Fitness tracking app Strava gives away location of secret US army bases – The Guardian

Sensitive information about the location and staffing of military bases and spy outposts around the world has been revealed by a fitness tracking company.

The details were released by Strava in a data visualisation map that shows all the activity tracked by users of its app, which allows people to record their exercise and share it with others.

The map, released in November 2017, shows every single activity ever uploaded to Strava — more than 3 trillion individual GPS data points, according to the company. The app can be used on various devices including smartphones and fitness trackers like Fitbit to see popular running routes in major cities, or spot individuals in more remote areas who have unusual exercise patterns.

However, over the weekend military analysts noticed that the map is also detailed enough that it potentially gives away extremely sensitive information about a subset of Strava users: military personnel on active service.

It’s astounding that the military would allow soldiers to use an app like this. They are really clueless.

Source: Fitness tracking app Strava gives away location of secret US army bases | Technology | The Guardian

Activity Trackers Don’t Always Work the Way We Want Them To – The New York Times

The teenagers were asked to use the monitors for two months, and then complete more questionnaires and participate in focus-group discussions. During the focus groups, almost all the young people expressed initial enthusiasm for the monitors and said they had at first become more active.

But the allure soon faded. After about a month, most of the teenagers had begun to find the monitors chiding and irksome, making them feel lazy if they did not manage 10,000 steps each day. Many also said they now considered themselves more physically inept than they had at the study’s start, often because they were rarely near the top of the activity leader boards. Most telling, a large percentage of the adolescents reported feeling less motivated to be active now than before getting the monitor.

Obviously. The whole arbitrary 10,000 step thing is just stupid. It was made up essentially by a Japanese pedometer company and has no scientific basis. Locking kids into a metric that, in many cases, cannot work for them is counter-productive. Give them a time-based goal, or allow them to modulate the step count according to their activity. The goal isn’t to have people get worn out, it’s to get them to be more active. And that starts slowly, not with some massive goal that can be hard to meet.

Apple has the right approach with the Apple Watch. At first, it offers a goal of 400 active calories (though the way these active calories are calculated is dubious; I see calories increment when I’m not doing anything). At the end of the week, if you meet the goal, it suggests that you raise it, just a bit. If you don’t meet it for a while, it suggests that you lower it. Users can modulate their goals according to their real ativity, not some arbitrary round number.

Source: Activity Trackers Don’t Always Work the Way We Want Them To – The New York Times

Wearable Fitness Devices Don’t Seem to Make You More Fit – The New York Times

I once received a lot of blowback for an Upshot article in which I showed (with evidence) that exercise is not the key to weight loss. Diet is. Many, many readers cannot wrap their head around the notion that adding physical activity, and therefore burning more calories, doesn’t necessarily translate into results on the scale.

Well, here we go again because some of those folks also believe that fitness devices — Fitbit, Vivosmart, Apple Watch — must be helpful in losing weight. Unfortunately, evidence doesn’t support this belief either.

Yep.

Source: Wearable Fitness Devices Don’t Seem to Make You More Fit – The New York Times

Fitbit Acquires European Luxury Smartwatch Maker Vector Watch – Mac Rumors

Fitbit has made another acquisition in the wearables market, this time buying out European luxury smartwatch maker Vector Watch for an undisclosed price.

Vector Watch only launched in March of last year offering a range of 12 smartwatch models in various fashion-conscious styles. Key features in its line-up include basic activity tracking, phone notifications, and 30-day battery life, with some third-party apps built into the interface. The London-based company announced the buyout in a statement on its website.

Well, I would hesitate to call a company that sells watches for €349 a “luxury” smartwatch maker. But I see this as a strong trend for the future.

When I recently decided to stop using my Apple Watch, I noted that I’m using a Fitbit One as an activity tracker, and the one thing I’d miss is notifications. There are several companies selling this type of smartwatch – that looks more like a real watch, but also does fitness tracking and notifications – but as I looked at them, none of them grabbed me. I might have gone for the Withings Steel HR (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) if it had been available, but it’s not and won’t be for some time.

I like wearing a nice watch, and I doubt that I’d slip back to something smart, unless it had the same look as my current watch, and offered the features I want: fitness tracking and notifications.

I would like to see how these features can be integrated to existing watches, perhaps through something you could put on the band. Chronos makes a $99 disc that you can place under any watch, but it’s 3mm thick and needs to be charged every two days. I wonder how comfortable it would be to wear, but the idea is going, I think, in the right direction: let people who wear regular watches also get some smart features.

