Forget the stereotype of the gadget-loving couch potato. These innovations can help you stay trim, monitor your fitness and even save your life.

By now you must have heard of the Wii Fit, a high-tech device from Nintendo designed to help gamers and non-gamers alike lose weight and get into shape.

The selling point is that the whole thing is fun – you hardly notice you're being frogmarched to fitness. Nintendo's philosophy is this: why sweat it out in a crowded gym, which strips you of a large chunk of cash (and dignity) every month, when you can exercise in the comfort of your own home, and enjoy yourself at the same time?

The Wii Fit syncs with a Nintendo Wii games console and instructs you to perform a number of manoeuvres, from basic muscle stretches to Yoga poses. Built-in software records your height and weight, then works out your body mass index (BMI). The more you play, the healthier you'll become – we found it's so addictive we suspect you'll be on the Wii Fit more often than you'd ever visit the gym – and you can monitor your progress.

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  1. Innovations that help you stay healthy
  2. Healthy competition
  3. Remote healthcare
  4. Technology closer to home
  5. Seeing the light
  6. Gadgets to keep you fit
  7. Keep on running
  8. Get shapely, safely

Forget the stereotype of the gadget-loving couch potato. These innovations can help you stay trim, monitor your fitness and even save your life.

Healthy competition

The Wii Fit's concept is a canny one: take the ready market of gamers and TV addicts and show them they can get fit and healthy – all without having to relinquish control of the remote or leave the comfort of their bedroom or lounge. And the gaming element – many of the activities are simply physically demanding versions of the racing, leaping and so on that gamers are used to – should appeal to leaderboard-climbing competitive types.

As we went to press, the Wii Fit was sold out in nearly every high street and online store.

But this is far from the only instance of gaming and technology being used in the pursuit of a healthier lifestyle. Fitness-conscious gadget lovers can choose from a range of devices designed to provide exercise tips and monitor heart rate and calorie consumption.

If you just need to be encouraged to stick to a healthy diet, there are plenty of online services and communities that can help. For example, Orange e-Diet and FitBug.com can both track your daily calorie intake.

But the marriage between health and technology isn't as new as you might think. For years, tech giants such as Intel, Microsoft and Philips have been creating devices that can increase efficiency in the medical fields.

Whether it's rugged laptops that help doctors in remote third-world locations or webcams that let you monitor whether distant relatives have taken their daily medication, technology and health go hand in hand.

Visit PC Advisor's dedicated Games website to download hundreds of the latest titles, to read gaming news and reviews and to pick up tips and discuss your favourite games in the popular PC Advisor Games forum

  1. Innovations that help you stay healthy
  2. Healthy competition
  3. Remote healthcare
  4. Technology closer to home
  5. Seeing the light
  6. Gadgets to keep you fit
  7. Keep on running
  8. Get shapely, safely

Forget the stereotype of the gadget-loving couch potato. These innovations can help you stay trim, monitor your fitness and even save your life.

Remote healthcare


In the developing world, even the simplest medical procedures are potential life-or-death situations. This is especially true in rural villages, where the nearest hospital may be hours away and transport facilities are costly and thin on the ground.

One such area is Parintins, an area of Brazil located near the Amazon, where just 32 physicians look after more than 100,000 inhabitants. It's here that Intel has chosen to implement a pilot scheme that uses WiMax wireless broadband technology to connect patients and doctors.

The Parintins project makes up part of Intel's World Ahead programme, which will extend PC access to a billion users over the next five years. It will also train more than 10 million teachers in the use of technology for education, with the possibility of reaching out to a further one billion students.

In conjunction with the medical school at the University of São Paulo, Intel has installed the infrastructure and wireless networks to connect two schools, a community centre and a healthcare clinic. Using these facilities, physicians can hold teleconferencing sessions with their patients, enabling them to diagnose and monitor medical conditions without the expense and logistical difficulties of face-to-face meetings.

Teleconferencing also makes it quick and easy to obtain a second opinion from another physician, who could be several hours away. And the World Ahead project will help to provide medical education, giving the citizens of Parintins information on how to avoid life-threatening diseases such as Aids.

The Wi-Fi connection that links the schools with the healthcare clinic will allow doctors to train students and provide access to videos, documents and webcasts on specific topics.

"This technology will allow the citizens of a remote town such as Parintins to access high-quality information, education and medical resources just as well as citizens of any of the world's great capitals," said Parintins mayor Frank Bi Garcia.

According to Intel, all of these tools will allow the exchange of experience and information among medical professionals, upgrading the quality of healthcare in the town. If the pilot proves successful, the Federal Medicine Council in Brazil intends to replicate it nationwide.

