Wearable activity trackers have many benefits. Everyone knows activity is good for them, but actually getting off the couch and doing it is easier said than done. Wearable activity trackers can help to solve this problem by motivating you to reach your activity goal each day and can also let you track and analyze your activity over time to see how much you have improved. However, though they are all over the tech market right now, very few trackers are made with women in mind.
Though I love tracking my activity, I’m sure many women feel the same as me when it comes to integrating their activity tracker into their wardrobe. I’m happy as a clam to slap on my chunky activity tracker before my run but when I’ve dressed up for dinner with friends I find myself cringing when I see my rubber activity tracker nuzzled up against my oversized gold watch and cuff of my nice blazer. With the new LEAF activity tracker, Bellabeat has made it their mission to let you track your activity without sacrificing your style. This clip-style activity tracker not only tracks the usual steps and sleep, but also remains female-focused by tracking your ovulation and coaching you through daily relaxing breathing exercises.
The first thing I noticed about the LEAF is how easy it was to set up. The box only contains 4 things: the LEAF, the leather bracelet, the chain and an owner’s manual. To activate the LEAF all I had to do was pull the tab from the top of the device. Once I downloaded the app and filled in some simple personal information, the setup was complete and I could start tracking my activity immediately! The other reason that setup was so seamless was because there was no need to charge the device before use. This activity tracker uses are small watch-like battery that apparently lasts approximately 6 months.
Overall Look and Accessories
I love the design of the LEAF. The base of the LEAF is made of a light, recycled American Ashwood and there is a beautiful stainless steel leaf-shaped clip on the front. The stainless steel is a great choice because it won’t cause skin irritation. Inside the wood casing, the electronics are covered in a silicon/plastic casing for added protection. In addition to the design, I liked the versatility of the LEAF in regards to how it could be worn. The LEAF can be worn clipped to your clothes, as a bracelet with the included strap or as a necklace with the included chain. I found the tracker a little bit large to be worn comfortable as a necklace but I really liked the wraparound design of the bracelet and it was comfortable and fashionable to wear. However I found that I wore it most often clipped to my bra or shirt. When it was clipped to my bra it wasn’t noticeable through the fabric and it was so comfortable that most of the time I forgot I was wearing it until I changed.
Like many other wearable trackers, the LEAF works as a pedometer to track your daily activity. The LEAF tallies these daily steps and converts them into total kilometers and calories burned. In terms of accuracy, Bellabeat claims that the tracker has 95% accuracy and after trying it I think that is probably true. For example, when doing the same running route on two different days the step count was the same within about 100 steps. Though accurate, the activity tracking portion of the app is relatively simple. It calculates daily steps but does not do any further analysis of the data, such as offering the user numbers on average activity over time so that the user can see their long-term improvement. The other simplicity issue with the activity tracker is that it can’t differentiate the type of activity you are doing which could affect accuracy. It is also not waterproof so you cannot track your activity in the water. However I did like that I had the option of setting an inactivity alarm that would buzz if I had been sitting for a certain period of time. This was a nice reminder to take a break and stretch my legs after long periods watching Netflix . It also gives you little reminders on the benefits of exercise underneath your daily activity tally during periods of inactivity as an extra motivator to get up and go.
In addition to tracking activity, similar to many wearable activity trackers on the market the LEAF by Bellabeat also tracks sleep. By clipping the LEAF to my pajamas, it was able to track my movement throughout the night and based on this data, it calculated my total hours of sleep for the night and the effectiveness of my sleep. I found the tracking very accurate throughout the night: it started to track my sleep within about 10 minutes of getting into bed, it started tracking my activity when I got up in the morning and clearly indicated when I got up to the washroom. However, I don’t know if I really understand the usefulness of this program—I know when I’ve slept poorly so I don’t know what the benefit is of being reminded in the morning. It also doesn’t give you any tips for better improving your sleep. There was also the option of setting the LEAF to wake you up with a vibrating buzzing alarm in the morning but it was pretty weak so I never trusted it to actually wake me up in the morning so I found I didn’t use it.
