bodybugg: A 30-Day Road Test

The bodybugg with optional display

I was given the bodybugg from BodyMedia, Inc. to use for a month and then blog about. I have to say that since I first put it on, I have rarely taken it off.  The experience has been rather eye-opening.

Using bodybugg

The bodybugg (Amazon affiliate link) is a small rectangular device that you strap to your upper arm.  The previous version of the device was a bit clunky, but they’ve shrunk the size making it a lot more discreet (although one person did ask me if I was being monitored for medical reasons).  You wear the bodybugg for all but an hour a day; it doesn’t go in the shower or the pool, but other than that it’s okay to wear 23/7.  You do need that hour so you can let your skin breathe a bit.

With the band off your arm, you plug it into your computer and download the day’s data.  (Yes, it’s now compatible with all platforms as they added Macs recently.)  The device tracks your movements including steps taken, your skin temperature (the more you move, the warmer your skin gets), and how much time you spent laying down, sitting, or standing.

bodybugg Computer Interface

I really like how the data is compiled and shared on your computer screen.  You set up goals for daily calories burned and calories consumed.  The bodybugg software has an extensive and easy-to-use database and I only rarely had problems finding a food; if I couldn’t locate it, I’d just input the item myself.  There are a lot of graphs that show you calories burned per minute (when I sit on my butt blogging, I burn 1.1 calories per minute; when I’m running, I burn up to 10.4!).  The software also shows how many steps and when I took them, how long I slept and at what times I came out of a deep sleep (that was interesting), and how much moderate and high-level activity I did on a daily basis.  Of course, it tracks your weight too, if you want to add that in.

A very recent update from the company is that they now offer little tips.  If I’m, say, 60 calories shy of my target calorie burn for the day and I download data around dinnertime, the computer will suggest a few minutes of activity so that I can hit my daily goal.  That was cool.

A Couple of Problems

For some reason, bodybugg doesn’t track my Spinning workouts as even a moderate-level activity (until last night; it was the first time ever so perhaps another software update?).  I tend to hop on the bike at night when I watch a little TV so it’s not an all-out Spin workout, but even when I noticed that it wasn’t tracking and I tried to push a hard workout, the bodybugg was still tracking only a few minutes of moderate work when I was actually dripping with sweat.

The outer casing of my bodybugg has also developed two small cracks on the part that rests against my skin.  I don’t remember hitting it at all and, for some reason, I suspect it happened when I was sleeping (but that’s just a guess).  So I’ll be contacting the company about getting the monitor replaced.

Finally, this isn’t a problem, but make sure you keep the plastic that sits against your skin clean or you will have problems such as developing a rash or a “raw” sensation on your skin.  If you do keep the band off for an hour a day and keep it clean, you should be fine.

How Good is the bodybugg?

It was eye-opening to me how many fewer calories I burn on days when I sit at home blogging (about 1,650) versus how days I work at the studio (2,100).  I’m so much more active at the studio moving around with my clients, plus my walk to and from home; it makes a huge difference and gives a whole new meaning to the term Blogger Butt!

I actually bought and paid for the first version of bodybugg (affiliate link), although this one I got for free so I could blog about it.  I am very happy with the product and plan on buying the extra monitor so you can see your progress without having to download to a computer.  The bodybugg costs $149.99 at Amazon and the extra monitor is another $79.99.  I want the monitor as a reminder to move my butt more on those blogging days.  You get three free months of their software program through Amazon, and after that it varies depending on the length of time you sign up for (a one-year commitment is $6.95/month).

There is also a version with Bluetooth technology available for $20 more than the regular monitor that automatically downloads to your smart phone.  Finally, I should mention that the bodybugg is what contestants on “The Biggest Loser” use, in case you always wondered what those things were on their arms …

If you’ve used the bodybugg, let me know what you think of it.  Did you find it helpful or did you get a little obsessive about all the information it gives you?  Here’s a list of what I think are the best fitness gadgets.   And yes, full disclosure, I did get the bodybugg for free, and I’m currently getting the software for free, but I plan on paying for it whenever the press package that I was given runs out.

Cheers,

Lisa

About Lisa Johnson

Lisa Johnson here. I've been a personal trainer since 1997, a Pilates instructor since 1998 and the owner of Modern Pilates since 1999. I'm hoping to give you some good ideas to get or stay in shape with a healthy dose of humor and reality. Thanks for joining me.

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14 Responses to bodybugg: A 30-Day Road Test

  1. Craig Jarrow December 27, 2011 at 9:30 am #

    Lisa,

    Thanks for sharing this. I have been very curious about this device.

    I recently saw them for sale at Costco. (Not sure which version.)

    Not sure I want to wear a band all day. :)

    I recently tried the Jawbone Up bracelet. (It was a short lived experiment.)

    Do you plan on continuing to use your bodybugg?

  2. Markthetrigeek December 27, 2011 at 10:44 am #

    Kinda with the first commenter regarding not wearing it all the time. When I used my HRM I didn’t mind while working out but after that, it was off. Did you notice it during the night? Ie did it interfere with your sleep?

    I guess the big question is, could you get the same results for less (long term) with a decent HRM that gives you cals tracking w/o monthly fee?

