With everything in our lives becoming connected, it only makes sense that the stuff in our bathrooms would follow suit. Smart scales are the most prominent connected device in that room of the house, and there are plenty to choose from. Connected smart scales sync with different apps on your smartphone to help you keep track of weight fluctuations and loss, body fat, and other health concerns. [Read more…]
Samsung’s entry into the wireless earbud market was an interesting one with the Samsung IconX. While these earbuds have since been discontinued by Samsung, you can still purchase the remainders and refurbished ones.
We get a lot of questions about the reliability and worth of refurbished electronics. We can honestly say that the IconX’s are still a relatively new product and not by any means outdated. You really won’t be able to tell the difference between new and refurbished.
These earbuds have polarized their customers for a couple of reasons, but we’ll look at what makes the IconX a good product for the ultimate multi-tasker. In a day and age where everyone is splitting up where they store their music and fitness information, some people want to condense the number of smart devices they wear.
The heart-shaped earbuds include small wingtips on top to help them better fit the curvature of your ear. They lack the over ear strap that keeps most wireless earbuds in place, but some people have the preference for straight in-ear buds. Their size makes them accessible and less cumbersome that wireless earphones that have straps or require cords between them.
The traveling case that the earbuds come in actually doubles as a charging system. The case itself is pretty small as well, so it’s not like it’ll take up much space wherever you take it.
- Connects to Samsung S Health app (plus 3rd party apps)
- 4GB music storage
- Sweat/water resistant
The music library that is stored on the IconX’s allows for upwards of 4.6 hours of total battery life while streaming gives you around 1.5 hours. These timetables make the IconX the i
deal high-intensity earbuds. If you like longer workouts, you’ll be pushing the battery life to the limit, but otherwise, you should be fine.
- If you keep the battery case on you or close by, you can have the IconX’s recharged in a similar amount of time.
The IconX’s are touch sensitive. The primary bud can be alternated (for Android/Samsung users) through its associated app. You might be asking why you need such touch sensitivity but this is the only way you can change the onboard modes:
- Ambient sound (to be better aware of your environment)
- Pickup/reject calls
- There are mics in bothearphones, but you’ll have to answer by pressing the primary one.
- Play music
The IconX’s are a pretty innovative set of earbuds, but running music alongside fitness tracking software is overall draining on the earbuds battery. The battery life is probably the biggest complaint against the IconX. When compared to the various smartwatches, wireless earbuds, and phone apps that can all last well beyond three hours, it’s easy to look past the IconX’s.
There’s a common misconception out there that the IconX’s are not compatible with iOS. This is not true to some extent. You can connect the earphones to your iPhone and play music, but the fitness apps that a
re exclusive to Samsung/Android phones will not be usable.
- Similarly, the iOS fitness apps will not be usable because the operating systems between Android/Samsung/Apple are just not compatible with each other. This would lead many iOS users to beg the question of why they would need the IconX if they can just purchase normal earbuds and go with a smartwatch or normal fitness tracker.
- You can, but the IconX still retains its multitasking, multi-feature abilities that are more geared towards Android/Samsung customers.
Additionally, the music library plays at random, meaning that you cannot fast forward or skip to a song that you want.
The IconX’s are getting an overall mixed reception from the fitness community, which may indicate why they are now discontinued. This is also to make way for the latest update of the IconX, the Gear IconX 2018 Edition.
Despite a notable list of drawbacks, none of them specifically have to do with technical problems within the IconX’s. They more have to do with what the IconX comes with when you purchase them.
You should buy the IconX’s if-
- You enjoy short workouts/runs
- You are a frequent Samsung/Android customer
- In-ear earbud user
- Enjoy the randomness of your music library
You should look for other earbuds if-
- Your workouts are longer than 1.5 hours
- Not a Samsung/Android customer
Breathing has a lot more to do with physical fitness than you realize. You’ve certainly heard by now to take great inhales and exhales when lifting large amounts of weight. This is to ensure that your lungs get the maximum amount of oxygen to power you through those couple second lifts.
Taking deep breaths and stretching your entire body doesn’t just work in the weight room, but in your own home or workplace. Successful breathing techniques don’t mean that you’re taking big gulps of air. Stress management through controlled breathing improves your overall output across the board.
Furthermore, utilizing different muscles and parts of your body increases the range of motion in your lungs.Here are some examples of great breathing techniques. The key with these techniques is consistency and the limitation of stress.