As mentioned above, Bellabeat set out to make the LEAF one of the only female-friendly activity trackers on the market. One of the ways it aims to do this is by letting you track your menstruation and ovulation cycles. I wasn’t that impressed with this feature. To track menstruation and ovulation, the app asks the user the date of their last period and the length of the user’s cycle. The app then just takes this information, does simple math and tells the user when their next period will be and when they will be ovulating or having “fertile days”. If you are a women reading this, you are probably already rolling your eyes. Women have been calculating their cycles and predicting ovulation dates with simple math for decades without the help of an app. If this simple math was truly effective then there wouldn’t be thousands of doctors and health care professionals specializing in fertility. Our bodies are complicated and most women’s cycles are unpredictable, making ovulation difficult to predict and rendering this portion of the app most likely ineffective for many women using this product.
In addition, the app also has the option of letting you set an alarm to buzz and remind you to take your birth control pill, but again many women already have these sorts of alarms set up on their phone. Also the alarm for the birth control pill was the same rhythm as the inactivity alarm so you would have to refer to the app to see why it was buzzing anyway.
When I first read about the LEAF, I was intrigued about the stress tracking component because the way it was marketed implied that it had the ability to track your stress based on your breathing pattern and rate and alert you when you needed to calm down. This isn’t exactly true. To help the user manage their stress and promote mindfulness and meditation, the LEAF encourages you and reminds you to do multiple breathing exercises a day. I was on the fence about this feature. I do a lot of yoga and I find that the controlled breathing during classes really helps to relieve my anxiety and stress so I think encouraging users to integrate breathing exercises into their daily lives is great but I think the way it is setup could be tweaked. The exercises are split into three categories: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Once you choose your level, you clip your LEAF to the waist band of your pants and press play. The exercises run for about 5 minutes and basically have you assume a meditation position and perform controlled breathing. Other than some intro teaching at the beginning however, she didn’t give any other tips for the rest of the exercise which kind of made me feel stranded. I would have like it better if she had interjected with reminding you to sit up straight and relax your shoulders, arms, hands, jaw or thinking of the breath cleansing you as your breath out etc. In addition, you were to breath in and out with the sound of a bell but everyone has different lung capacities and breathing speeds so I didn’t like that it made you follow their breathing pace. At the end it would tell you how well you did by giving you an effectiveness percentage, but it wouldn’t give you any feedback which I didn’t like. It just told me I got 30%, encouraged me to try again and that was it.
App and Ease of Use
As mentioned above, the components of the app are relatively simple, which could be fine depending on what you’re looking for. I didn’t mind the simplicity of the activity and sleep tracker as all I really wanted to know was how many steps I’d done and how many I needed to reach my goal. However, if you are looking to get more broken down data about your activity, this app may not be enough. Speaking of goals, I really like that you could easily modify your activity and sleep goals every day. Some activity trackers automatically set your goal to 10000 steps but being able to set your goal lower and work your way up is great for people who are just getting into this type of daily activity. It lets you achieve more realistic goals for you personally.
In terms of ease of use, I found the app was easy to navigate and I didn’t run into any issues with freezing or crashing. To sync the app with your LEAF you had to double tap your leaf to pair it. I sometimes found that I had to tap it multiple times before it picked it up on the app but that was only when it was clipped to my shirt so that might have been because it was on the cushioned part of my chest.
All in all, I admire what Bellabeat is trying to do with the LEAF. They are trying to fill a void in the activity tracker market for women that want to track their activity without lugging around a plastic bracelet. This beautiful leaf design pendant can be worn clipped to your clothes, as a bracelet or as a necklace. This women-focused tracker accurately tracks your daily steps and sleep, while letting your set unique, achievable goals. Though I would have liked to have seen more long term data tracking of your activity, this could easily be integrated with some app upgrades. It also lets you track your ovulation and encourages you to integrate relaxation into your day with various breathing exercises. I would have liked to have more feedback during the breathing exercises but again, this could easily be fixed in future versions of the app.
The LEAF by Bellabeat is available at Best Buy.