Visit PC Advisor's dedicated Games website to download hundreds of the latest titles, to read gaming news and reviews and to pick up tips and discuss your favourite games in the popular PC Advisor Games forum

  1. Innovations that help you stay healthy
  2. Healthy competition
  3. Remote healthcare
  4. Technology closer to home
  5. Seeing the light
  6. Gadgets to keep you fit
  7. Keep on running
  8. Get shapely, safely

Forget the stereotype of the gadget-loving couch potato. These innovations can help you stay trim, monitor your fitness and even save your life.

Technology closer to home

It's not just the developing world that benefits from 'telemedicine', however.

Even in the Western world, wireless and other technologies are being used to make life that little bit easier.

In May, the UK Department of Health unveiled a telecare trial. The programme, which is expected to cost £31m, is being rolled out across Kent, Cornwall and the London Borough of Newham. It will see 6,000 citizens with diabetes, heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease treated remotely using new technologies.

It's hoped that the scheme will see reductions in emergency admissions and dependence on care homes, with savings expected to more than offset the cost of initial investment in the technology.

"Improving care with new scientific advances is vital if the NHS is to continue to offer the very best services, but this innovation must be at the front line of the NHS to help people manage their conditions better themselves," said health secretary Alan Johnson.

Microsoft has taken telecare to the next level, developing HealthGear software that can be connected to Bluetooth-equipped smartphones. The technology allows the phone to act as computer and communicator, recording, analysing and displaying data such as blood sugar levels.

The software makes it easier and less expensive to keep an eye on those who require frequent attention. Patients who need a gentle reminder to exercise or check their blood sugar will get that nudge without a home or surgery visit. Meanwhile, patients in need of rapid attention can be summoned immediately, rather than relying on a letter sent by post.

The technology also makes better use of healthcare resources. Nurses who would normally make home visits will be able to monitor many patients from one location.

Whether it's offering advice to patients over the telephone, performing video visits via a webcam or holding virtual group meetings, telemedicine can save valuable time. This ensures a better use of resources – a huge benefit in today's overstretched and staff-poor NHS.

Visit PC Advisor's dedicated Games website to download hundreds of the latest titles, to read gaming news and reviews and to pick up tips and discuss your favourite games in the popular PC Advisor Games forum

  1. Innovations that help you stay healthy
  2. Healthy competition
  3. Remote healthcare
  4. Technology closer to home
  5. Seeing the light
  6. Gadgets to keep you fit
  7. Keep on running
  8. Get shapely, safely

Forget the stereotype of the gadget-loving couch potato. These innovations can help you stay trim, monitor your fitness and even save your life.

Seeing the light

Other technology researchers, meanwhile, have been focusing on creating a healthier home lifestyle, which can help us to relax, stay healthy and avoid illness.

Last year Philips launched the Wake Up Light – a lamp that simulates the rising sun in your bedroom and gently prepares your body to wake up. The firm claims natural light has been medically proven to improve your sense of well-being, leaving you energised and ready to wake up.

Another Philips technology, In Form, is a health system that monitors your physical condition, offers regular updates and provides personalised daily advice for steps you can take to improve matters.

You begin by stepping on the Scale, a small chair-like device that measures weight, body fat and hydration. Then you use a body tape – Philips refers to this as Shape – to measure the circumference of various body parts. The two sets of data can then be used in conjunction with one another.

Statistics gathered using Scale and Shape are displayed on Reflect, a mirror read-out. As well as the raw statistics, the system provides advice on physical activities and dietary needs, and sets you targets.

In Form uses biometric fingerprint-recognition technology to work out who it's analysing, which makes it easier for each member of the household to use the system to monitor their own status and receive personalised advice.
A final health-related Philips innovation is Water Font, a table-top water purifier that launched in India in the spring.

Water Font provides a continuous supply of fresh tap water and includes a visual ‘traffic light' to show when purification is complete. The system sterilises the water using ultraviolet light, then chills and filters it. If you wish to add supplements for nutritional or taste reasons, there's a spinner to mix these in.

Visit PC Advisor's dedicated Games website to download hundreds of the latest titles, to read gaming news and reviews and to pick up tips and discuss your favourite games in the popular PC Advisor Games forum

  1. Innovations that help you stay healthy
  2. Healthy competition
  3. Remote healthcare
  4. Technology closer to home
  5. Seeing the light
  6. Gadgets to keep you fit
  7. Keep on running
  8. Get shapely, safely

Forget the stereotype of the gadget-loving couch potato. These innovations can help you stay trim, monitor your fitness and even save your life.

Gadgets to keep you fit

While some of the technologies we've outlined seem somewhat niche, others can be useful regardless of a person's current state of health. Some simply make it more convenient to strap on an MP3 player and set off on an extended run, while others seek to instruct you as you train.

While there are gadgets out there to help you monitor your speed and heart rate if your goal is to beat a personal best, not all are designed to help you give Paula Radcliffe a run for her money. If just thinking about going for a run brings you out in a cold sweat, fear not – we've found some gadgets designed for gentle exercise, so you needn't run the risk of pulling a muscle.