For Clogged Nostrils
For those of us with chronic nasal allergies or sicknesses, many of these exercises can be tricky or even tiresome. We all know how annoying it is to breathe through only one nostril while other one is swollen shut.
While you should always adhere to what your doctor or physician has to say about your condition, there are a couple of things you can do to help clear your nostrils for the time being:
- Saline rinse
- Allows saline mixed water to rinse the nostrils clean
- Blowing your nose
- Much better than just wiping your nose
- Trimming nose hairs
- Allows air to travel through the nostrils unimpeded
Health Benefits of Routine Breathing
Stress, breath, exercise, mentality, and physicality are all interlinked in complex ways. The mind and body have more to do with each other than most of us would realize. That’s why its so important to make sure that your mind and body are on the same track.
Controlling your out of control breath can lead to notable changes in your behavior and stress level. If you are sensitive and quick to anger, these techniques can slow your heart rate and prevent reactions that no one really wants to see. The key with these techniques is consistency and the limitation of stress:
- Controlled breathing can help you hold more in your lungs and control how much you expend. If you are a swimmer or free diver, these techniques will be great for your training.
One’s blood pressure is the rate of which blood pumps in and around the heart. No doubt we’ve all heard the T.V.’s and radios telling us to be wary of high blood pressure and rightfully so. Chronic high blood pressure can lead to cardiovascular disease or even strokes.
Breathing techniques like the ones we’ll discuss below have been proven to regulate blood pressure. You should always have a professional check up on you, but controlled breathing slows your heart rate and leads to an overall lower blood pressure (within safe limits).
COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) is an illness that makes you feel like you’re unable to take a deep, satisfying breath. For some this is irritating but for others, it can be dangerous. The inability to take a deep breath may feel like you’re unable to breathe at all and can lead to panic or anxiety attacks. Because you feel short of breath, your body resorts to using abdominal and chest muscles to take in and expel air. This will leave much of your upper body feeling chronically sore.
So if COPD is leaving you short of breath, what can you do?
COPD won’t be completely eliminated without medication or proper treatment. While you shouldn’t actively avoid treating COPD, the following exercises can alleviate the pressure of COPD on your daily life:
Much of our core power comes from our abdominal region, and focusing our power there will regulate breath to an extent. Put one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest while breathing through your nose. The goal is to prevent the chest from protruding so the diaphragm is inflated, thus stretching the lungs.
- 6-10 breaths a minute for ten minutes. This type of exercise will reduce your heart rate and is best for imminent situations like tests, exams, or interviews. Keep up this exercise for the next eight weeks and you’ll definitely be able to see the difference in your recurrent stress levels.
Alternate Nostril Breathing
As the name suggests, you’ll be covering one nostril at a time to regulate the flow of air through your nose.
- Take a finger big enough to completely close off your right nostril and then breath through your left nostril.
- Use one of your ring fingers to close off the left nostril and then exhale through the right.
- Switch up the process so you are inhaling through the right and exhaling through the left.
This is a common yoga breathing exercise because it forces you to use both sides of your brain. Call it symmetrical or in balance if you will. If you are a notorious mouth breather, then utilizing your nostrils will give you greater flexibility in the ways your lungs get air.
You may already do this technique involuntarily after exercising, but its good to practice it properly. The pursed lips technique is pretty much conducted like its name indicates.
- Breathe in through the nose.
- Exhale through pursed lips (slowly).
What does this method do? For one thing, it slows down your breathing and forces you to use both your nose and mouth. If you were using just the nose or the mouth, you may feel that your breathing is labored or your lungs aren’t inflating all the way.
This exercise is similar to abdominal but relies more on your own counting and pacing. The key outcome with this technique is regulation of breath if you feel your heart rate pick up or when your stress levels are high.
- Place one hand on your abdomen and the other on your chest.
- Take 4 seconds to breathe in.
- Hold for 7 seconds.
- Exhale slowly for 8 seconds.
You should repeat this exercise until you can completely empty your lungs of air by the eighth second.
This exercise is seen a lot in meditative seminars and yoga exercises. Most people claim that it raises their alertness and keeps their mind alert and aware of their surroundings. You see, breathing steadily doesn’t just lower your heart rate, but gets your brain out of its exhausted state and back on track.