Source: Fitbit Acquires European Luxury Smartwatch Maker Vector Watch – Mac Rumors

5 Myths About Healthy Living You’ve Probably Fallen For | Mental Floss

Every year, the scientific community reveals exciting new information about what is and isn’t good for our health. But some of the most prevalent, obvious “facts” about how to live a fit lifestyle are actually myths, spread via misinterpretation or marketing departments until they become part of the vernacular. Below, we’ve traced the origins of five major health fallacies.

I’m highlighting this article because it points out a number of health myths that have been embraced by the techno-fetishists in their desire to quantify their lives. For example:

1. THE MYTH: YOU NEED EIGHT GLASSES OF WATER PER DAY, EVERY DAY.

It’s common knowledge that human beings require exactly eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day, lest they die of dehydration. But that knowledge is, in fact, a myth–one that nobody can determine the origins of, despite much research into the matter. […]

“You don’t have to consume all the water you need through drinks. You also don’t need to worry so much about never feeling thirsty. The human body is finely tuned to signal you to drink long before you are actually dehydrated.”

There are tons of apps on the App Store that help you count how much you drink, and that even discount things like tea and coffee because they, apparently, have a diuretic effect. Even Apple’s Health app can record water consumption. It’s foolish and useless, and it’s a waste of time. On top of that, it can be dangerous, even fatal, to drink too much water.

(An aside: in the US, the myth is that you need to drink 64 oz of water, or two quarts. In France, the myth says you should drink 1.5 liters of water, or about 1.5 quarts. Coincidentally, bottled water is sold in 1.5 liter bottles…)

2. THE MYTH: 10,000 STEPS PER DAY IS A MAGIC BENCHMARK FOR FITNESS.

Now that most of us carry smartphones with built-in step counters, walking 10,000 steps (about five miles) per day has become a de facto benchmark for living a fit lifestyle. But that’s not because 10,000 steps is a scientific gold standard for health; actually, the “10,000 steps” rule was invented by a 1965 Japanese marketing campaign for an early pedometer. Not that there’s anything wrong with 10,000 steps as a goal–in general, the more active you are, the better. But you’ll reap just as many health benefits by simply aiming to spend more time on your feet each day.

It’s true that a nice round number is an attractive goal. But the tyranny of the 10,000-step goal means that many people who can’t walk that much feel inadequate. To be honest, calorie counts are just as foolish, since the very concept and method of counting calories is wrong. It’s good to have a goal; find your normal activity, then increase the goal, a bit at a time, step by step. Don’t feel obliged to use a round number as your goal.

5. THE MYTH: AN ALL-JUICE DIET WILL CLEANSE YOUR BODY OF TOXINS.

If you want to rid your body of toxins, everything you need is already inside of you — in the form of a functional liver and kidneys, which work perfectly well on their own, at all times, to process and excrete anything that doesn’t belong. And if you’re trying to turn over a healthy new leaf after a period of overindulgence, there’s a good reason not to join the juice craze: Even fresh juices are usually loaded with sugar, which has a host of negative effects on the body. A whole fruit is much more nutritious (not to mention more satisfying to eat).

This one isn’t tech-related in any way; it’s just dumb. The idea that your body has “toxins” that need to be removed by some special procedure or treatment, and the idea that drinking juice – very high in sugar – is somehow healthy is just foolish. Yet tons of people believe, and spend a fortune on supplements and foods that will supposedly remove these evil “toxins” like an exorcist.

Source: 5 Myths About Healthy Living You’ve Probably Fallen For | Mental Floss UK

Reorganize Items on the iOS Health App Dashboard

Some months ago, I wrote an article for Macworld saying how I felt that Apple’s Health app really needs a redesign. I think its layout is bad, and confusing; and I lamented the fact that you couldn’t reorganize the dashboard.

It turns out that you can reorganize the items on the dashboard, but Apple doesn’t tell you. I stumbled across this today, accidentally, when holding my phone in a strange position with one hand, which meant that my thumb was pressing and holding one of the graphs. Sure enough, it started moving. Here’s what it looked like:

Reorganize health app

Tap and hold any of the items on the dashboard, and, when you see it sort of rise off the background, as you can see above, slide it where you want to. You can set the order of these graphs any way you want.

