- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 31, 2005

PITTSBURGH - Forget just feeling the burn. Some people tired of the treadmill and frustrated with food diaries are turning to pricey gadgets that can help them see the burn.

Companies such as Nike, Polar Electro and Timex that offer gadgets such as pedometers and heart monitors to help people fine-tune their workouts have started adding calorie counters and special Web sites.

Researchers say the calorie-counting gadgets are far from 100 percent accurate but better than the guesswork most people use.

“It seems simple, if you expend enough calories, as many as you consume, you won’t gain weight. But it’s not easy for the average person to know — how many calories I’m using in that workout, that aerobic dance class I just did,” said Janet Rankin of the Institute for Biomedical and Public Health Sciences at Virginia Tech.

“In general, people are going to overestimate. … I think these kind of tools can provide a little bit of a reality check and serve as a marker for improvement,” she said.

The arm bands, chest straps and wrist bands try to offer a glimpse of information that typically can be seen only in a lab. The calorie counters are based on two methods researchers use: how much oxygen is being used and how much heat is being produced.

Most of the calorie counters on the market use a chest strap to measure heart rate. While exercising, the harder the heart works, the more oxygen is used and the more calories burned.

Timex has nine digital heart monitors with calorie monitors, ranging from the $70 5C351 Digital Heart Rate Monitor to the $90 Ironman Triathlon. Most of Polar Electro’s heart monitors also calculate calorie burn. Polar’s newest F-series models range from $89.99 to $159.99.

Nike has at least three heart rate monitors that try to count calories, including the $99 Imara HRM and SDM Tailwind and the $109 Triax C-6.

The Bodybugg, the latest gadget, uses a different method. It has sensors that measure skin temperature, its electrical conductivity and how much heat someone’s body is producing and losing. (It doesn’t have a heart monitor, but the manufacturer, BodyMedia, is working on a way to measure heart rate through the upper arm).

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