Inhale and exhale quickly through your nose while keeping your mouth closed. Try to keep breaths as short but comfortable as possible but equal in duration.
- Repeat this process around 15 times in a session.
Users of this technique prefer it to chugging an energy drink or coffee.
Something you should make note of is that you’ll not feel results right away. With any exercise—patience and consistency are the primary themes. For those who are actively treating their illnesses with these techniques, it can be easy to scrap the idea when you don’t feel better right away.
However, stress is cause for a multitude of problems both physical and psychological. Tempering your stress will lead to an overall greater state of mind.
These days, it’s rare to find wearable fitness tech that doesn’t have a built-in heart rate monitor. Many of the big names in wearable tech have made huge leaps in the technology they use to track heart rates; as such, it’s fair to say that most devices will be pretty accurate.
For many athletes, runners, or fitness buffs, a standard optical HR works fine and that ability isn’t the deciding factor in which device to buy. Others, however, want the best in HR technology – whether it’s for training or for health purposes. For you all, we’ve created this review of the best heart rate monitors on the market.
Best HR Monitors
There are two main types of heart rate monitors: wrist-based (such as fitness trackers and sports watches) and chest straps. Chest straps measure heart rate via electrical pulse, and tend to be regarded as more accurate. Wrist-based uses something called optical technology, though many of the best rely on more than just that.
We’ll get into the technical aspects a bit later. First, let’s look at our picks for the top devices you can buy.
Best Chest Straps
Polar H10 Heart Rate Sensor (Our #1 Pick)
The H10 by Polar is the updated version of the well-loved H7. It boasts improved algorithms and interference prevention, as well as internal memory and Bluetooth connectivity. The H10 is versatile and comfortable, and Polar is known for consistent and accurate readings. In addition, it stays put and hidden under your clothes.
The Wahoo TICKR X goes beyond heart rate tracking and offers additional data on your movement. It’s highly compatible, works with nearly every fitness app out there, and offers consistent feedback on your health and workouts.
The app isn’t the best out there, but fortunately it is both easy to navigate and efficient. It’s an especially good option for those who prefer to run and cycle in the gym.
Best Sport Watches
Garmin Forerunner 235 (Top Pick)
The Garmin Forerunner series of sports watches has legions of fans, and for good reason. They are designed specifically for runners and extreme athletes. Thus, they are durable and offer all the data you need to train harder and run further.
For a watch, the Forerunner 235 does a great job tracking heart rate. For even more heart rate data, you can easily pair it with a Garmin chest strap. There are more expensive and cheaper models of the Forerunner, but we like the 235 for its price, comfort, and usability.
The TomTom Spark 3 is a relatively affordable running watch with a lot of perks. There are different versions of the Spark (be sure to get the Cardio version for heart rate tracking) so you can tack on music storage if you’re seeking a sports watch that will let you leave your phone at home on your run.
TomTom is a less conspicuous brand in the world of sports watches, but they do a good job of offering tech that is accurate, designs that are comfortable, and an interface that’s easy to use.
Related: Full review of the TomTom Spark
Best HR Fitness Trackers
Fitbit Charge 2 (Top Pick)
The Fitbit Charge 2 has been a favorite of ours (in many categories) since it came out. We have to keep up the trend when it comes to HR fitness trackers, too. The Charge 2 offers continual heart rate monitoring, so you can always see your current heart rate and get a look at your averages.
As with any wrist-based HR monitor, there may be some errors at high intensity or during longer runs. However, for the most part, Fitbit’s HR tracking technology has improved significantly with each new device. You can be confident that your readings are typically correct.
Related: Our full Charge 2 review
Garmin makes another appearance on our list with this Vivosmart 3, a lightweight, understated fitness tracker with great HR capability. One feature we really like that heart rate monitoring contributes to is stress tracking – the Vivosmart 3 is an excellent device for someone trying to improve their overall wellness.
Wearing this and other bands correctly is key to getting accurate HR data. It should stay put on your wrist (not sliding around) and sit about a finger’s width below your wrist bone. For runners and other athletes, it’s especially important to be sure the device is snug (but not too tight!).
Related: We reviewed the Vivosmart 3 here
While these are the most common heart rate monitors available, there are a few other options as well. They may not seem be quite as accurate as some of the devices we’ve just discussed, but actually some of them are more accurate. Plus, these other styles may make more sense for your needs.
