Katherine Boehret

A Health Monitor That Gets You Up and Moving

Here come the holidays—and with them the extra pounds from family feasts, eggnog and gingerbread. Rather than wait to make a New Year’s resolution to get in shape, one technology product might get people off the couch and moving now. It’s appropriately named Up.

This health-monitoring band is one tech product I’ve put off testing because I didn’t think I had enough time to use it. Nor was I thrilled about wearing a band on my wrist round-the-clock for a week straight. But I realized loads of people who are too busy to track their movement, sleep and nutrition habits could benefit from this gadget. The reason? It works even if you do little more than wear it.

The first version of Up, by Jawbone, was released over a year ago but had hardware problems, causing the company to pause production and issue full refunds to many users. Competitors abound, including the $149 Nike+ FuelBand, $100 Fitbit One and $150 Larklife.

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The $130 Up by Jawbone, shown intact (left) and stripped to its innards (right), tracks movement and sleep.

The Up band, which costs $130 and can be bought online or in stores like Apple, Best Buy and AT&T, corresponds with a free iOS app. (An Android app is in the works.) There is no Up browser software. The Up band offloads its data when plugged into the headphone jack of an iOS device, and I found that using this physical connection and watching the data load was a fun, quick experience. Using a physical plug for syncing, rather than a power-draining Bluetooth wireless connection, also means the band’s battery can last for 10 days.

Jawbone suggests syncing the Up twice a day, but I plugged mine in more often, excited to see how many steps I took in a workout or how well I slept.

During setup of the Up app, users enter their gender, weight, height and birthday so the device can more accurately estimate how many calories you’ve burned throughout a day. The Up band has built-in sensors that track your movements, whether you’re walking, running, sitting idle or sleeping—including when you fall asleep, when you wake and whether you’re in light or deep sleep. It also vibrates, a feature that can be used as an “Idle Alert” to notify you if you’ve sat still for a certain length of time, say 15 minutes, or as a silent alarm. It even knows to wake someone during light, not deep sleep, because that person will wake feeling more refreshed. The app will wake you up to 30 minutes ahead of your set time to catch you at the optimal sleep stage.

I had planned to test the Up as a more passive user, letting it track my steps and sleep habits without me doing very much, but I was quickly hooked on adding data manually. This included adding workouts that weren’t tracked, such as my 15-minute abdominal workout, and entering information about what I ate and drank.

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Plugging the band into an iPhone’s headphone jack syncs data with the Up app. Details of a night’s rest include the amount of time spent in light- and deep-sleep stages.
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Charts in the app show users’ movements each day and over time.

I found food entry to be a weak spot in the Up. Specific foods weren’t always easy to find in the app, or I cooked the food myself, making it a challenge to enter all of its ingredients. I wound up entering broad categories of food, like “whole wheat spaghetti,” rather than entering all of the accompanying veggies, meaning I didn’t get an accurate overall picture of my diet. And the Up app could do a better job of identifying what each color means in the charts that measure your movement and sleep; as of now, you have to guess that red indicates intense movement and yellow means less intense movement. I also wasn’t gung-ho about the app’s mood indicator, which displays a smiley face that you can change to reflect your current mood.

The Up band isn’t a heart monitor, nor does it have a display for seeing things like the current time (if you wanted to use it as a watch) or the number of steps taken.

Wearing the Up band can cramp your style, kind of like wearing sneakers with a business suit. Its sporty, rubber exterior goes with some clothing, but not most of my outfits. It was comfortable enough on my wrist that I barely noticed the way it felt after just a day, even while I was sleeping—though it was a little odd to keep on in the shower. I tested the Up in onyx color; it’s also available in light blue and mint green with five more colors coming early next year.

If you need a digital kick in the pants that makes you more conscious of your body, Up will give it to you. I found myself walking to the farthest bathroom in my office to log more steps, drinking water instead of soda because I knew I’d add it to my food log later, and standing up to walk around nearly every time my Up’s Idle Alert went off.

At first, the Up’s iOS app can be a bit overwhelming because it’s loaded with features. The app sets goals for you according to World Health Organization guidelines, like eight hours of sleep a night and 10,000 steps a day, and shows the average met by most Up users. You can change these settings, but I kept mine at the WHO average. I felt a boost of pride when I met and surpassed daily goals.

Before going to sleep each night, I pressed and held a button on the Up that illuminated a tiny moon on the band, indicating I was going to sleep. In the morning, I pressed the button again and saw a snowflake, indicating that I was awake. This manual press on the Up helps the app to know when you first lie down in bed, so it can measure how long it takes for you to fall asleep. I used the Up’s silent alarm and it woke me 10 minutes before the time I set because I was in light sleep.

I was glad to learn that my brisk 15-minute walk to and from the subway each morning is over 4,000 steps. And after working at a Christmas bazaar, I synced my Up with my iPhone and found out that I walked 11,100 steps—passing my daily step goal in the time of the bazaar. When I woke up twice in the middle of one night, my Up band recorded this and gave me a cheeky tip about sleep the next day. The tip was titled, “Was It Good For You?” I created a “Team” with two other users, allowing us to share whichever stats we chose. We commented on each other’s progress, and it gave me a feeling of camaraderie.

Up gives people the flexibility to engage with it as much or as little as they want. If you’d rather not take the time to sync, the band can store up to nine months of data between syncs. Although the Up band isn’t always fashionable, it will make people more conscious of what their bodies are doing each day.

Write to Katherine Boehret at katie.boehret@wsj.com


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