfast hours, according to Columbus Business First.

The report said the Chicken McGriddle will be available until March 27. The testing locations will experiment with two price points: $1.49 and $2, according to Columbus Business First.

The publication also reported the Chicken McGriddle test will not be supported with advertising.

McDonald’s did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNBC.

Written by Christine Wang of CNBC

(Source: MSN)

This is How Much it Actually Costs to Shop at Whole Foods

© Spencer Platt/Getty Images
© Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Whole Foods or Whole Paycheck?

Whole Foods Market Inc. is under scrutiny after a New York City investigation found that the upscale food market routinely overcharges customers. Whole Foods was recently fined $800,000 for similar practices in California.

A while back, the chain announced plans to start a sister chain of stores aimed at younger shoppers, as it seeks to ditch the “Whole Paycheck” sobriquet. Whole Foods co-founder John Mackey said the new chain will have lower prices, cost less to run and be “hip, cool, and tech-oriented.”

MarketWatch did its own sting operation to see just how high prices are. Here’s what prices look like on a random sampling of grocery items at Whole Foods, Safeway, Trader Joe’s and Target .

The prices were taken at San Francisco Bay Area grocery stores, where grocery items are about 12% higher than the national average according to 2010 Census data. Safeway prices were calculated based on Club Price, which is free to shoppers who sign up. All prices were based on sale price, if applicable.

Bananas

Whole Foods: 99 cents per pound

Safeway: 79 cents per pound

Trader Joe’s: 19 cents each (approximately 73 cents per pound based on average weight of a banana)

Target: 24 cents each (approximately 92.4 cents per pound based on average weight of a banana)

Winner: Trader Joe’s

You could buy 1.36 Trader Joe’s bananas for the cost of one Whole Foods banana.

Chips

Whole Foods: $2.69 per 8.5 ounce bag (approximately 31 cents per ounce)

Safeway: $3 per 8.5 ounce bag (35 cents per ounce)

Trader Joe’s: $1.99 per 10 ounce bag (19.9 cents per ounce)

Target: $2.99 per 8 ounce bag (37 cents per ounce)

Winner: Trader Joe’s

You could buy 1.63 ounces of Trader Joe’s chips for the cost of one ounce of Kettle Brand Potato Chips at Whole Foods.

Peanut Butter

Whole Foods: $2.79 per 16 ounce jar (17.4 cents per ounce)

Safeway: $1.79 per 16 ounce jar (11.2 cents per ounce)

Trader Joe’s: $2.49 per 16 ounce jar (15.56 cents per ounce)

Target: $2.39 per 18 ounce jar (13.28 cents per ounce)

Winner: Safeway

You could buy 1.55 ounces of Safeway peanut butter for the cost of one ounce of Whole Foods peanut butter.

Shredded Cheddar Cheese

Whole Foods: $6.99 per 12 ounce bag (58.25 cents per ounce)

Safeway: $2.50 per 8 ounce bag (31.3 cents per ounce)

Trader Joe’s: $4.29 per 12 ounce bag (35.75 cents per ounce)

Target: $6.29 per 16 ounce bag (39.31 cents per ounce)

Winner: Safeway

You could buy 1.86 ounces of Safeway cheese for the cost of one ounce of Whole Foods cheese.

Skim milk

Whole Foods: $2.29 per half gallon

Safeway: $2.49 per half gallon

Trader Joe’s: $1.99 per half gallon

Target: $1.69 per half gallon

Winner: Target

You could buy 1.35 half gallon cartons of milk at Target for the cost of one carton of milk at Whole Foods.

Canned artichoke hearts

Whole Foods: $2.99 per 14 ounce jar (21.36 cents per ounce)

Safeway: $2.99 per 13.75 ounce jar (21.74 cents per ounce)

Trader Joe’s: $2.29 per 14 ounce jar (16.35 cents per ounce)

Target: $3.29 per 14 ounce jar (23.5 cents per ounce)

Winner: Trader Joe’s

You could buy 1.3 cans of Trader Joe’s artichoke hearts for the price of one can at Whole Foods.

Kashi GoLean Crisp! Toasted Berry Crumble flavored cereal (14 ounce box)

Whole Foods: $3.29 (normally $4.39)

Safeway: $3.50

Trader Joe’s: $3.69

Target: $4.29

Winner: Whole Foods (if on sale)

Mac and Cheese

Whole Foods: $1.50 (if two boxes are purchased)

Safeway: $1.25

Trader Joe’s: $0.99

Target: $1.25 (if three boxes are purchased)

Winner: Trader Joe’s

You could buy 1.52 boxes of Trader Joe’s Mac and Cheese for the cost of one box of Annie’s at Whole Foods.

Organic Carrots (1 pound bag)

Whole Foods: $1.99

Safeway: $1.99

Trader Joe’s: $1.49

Target: $2.14

Winner: Trader Joe’s

You could buy 1.34 bags of Organic Carrots from Trader Joe’s rather than from Whole Foods.

Hummus

Whole Foods: $2.39 per 8 ounce jar (29.88 cents per ounce)

Safeway: $2.99 per 10 ounce jar (29.9 cents per ounce)

Trader Joe’s: $2.99 per 10 ounce jar (29.9 cents per ounce)

Target: $3.19 per 10 ounce jar (31.9 cents per ounce)

Winner: Whole Foods

Written by Sally French and Jessica Marmor Shaw of MarketWatch

(Source: MarketWatch)