There are actually quite a few wireless earbuds on the market that will give you heart rate tracking. Your ear is a good place to get an accurate read – most of the HR earbuds use the same kind of sensors. Some studies have shown that measuring your heart rate from your ear is significantly more accurate than your wrist.
However, most of the earbuds with HR monitoring have not received great reviews. And, they can be very expensive. Several of the models have decreased in price since they first hit the market, but you’re still going to be spending over $100 no matter which pair you pick.
Even though the pricing may seem steep, good wireless earbuds are often over $100 these days. Most heart rate monitors are at or above that price point as well. Considering all that, you might say that HR earbuds are actually pretty cost effective.
As we mentioned, many of the models have not thrilled consumers. The best reviewed HR earbuds are the Bose SoundSport headphones; they are also the most expensive. These have excellent sound quality and pair easily with devices. You can use these earbuds with most fitness apps, but they also have their own Bose Connect app.
Why a Heart Rate Monitor?
Heart rate monitoring is important to a few different populations of people. While you can workout and get through your days just fine without knowing your BPM, it can be useful information in a few different cases.
Runners use HR training to run faster, train for marathons, learn to recover better, and more. There are a number of workouts and methods for tracking and training your heart rate. Typically, runners or athletes that are using HR tech for training purposes want the most accurate number as possible, so chest straps are the most popular tool for this. HIIT workouts also rely on heart rate.
There are differing accounts and studies that discuss the benefits (or lack thereof) of working out in the so-called “fat burning zone.” However, many who are looking to lose weight utilize HR monitoring to hit that zone. Fitbit lets you know when you’re in the zone, making it a useful tool.
For some cardiac patients or individuals looking to improve their heart health, HR trackers can be useful devices to keep an eye on things day to day. You should always check with your doctor first for recommended devices and to get their take on how to utilize an HR monitor. With your doctor’s guidance, an HR device can be incredibly useful for monitoring your resting and active heart rate, and for living a healthier lifestyle overall.
Some devices give you information related to stress (like the Garmin Vivosmart 3), but even without dedicated data about stress, using a heart rate monitor can help you watch for times when you are stressed or anxious. It can also help you understand trends and what tends to stress you out by showing you an overview of your day’s heart behavior.
What to Look For
As we mentioned above, be sure you’re under the guidance of your physician if you are seeking a heart rate monitor for heart health purposes. Your doctor will likely have recommendations for which devices are best for your particular situation.
When seeking a heart rate monitor, you probably want to consider accuracy as one of the key features of the device. As I said above, most wearable tech is advanced and can give you fairly accurate results. There are plenty of articles available online which provide comparisons of devices, with ECG measurements as the baseline to which to compare.
Regardless of the device you choose, you will want to note that nearly every device experiences deviations from actual BPM during activity – especially intense activity. Many dedicated athletes use both a watch and a chest strap to get more precise readings.
Another important consideration is connectivity and pairing. Some devices only work with certain devices or operating systems. For example, Apple Watches only work with iPhones, and some Android Wear watches only work with Android phones.
Additionally, adding something like a chest strap to a fitness tracker means accounting for that kind of connectivity, too. For example, watches and fitness trackers that use ANT+ will only work with ANT+ chest straps.
Related to that is connectivity to your favorite app, if needed. If you are picking up a chest strap or earbuds, for example, you’ll want to either check out the app it comes with or ensure it will integrate with the fitness app you already use.
Of course, none of this matters if you don’t find it to be comfortable. Watches and fitness trackers have to sit snugly (but not too tightly) against your wrist in order to have the best chance for accurate readings. It’s worth it to read the manufacturer’s information about how and where to wear the device.
Chest straps are notoriously uncomfortable, but some are more comfortable than others. Read reviews from athletes who are doing the same activities as you to get a sense of which one might be best for you.
Focusing on your health and wellness means a whole lot more than making sure you work out and eat your veggies. Fitness is a mindset, and it’s one that demands attention. To be healthy, you need to develop healthy habits and stick to them every day.
Developing and sticking to better habits isn’t as tough as it sounds. There are lots of small changes you can make that will help you to live a fuller, fitter life. Here are some ideas to help you live a healthier lifestyle every day.
Sleep Better (Really!)