Nintendo's Wii Fit is probably the most fun and least strenuous of all the gadgets we've tried. You can simply recreate a series of stretches, exercises and yoga poses based around the bundled balance board and optional exercise mat. The Wii Fit can be used alone or with friends, which is great for some healthy competition.

For users of the firm's DS handheld games console, Nintendo is launching My Health Coach: Weight Management this summer. The software comes with a pedometer, which counts the steps you take during the day. This data is transferred to your DS, which monitors your health programme. The software also features daily challenges, trivia games and hints and tips.

And while you're using your DS to keep your body in shape, you can keep your brain in shape too, with Brain Training. The software offers daily mental-agility challenges and games to keep you on the ball.

If you're more interested in monitoring your food intake, Orange's e-Diet is ideal. Expected to launch later this year, the site (which will also be accessible from mobile phones) will allow you to look up the calories in various foods, track your daily intake and calculate your BMI. e-Diet will also provide motivational messages – just in case you feel like indulging in some chocolate.

FitBug.com is a similar website that works in conjunction with The Bug (a pedometer). You connect this to your PC and upload data to the site; FitBug analyses your activity levels and matches them to a health or slimming plan. The £9-per-month Bupa-backed system has been designed with the help of sports nutritionist Becky Stevenson, who is currently working with the British tennis team, and fitness expert Georgina Jupp.

Visit PC Advisor's dedicated Games website to download hundreds of the latest titles, to read gaming news and reviews and to pick up tips and discuss your favourite games in the popular PC Advisor Games forum

  1. Innovations that help you stay healthy
  2. Healthy competition
  3. Remote healthcare
  4. Technology closer to home
  5. Seeing the light
  6. Gadgets to keep you fit
  7. Keep on running
  8. Get shapely, safely

Forget the stereotype of the gadget-loving couch potato. These innovations can help you stay trim, monitor your fitness and even save your life.

Keep on running

For those after a gadget to motivate and track some serious fitness progress there's plenty to be had – from the Nike + system (reviewed here) which uses an iPod and a pair of trainers to wirelessly monitor your pace, calories burned and distance travelled, to the Adidas-branded Samsung F110 mobile phone that offers similar functions (reviewed here).

The GMaps Pedometer is a Google Maps widget that records distances travelled during a running or walking workout by simply entering the route taken.

If you're after a watch that doubles as a heart monitor, look to Suunto's training devices (suuntowatches.com), which come bundled with a heart-rate monitor belt. Worn across the chest, the belt monitors your heartbeat and communicates with the watch to calculate calories burned.

Garmin's Forerunner watches are also able to measure your heartbeat while training. The entry-level Forerunner 50 uses a foot pod to monitor speed and distance; the top-end Garmin Forerunner 405 (reviewed here) employs GPS satellite technology to track your position and progress. Both feature a USB stick that plugs into the user's PC and automatically downloads workout data stored on the watch.

Visit PC Advisor's dedicated Games website to download hundreds of the latest titles, to read gaming news and reviews and to pick up tips and discuss your favourite games in the popular PC Advisor Games forum

  1. Innovations that help you stay healthy
  2. Healthy competition
  3. Remote healthcare
  4. Technology closer to home
  5. Seeing the light
  6. Gadgets to keep you fit
  7. Keep on running
  8. Get shapely, safely

Forget the stereotype of the gadget-loving couch potato. These innovations can help you stay trim, monitor your fitness and even save your life.

Get shapely, safely

Whether you'll be partaking in strenuous or gentle exercise, there are some pointers you need to be aware of. As with any form of exercise, it's important to warm up – you're more likely to pull something if you break into a sprint without easing your muscles in first.

Similarly, know your limits. If you haven't been active for a while, it's best not to run for two hours. And keep yourself thoroughly hydrated – even if you're having a gentle workout on the Wii Fit, drink plenty of water.

Finally, no gadget is a substitute for your own motivation. All the products we've looked at in this feature have novelty value – so they'll be fun for a bit. But you may tire of them pretty soon. If you're serious about getting fit, you'll need old-fashioned staying power to ensure you keep going.

iTunes offers motivational playlists and tracks to help you go the extra mile, but merely boogying away to songs you like may not be enough to get you to stay the course.

One option that may help here is a gadget with a personal-trainer facility – these talk to you to help you overcome the urge to give up. But a word of warning: the limited number of phrases can get very irritating.

As well as the usual ratings, our reviews of the leading fitness gadgets include a score for STAYING POWER – this rates the boost they give to users' motivation. Good luck!

Visit PC Advisor's dedicated Games website to download hundreds of the latest titles, to read gaming news and reviews and to pick up tips and discuss your favourite games in the popular PC Advisor Games forum

  1. Innovations that help you stay healthy
  2. Healthy competition
  3. Remote healthcare
  4. Technology closer to home
  5. Seeing the light
  6. Gadgets to keep you fit
  7. Keep on running
  8. Get shapely, safely