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Water Wings: At last, fitness trackers that don't leave swimmers out in the cold

The next generation of fitness trackers are making inroads into catering for swimmers, who had previously been neglected

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 October, 2015, 10:35am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 March, 2016, 5:33pm

Personal fitness devices – or “wearables” – can keep track of your daily exercise routines. They might withstand a rain shower, or the sweatiest workout, but are not designed for full-on submersion, leaving swimmers out in the cold.

Even brands which claim to be water resistant to a certain depth cannot withstand the force associated with swimming stokes, so to notch up activity spent in the pool or at the beach, a dedicated swim tracker has been the best option - until now. Enter the next generation of fitness trackers which can be all things to all users, and nudge you with a little coaching as well.

A trio of former Apple engineers and HALO game designers got the ball rolling with Moov, a crowd-funded tracker launched early last year, and its latest incarnation, Moov Now. Unlike conventional devices, which count metrics like steps, distance and calories burned throughout the day, Moov was designed to be worn during workouts – on land and in the pool. It has apps for various activities – one for cycling, another for swimming – and coming soon, the developers say, are apps for golf and yoga.

Like a robotic personal trainer strapped to your wrist or angle, this device “speaks to you” (read: nags) while you work out, correcting your form, and pushing you harder. Tracking each movement in 3D space, and synching wirelessly to your smartphone, Moov will then critique your swim stroke or workout, and tell you where you went wrong. Apparently, early users complained that the coaching was too tough – hence, company CEO Meng Li says they’ve toned it down a little.

Hardware company Misfit and swimwear brand Speedo have teamed up to launch their new all-round activity tracker, Speedo Shine. Olympic gold medallist Missy Franklin has been signed as the ambassador because, she asserts, even elite swimmers struggle to keep track of their laps.

Proprietary algorithms embedded in the device count not only the distance covered, but lap times and calories burned, linked to a personalised tracking app, Speedo Fit. It’s waterproof to 50 metres, and out of the pool will also track walking, running, cycling and sleep. As a bonus, the manufacturer claims that this device never needs charging.

Intel-powered Basis Peak boasts water resistance enough to withstand swimming, and is capable of displaying smartwatch notifications, such as incoming calls, texts and calendar events, from an iOS or Android phone. With a new feature called Healthy Habits, this device also takes on the role of digital health coach, using data collected to give the user suggestions to help improve their lifestyle.

Garmin has been working to improve the readability of pint-sized screens in outdoor sunlight, and has made inroads with the high-resolution colour display on its latest land-and-sea fitness tracker, Vívoactive. Swimmers will appreciate the time, distance and stroke counting features, while for golfers, the device’s GPS technology can track hole number, par and distance to green, measure lay-ups and doglegs, and keep score.

And if you really want to plumb the depths, the Runtastic Orbit is marketed as being waterproof up to 100m. The manufacturer doesn’t recommend that you wear this device while scuba diving, but like everything in the digital world, such a feature will probably be available in a matter of time.