Physical Activity Monitor

A physical activity monitor (also referred to as activity monitor or sports monitor ; in English, activity tracker 1 ) is an electronic device or implementation to measure the intensity and amount of physical activity performed by a person such Distance or run distance, consumption and calorie expenditure , and in some cases, heart rate and quality of sleep . The goal of the monitor is to increase the motivation of its user and allow him to improve his performance.

The term is now used primarily to refer to dedicated electronic monitoring devices that are synchronized , in many cases wireless, to a computer or smart phone for long-term data tracking. This is an example of portable technology .

The term is also used to refer to applications on smart phones and Facebook applications 2 .


An electronic coach can measure steps , movements at night, heartbeats and many other things. It uses various ways to inform and motivate its user as notifications of inactivity, rewards, awakenings, challenges among friends, tips, and monthly graphs of activities.

The accelerometer of the electronic trainer calculates the steps as a pedometer . It helps the user to reach the 10,000 daily steps recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) 3 .

Some electronic trainers follow the quality of sleep by analyzing the movements during the night. Some electronic trainers also follow the diet and weight to help the user achieve his goals 3 .


Today, the term physical activity monitor refers mainly to portable devices that measure the intensity and amount of physical activity performed by an individual. The concept was born from newspapers written that led to computer logs type spreadsheet in which entries were made manually, as the papers available to the United States by the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports ( President’s Council on Physical fitness and Sports  (en) ) under the President of the Challenge ( the President’s Challenge  (in) ) 4 .

Technological improvements in the late 20 th and early 21 th century helped to automate the tracking and recording of physical activities and integrate them in portable equipment. The first examples include bike computers the size of a wristwatch , available at least in the early 1990s, which record speed, duration, distance traveled, and so on. Portable heart rate monitors were available to athletes in 1981 5 . Portable activity monitors, including wireless heart rate monitoring monitors incorporated into fitness equipment,

Electronic physical activity monitors are basically improved versions of pedometers ; In addition to counting the steps, they use accelerometers , altimeters and various other sensors to calculate the distance traveled, make graphs of overall physical activity, calculate caloric expenditure, and in some cases monitor and heart rate and The quality of sleep 6 , 7 , 8 . Some more recent models are approaching the US definition of a Class II medical monitor,

The first monitors such as the original Fitbit (2009), were worn hanging at size 6 . Subsequently, formats monitors have diversified to include bracelets , the armbands and small appliances that can be hooked anywhere 10 . Apple and Nike have developed the Nike + iPod , a shoe equipped with a sensor that works with an iPod Nano .

In addition, physical activity tracking applications exist for smart phones and Facebook 8 . The Nike + system now works without the shoe sensor, using the GPS of a smart phone. The shows Apple and other smart watches offer similar functions 9 .

In the United States , BodyMedia  (in) has developed a disposable monitor that is worn for a week and that aims to inform health care providers, insurance companies or employers of the physical condition of their clients or their employees 11 .

The Jawbone company, through its product UP for Groups , gathers and anonymizes the data collected by the monitors employed a company to allow the company to know the physical condition of its employees while preserving the confidentiality of the results 12 . Other activity monitors specialize in monitoring vital signs of the elderly , of epilepsy or people with sleep problems and alert a caregiver when they detect a problem 9 .

The earpieces and headsets are better tools to measure certain data, including core body temperature. The company Valencell  (in) has developed sensors that take their readings in the ear rather than the wrist , the arm , or size 13 .

There are even activity monitors mounted on dog collars 14 , 15 , 16 .

Much of the attractiveness of activity monitors and what makes them highly effective in improving personal shape comes from transforming physical activity into play and from the social dimension of sharing outcomes through networks And the resulting rivalry 6 , 8 , 17 , 18 . The device can then be used as a means of identification to a community 19 .

Notes and references

  • ( In ) This article is partially or entirely from the article in English entitled ” Activity Tracker ” ( see the list of authors ) .
  1. ↑ Terminology record of physical activity monitor [ archive ] on the site of the Grand dictionnaire terminologique of the Office québécois de la langue française
  2. ↑ Menaspà P. Effortless activity tracking with Google Fit.  [ Archive ] Br J Sports Med. 2015
  3. a and b Article entitled “Choosing an electronic coach  [ archive ]
  4. ↑ “Governor Rell’s Committee on Physical Fitness to Respond to President’s Challenge”  [ archive ] , Press release, Stamford Plus , April 2, 2008.
  5. ↑ “Olympic Medical Institute Validates Polar RS800 Running Computer And Training System”  [ archive ] , Polar, November 7, 2006, retrieved February 25, 2014, archived  [ archive ] February 25, 2014.
  6. a , b and c Jeff Beckham, “Fitness Trackers Use Psychology to Motivate Couch Potatoes”  [ archive ] , Wired , April 19, 2012.
  7. ↑ Jill Duffy, “The Best Activity Trackers for Fitness”  [ archive ] , PC Magazine , May 22, 2013.
  8. a , b and c Caroline McCarthy, “Work out, get on scale … tell your friends?”  [ Archive ] , CNET, July 21, 2010.
  9. a , b and c Dan Holden, “Worn Out: The Dark Side of Wearable Technology,” Metro Silicon Valley , September 24, 2014, pp. 16-18.
  10. ↑ ( in ) Danny Sullivan, ” The test begins: My life with oven activity trackers, fitness bands [ archive ] , CNET,.
  11. ↑ “CES: Track your activity level, get cheaper health insurance?”  [ Archive ] , Stream, Consumer Electronics Show , MarketWatch, The Wall Street Journal , January 10, 2013.
  12. ↑ “Tracker shares clothes with your work”  [ archive ] , Technology, BBC News, January 7, 2015 (video).
  13. ↑ David Z. Morris, “Forget the iWatch. Headphones Are The original wearable tech”  [ archive ] , Fortune , June 24, 2014.
  14. ↑ “Whistle wearable technology for dogs lets owners monitor pet activity”  [ archive ] , De Zeen , May 14, 2014.
  15. ↑ Jill Duffy, “Whistle Dog Activity Tracker Adds GPS Location Finder”  [ Archive ] , PC Magazine , May 21, 2014.
  16. ↑ Heather Zimmerman, “Digital Dog,” Metro Silicon Valley , September 24, 2014, p. 17.
  17. ↑ GF, “Quantified self: Fit, fit, hooray!”  [ Archive ] , Babbage, The Economist , May 24, 2013.
  18. ↑ Chuong Nguyen, “Zamzee Activity Tracker Hopes to Fight Obesity in Children” [ archive ] , Ubergizmo, November 23, 2010.
  19. ↑ Sherry Turkle, “Always On / Always-On-You: The Tethered Self”, in: Handbook of Mobile and Communication Studies , ed. James Everett Katz, Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT, 2008, ( ISBN  9780262276818 ) , pp. 121-37.

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