    Just wondering.

  3. deb roby December 27, 2011 at 10:59 am #

    At first I was a little obsessive about data. (that sleep data is amazing), but after about a month I realized it wasn’t changing data much over time. A month or so is all the fascination time there.

    However, I lost the wrist monitor piece my first time in the gym (never found it). And eventually somehow lost the piece itself.

    About your spin work reading. Because part of the “how hard are you exercising” gauge is the movement involved -and because I suspect your arm is NOT moving at all during your spins-it won’t read accurate. It can only detect your body temp increase. Resting that arm on it’s leg may get you a better reading.

  4. Lisa Johnson December 27, 2011 at 5:46 pm #

    Hi Mark, yes I do feel it at night if I roll a certain way, sometimes I wake up a little bit, adjust and pass out again, that said you definitely don’t have to wear it at night if you don’t want to. I just find it fun to check my sleep patterns … lol.

    Can you get the same results with a HRM, actually, this doesn’t track heart rate, (basically everything but!). So you’d get different data. It’s a bit of a geek tool, a lot of data and information. For me the insights into how much or little I move depending on my job responsibilities was eye opening. If I stop using the band I’ll still know that information. If I’m going to be do a little push to drop a pound or two it’d be more useful, but if your weight is stable is it really necessary?

    That is a question for you to decide for yourself. :-) L–

  5. Lisa Johnson December 27, 2011 at 5:48 pm #

    Deb, yep, I was thinking the same thing and now that you say that, it’s triggering a memory. I saw the contestants in the Biggest Loser wearing the bands around their calves (not always but sometimes) it was always when they were in the gym, so I wonder if that’s why they had ‘em on … hmmmmm … I’ll have to test that out. L–

  6. Suzanne @WorkoutNirvana December 27, 2011 at 9:40 pm #

    Love it that you critiqued the bodybugg. As you know, I’m a new trainer and have the opportunity to sell the bodybugg. I’d love to take it for a test drive… it would be absolutely fascinating!

  7. Mary C. Weaver, CSCS December 28, 2011 at 6:11 pm #

    I have had the same experience with the device not “noticing” certain kinds of physical activity. I can do an intense 45-minute workout with weights and end up with something like 3 minutes of “vigorous” activity for the day. If those workouts are moderate, vigorous would probably kill me. :-)

    But the calorie counts seem accurate and are in keeping with estimates of my calorie requirements based on muscle mass.

  8. Lisa Johnson December 28, 2011 at 8:22 pm #

    Mary I agree, it does seem to be in line and I’ve done some weight training with my husband after a cardio session and it seemed to stay elevated. But I didn’t do it before the cardio, hmmm …

  9. Bonnie Sayers December 29, 2011 at 12:47 am #

    Well I did the captcha wrong and it deleted my post.

    Nice review – I have had my BB for 88 weeks now and I believe you wre referring to the digital watch for 79.99 – I have this as well. I tested it recently against the bike and it was about 35 calories off (bike) which I have read these cardio machines always have high numbers so that was not too bad for 30 minutes, I used to just try to hit like 50 or 100 calories on machines but now that is not really correct.

    I want to hit 5k sometime next year for a calorie burn. A big difference I have on Zumba days. My highest burn has been 11.4

  10. Lisa Johnson December 29, 2011 at 8:44 pm #

    Wow 11.4K? Bonnie that’s amazing and sorry about the captcha, I gotta find a more forgiving one that still keeps out spammers … L–

  11. Sreedevi July 22, 2012 at 11:18 pm #

    Hi Lisa,

    I just got a bodybugg, and wore it for about 4 hours today, and it said I burned 1600 calories so far, which I’m fairly sure is wrong (I was doing some light activity around the house – doing laundry, washing dishes, putting clothes away, and then cooking dinner). I’ve read before that it takes a little time for the bodybugg to adjust so give it a week to get the calorie burn count right, but wanted to see if you had heard of others having a similar experience?

  12. Lisa Johnson July 24, 2012 at 12:48 pm #

    Hi Sreedevi, yes, that does sound a little off. I read that the overnight sleeping helps it to calibrate the best … but when in doubt, call them, they have a pretty good help line. :) L–

  13. Rob Fogal June 19, 2013 at 12:06 pm #

    Hi Lisa,
    Interesting blog, and I really like the BB, but I’ve been searching fruitlessly for what seems like a very basic question: what does Bodybugg define as “physical activity”? I have a BB SP for which the software doesn’t distinguish between light or moderate (like others apparently do?), just “physical activity”. Of the 3 things the armband logs, it’s pretty obvious what calories & steps are, but I can’t find anywhere what they define as the threshold for physical activity…2 times my RMR? Anything above 1.73 cal/min? Not being dead!?! Searching for some definition is how I found your blog, and maybe I’m overlooking something obvious, but it seems so fundamental and it’s starting to bugg me! (pardon the pun). Any ideas or suggestions?

  14. Lisa Johnson June 20, 2013 at 11:18 am #

    Rob good question and I have no idea either … do they have a customer support number? Or maybe ask ‘em on their Facebook page? Good luck and if you find out let me know! L–

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