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Page last updated at 16:03 GMT, Friday, 18 June 2010 17:03 UK

Can gadgets help someone get fit?


Matt Roberts offers some tips for a rounded exercise routine

By LJ Rich
Reporter, BBC Click

I would like to look after myself better, but a busy lifestyle means that exercise often takes a back seat.

I do not think of spending time examining what I am eating and how much I am exercising.

So I was curious to find out to find out if my good friend - technology - could help me get fitter in just four weeks.

Each week for three weeks I tried out a different fitness aid, and fitness guru Matt Roberts gave his verdict on each product.

He started by putting me through a fitness test which revealed my ability to take on oxygen as I exercise is pretty poor, and nearly a third of me is fat.

Matt Roberts said: "She's carrying too much body fat, it needs to come down about 4 to 5% overall, she's on the upper end of the average scale.

"The heart and lungs are OK but need to be increased enormously. She's not able to take on much oxygen and therefore doing any activity would be tough," he added.

Fitness game

To measure how many calories I burned each week, I strapped a Ki Fit gadget to my arm and wore it 24 hours a day.

Syncing devices
Activity meter pedometer syncing with the Nintendo DS

The electronic device analysed my movement, heat flux from muscles, number of steps, skin response to sweat and my body temperature.

This data is sent to an online account, I had signed up for, where I could analyse it.

The first gadget I tried out for my experiment was fitness game Walk with Me for the Nintendo DS.

The game comes with a pedometer you can clip to your belt or pocket to keep track of your number of steps - you can also set yourself a daily step goal.

The device syncs up to the DS so you can keep personal records, unlock pictures and aim for mini-targets.

This was pleasant enough and unobtrusive. But I wanted to unlock more pictures and felt motivated to walk more - I didn't feel that much fitter as a result of wearing the device.

"Most people don't do exercise, it's a way of monitoring how much you are walking everyday and inspiring you to actually get off your backside and not sit still, so for most people it's a real winner," said Mr Roberts, "But it's probably at the beginner level."

Desktop gym

In the second week I tried what could be described as the 21st Century's answer to workout videos.

Virtual Gym site
The Virtual Gym site has fresh classes every week for a fee

The Virtual Gym is an online gym with a vast number of videos its 140,000 members can try out at home.

The site asks new users to fill out questionnaires before a virtual trainer recommends classes for you.

I received class recommendations and I was able to download fresh classes weekly to play back at my leisure.

I did find I needed a fair bit of space at home, discipline not to pause the instructor and the ability to see your screen from the floor.

Mr Roberts' verdict: "It's like a gym in your house and has some down sides to it like there is no-one there to correct your movements.

"For most guys it's bit too aerobics based but still quite good for the intermediate exerciser."

Mobile app

Out of all the fitness mobile phone apps I considered, the British Military Fitness's (BMF) iPhone app looks the most serious.

BMF's app
The BMF's app is based on the real classes people do around the UK

The app generates real time audio training from a virtual instructor and tries to replicate the BMF's outdoor classes that happen around the UK.

It also shows you training videos and keeps a workout history.

You may not reach the same intensity as inside the barracks, but this app is packed with enough features to vary your training each time.

Fitness trainer Matt Roberts said it the app is a good "information gatherer".

"It's got things a monitor so that it can track your heart rate, it's got an exercise log to see what you've done over time.

"It's pretty tough but that's what they offer. So it's no bad thing at all. If you are used to exercising and are prepared to work hard give it a go," he said.

So how did I do at the end of the three weeks? Well, my cardiovascular fitness is up by 18% and my body fat is down nearly 2%.

I know technology cannot replace the human touch, but as we all carry gadgets, it seems we have less of an excuse than ever before.

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