I know, I know, I know. You’re tired of being told to sleep more. The thing is, though, sleep is pretty darn magical. A few years ago, I made a conscious effort to sleep more and to develop a sleep schedule. I stuck to it and have seen a world of difference in my health. I’m not going to tell you it’s easy, but I am going to tell you that I don’t think there’s anything else you can do that can revolutionize your health as much as sleeping better can.
Here’s what I mean by sleeping better:
- Going to bed and waking up around the same time every day (even weekends)
- Ensuring you are getting the amount of sleep you need (I need 8 hours, but your perfect amount will depend on you)
- Being protective of your sleep habits
- Correcting issues that are interfering with your sleep
Your body needs to go through the sleep cycles and be in deep sleep for certain periods of time. Experts say lots of different things about how long and how cycles work, but the key takeaway for you is that you need an extended period of uninterrupted sleep.
Here are a few tips on how to sleep better:
- Reduce blue light exposure at night – try to stay off your electronics for one hour before bed
- Stop all caffeine consumption by early afternoon – 2 p.m. is a good rule of thumb
- Turn down the thermostat for bedtime – we sleep better when its cool
- Consider your bedroom – make sure it’s dark enough at night and that you are comfortable
There are lots of ways you can focus on better sleep habits, and they will absolutely make a big difference in your life. You might consider tracking your sleep for a week or so to figure out exactly what your habits are and where you can improve. Sleep trackers are a good option, too, if you’re curious to know how often you’re waking up at night or how much you’re actually sleeping.
Increase Activity Levels and Exercise Regularly
Obviously exercising is important to fitness and to living a healthier lifestyle, but it’s easy to get caught up in other things and get off track. Exercising regularly and habitually is the best way to ensure you’re getting it done. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go to the gym every day – that just isn’t practical for a lot of people. It does mean making a conscious decision to do something on a regular basis. Some examples and tips are:
- Practicing yoga each morning
- Going for a run certain mornings each week
- Hitting up the trails at least one weekend day a week
- Keep it varied so you don’t get bored
- Find a buddy to hold you accountable
In addition, be sure to make a focused effort to simply increase activity levels. I love my fitness tracker for this – I always want to hit my steps, so it’s a huge motivator to keep me moving throughout the day. Other ideas to keep you moving:
- Park far away from your destination and force yourself to walk
- Go for a stroll on your lunch hour
- Sign up for a marathon (or half marathon or a 5k) and start training
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator
- Get a dog (or walk your neighbors if you can’t!)
One key to being more active is simply being aware of your inactivity. Once you see how much you’re not moving, it’s easy to motivate yourself to do more. And it makes a big difference in your overall health and wellness.
Pay Attention to Your Intake
To live healthier, you absolutely must do these two things:
- Drink water
- Eat healthy
Yes, it’s boring to talk about and sure, you’ve heard it a million times, but I’m going to say it again. You have to drink lots of water. You have to be mindful of what you eat.
I recommend paying attention to your intake for the first little while. There are plenty of apps that will let you log your food, but an old-fashioned journal and pen works just fine, too. It’s super easy to notice your water intake as well – just keep track of how often you’re filling your water bottle.
Obviously there will be days when you splurge, and obviously, you won’t drink as much water as you should each and every day. However, paying attention and making good decisions about your food and liquid intake more often than not will lead to a healthier life.
Address the Stress
Stress is toxic, and living a healthy life just isn’t possible if you are being run ragged by stress. Sure, there are plenty of stressors we simply can’t avoid. And, if you work in a high-stress job, I know I can’t tell you to just get over it. But no matter what your circumstances, you can find ways to address and reduce some stress.
In some cases, stress comes from relationships or commitments. And, in many of those cases, it is a healthy move to change those circumstances – walking away from toxic relationships, easing up on commitments, or simply carving more time for yourself. Whatever you can do to change the stress that comes from commitments you don’t need, do it! I promise the world will keep turning if you tell the PTO that you can’t be involved in ALL the fundraisers this year.
In situations where the stress cannot be cut out, it’s worth it to take some time and determine how you might alleviate some of it. Whether you learn some breathing techniques or find a therapist, or whether you carefully shift some of your work responsibilities or take a vacation, there are ways to handle your stress better. Centering self-care and stress reduction is a key way to live a healthier lifestyle. For some, it feels indulgent, but the fact of the matter is, you are not at your best when you are too stressed.
These are just a few of the ways you can introduce healthy habits into your routine. What are your healthy habits? Tell me in the comments below!