Calorie niche getting its fill

PITTSBURGH – Forget just feeling the burn. Some people tired of the treadmill and frustrated with food diaries are turning to pricey gadgets that can help them see the burn.

Companies, including Nike, Polar Electro and Timex, that offer gadgets like pedometers and heart monitors to help people fine-tune their workouts have started adding calorie counters and special Web sites.

Experts say the calorie-counting gadgets are far from 100 percent accurate but better than the guesswork most people use.

The arm bands, chest straps and wrist bands try to offer a glimpse of information that can typically be seen only in a lab. The calorie counters are based on two methods researchers use: how much oxygen is being used and how much heat is being produced.

Most of the calorie counters on the market use a chest strap to measure heart rate. While exercising, the harder the heart works, the more oxygen is used and the more calories burned.

Timex has nine digital heart monitors with calorie monitors, ranging in price from the $70 5C351 Digital Heart Rate Monitor to the $90 Ironman Triathlon. Most of Polar Electro’s heart monitors also calculate calorie burn. Polar’s newest F-series models range from $89.99 to $159.99.

Nike has at least three heart rate monitors that try to count calories, including the $99 Imara HRM and SDM Tailwind and the $109 Triax C-6.

The Bodybugg has sensors that measure skin temperature, its electrical conductivity and how much heat someone’s body is producing and losing.

All the energy used by the human body is eventually turned into heat; the more heat the body produces, the harder it’s working. Sweat, like water, conducts electricity, so the more electricity the skin conducts, the more someone is sweating.

The Bodybugg is more expensive ($300 to $500) and only available through gyms with agreements with Camarillo, Calif.-based Apex Fitness Group. Apex unveiled the arm band at more than 1,000 gyms nationwide, including Gold’s Gym and World Gym.

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