It wouldn’t have been too hard for there to be an Edit button, making this more obvious…

Apple Watch & Fitness: watchOS 2 Fixes Some Issues, but Heart Rate Still Inconsistent

I’ve written a lot about the Apple Watch, especially about the problems using the device as a fitness tracker. Its resting calories calculation was grossly exaggerated, the heart rate sensor recorded ludicrous numbers, and the device was stingy in recording exercise minutes.

watchOS 2 will be released next week, but I’ve already install the GM (gold master) on my Apple Watch. I’ve found that, while the new software fixes some of these issues, there are still some glitches.

ExerciseFirst, exercise minutes. Previously, my Apple Watch hardly recorded any minutes, no matter what I did. My only exercise is walking, and I walk fairly briskly, generally around 12 min/km. That should be enough to count as exercise; my Fitbit One counts that time as “active minutes.”

With watchOS 2, my Apple Watch records my exercise much better. If I set a workout, either an indoor walk on my treadmill, or an outdoor walk, almost all of the time is counted. If not, some of my walking is counted, but not all.

CaloriesAs for resting calories, they no longer exist. Instead of showing Active Calories, Resting Calories, and Total Calories, the Activity app only displays Active Calories and Total Calories. (And, to confuse things, the Health app calls these Active Energy and Resting Energy.)

It’s true that showing the Resting Calories isn’t very useful; you can do the math if you want. The Total Calories I’ve seen so far seem to show that the resting calorie calculation is much more accurate. (Note that, in the example to the left, I only installed the software around 10 am yesterday, so it doesn’t display a full day’s calories; it didn’t pick up my resting calories before that time.)

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Review: Spire Breathing Tracker

The wearables market is essentially made up of fitness trackers: devices that count your steps, assay your activity, or let you know when you’re not moving enough. All of these devices track movement, but they don’t track one part of your activity that can greatly affect your health: your breathing. Your breath affects your vagus nerve, which, in turn, affects your state of mind.

Spire is a small device that you clip on your belt or bra, and it detects your inhalations and exhalations. This data gets sent to your iOS device, which provides insights into how you breathe.

Read the rest of the article on Macworld.

Wi-Fi scales compared: Fitbit Aria and Withings Smart Body Analyzer

If you want to track your weight and integrate this data into your burgeoning collection of activity and workout data, you can manually add weight readings to most apps that store such data. But if you want a quicker way to do this, you might want to check out a Wi-Fi scale. They can automatically sync your weight, along with other data–such as your body fat percentage–to an app and/or website, keeping track of this data so you don’t have to.

I’ve been using the Fitbit Aria for a couple of years and I recently got the Withings Smart Body Analyzer. Both of these scales work well but with some important differences. Here’s a look at these two scales.

Read the rest of the article on Macworld.

Fitness Tracker Review: Withings Pulse Ox

Withings pulseI’ve found, after trying a number of fitness trackers (including the Apple Watch), that the Fitbit One (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) is both the most accurate, and the easiest to use. (I reviewed it here.) To repeat what I’ve said before:

“Fitness trackers are motivators. While, on the surface, they claim to record data about your activity, the real reason people buy them is to motivate themselves to be more active. None of them are perfectly accurate, and they all have drawbacks. Some have good hardware and mediocre software; some have excellent software and poor hardware. But, if you want this kind of device, there is certainly one that will fit your needs.”

My summary of the Fitbit One was:

“Overall, the Fitbit One is a good device, as its step count is extremely accurate. Fitbit’s software — both on iOS and its web-based dashboard — is useful, though relatively simple. It doesn’t offer reminders and nudges as the Jawbone UP does; it essentially offers just raw data. While I want more — the inactivity alert the Jawbone can provide would be useful to remind me to get up and move during the day — it’s good enough for now.”

I recently got the Withings Pulse Ox (Amazon.com, Amazon UK), which is a direct competitor to the Fitbit One. Since Fitbit won’t sync data to Apple’s HealthKit, I wanted to try a simple, belt-worn tracker that does.

The Pulse Ox is a bit wider and shorter than the Fitbit One. It comes with a wristband (seriously? who would wear that?), and a belt clip. You can also put it in your pocket.

Fitbit pulse

I was disappointed by the Pulse Ox, for several reasons. First, it’s inaccurate; it registers from about 10-30% fewer steps than the Fitbit One. It’s reliable at fixed paces, such as when I walk on my treadmill, but not the rest of the day. Since you can watch a live step count with the Fitbit iOS app, I’ve tested the Fitbit One in a variety of settings, and always found that it counted all my steps, and no more. Accuracy is, to me, one of the most important elements of any fitness tracker, and if the Pulse Ox can’t get that right, there’s not much hope.

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