Thoughts on the Moov Now

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Moov Now

I recently checked out the Moov Now activity tracker for an Apple-oriented fitness feature in MacFormat magazine.

The article briefly looked at Apple Watch alternatives on the wearable market and compared the relative merits of competing devices that track your daily activity and aim to help you live a generally more active lifestyle.

I lauded the Moov Now in the article for its pre-loaded training programmes and ease of use, but criticised it for its lack of insight when compared to the activity breakdowns that devices such as the Fitbit Charge HR and Jawbone UP provide.

Like Apple’s Watch, the leading wearables distinguish between workouts and overall activity, but their bread and butter is providing continually updated real-time stats for metrics like distance covered, steps taken, calories burned, heart-rate and, in Fitbit’s case, floors climbed.

This provides plenty of actionable data for tailoring to your individual health and fitness goals, and it’s the sort of detail that makes longitudinal tracking of specific metrics simple.

The Moov Now offers very little continuous tracking data by comparison. Instead it records daily Active Minutes based on intensity of movement, so climbing a set of stairs or roaming around superstore aisles typically fails to register, but a brisk walk and a HIIT workout both count toward this single daily stat. Elsewhere, the sleep tracking left a lot to be desired (I am not that lazy)…

Moov tracking

And though the Moov’s Active Minutes metric is officially recognised by WHO (at least half an hour a day is advised), your activity is represented in-app by a rigid timeline, with an estimated calorie count but no facility to otherwise visualise this data.

Movable feast

While valid in the context of the original article, the comparison between Moov and your average tracker is a little unfair. The wearable market is chock full of devices that aim to track your movement around the clock as well as monitor your kip.

Their features vary, but most of them help you notice and respond to sedentary habits that may affect your health over the long term, and can also reveal how your sleep rhythms react to your overall activity, meaning you can adjust your lifestyle accordingly.

And it’s true that when compared to other trackers, the Moov Now seems ill-equipped for these goals (or at least its implementation of all-day tracking feels like an afterthought). But this all misses its real strength, which is its ability to function as a dedicated exercise coach, similar to what the Pear training system sets out to do, but in a more movement-aware way.

Moov app

Looking beyond its lacklustre 24/7 tracking metrics, the updated Moov iOS app benefits by consolidating a number of coaching routines that were previously only accessible as separate apps. These are presented in a scrolling list as motivational training plans to help you, say, ‘Run farther and easier’, or ‘Get toned in 10 minutes’ with a bodyweight exercise routine.

Plans for cycling, swimming (yes, it’s waterproof) and boxing are also included, as are guided HIIT and brisk walk sessions, although there isn’t any facility to log your own workouts yet, sadly.

All are based around the principle of interval training, which increases fat burn and improves stamina and cardiovascular health with brutal efficiency when compared to typical sustained exercise. The biggest advantage though is that you set your own pace.

My own coaching experience began with a simple running session, setting an initial difficulty level by swiping up or down the screen. This defined a target speed and distance for my intervals – I picked level 32 in a Speed Endurance session, which specified a 7:02 minute mile.

Ankle pose

I wore the pebble-like Moov Now on my leg, using the spare rubber ankle strap. Most wearables stay on the arm, where their accelerometer sensors can accurately track speed, distance and steps. What distinguishes the Moov Now is its added magnetometer and gyroscope, enabling it to gauge orientation and rotation in 3D space for a more comprehensive picture of your movement – so placement is meant to make a difference.

It works, too. Cadence and range-of-motion tracking helped me increase my running efficiency in less than three intervals. I soon learned that I’d been overstriding on flat runs for some time, which probably contributed to my history of intermittent knee problems. My impact weight still needs work though…

Moov range of motion

This data was revealed to me by a slightly robotic voice over my Jaybird wireless headphones. With my iPhone slotted into a waistband (GPS is required by the Moov) the coaching feedback kept me informed of my progress and whether I was in step with my projected interval time.

Each interval was interspersed with a 1:30 rest period that I could either jog or walk. I went on to record three intervals in succession and was audibly congratulated – I’d achieved the set level. As I discovered, there’s no limit to the amount of intervals you can record in a single session, but if you consistently best a level then the voice coaching suggests that you up the difficulty by choosing a higher one.

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So I chose level 33 and went on to complete two 6:52 miles for a total of five intervals over 42 minutes. Actually ‘achieving’ this next level though would have to wait – you have to finish three intervals at the same pace in a single session to qualify. Eventually I managed it, but only after a Christmas pudding-filled day of recovery.

Moov groove

I’m impressed by my experience running with the Moov Now. The voice feedback was served seamlessly over my workout music and I found it genuinely motivating, with gentle cues to improve or maintain my performance through to the final stride.

It also gave me advice on my form which I was able to act on immediately, such as keeping a straight back and minimising hip rotation – simple adjustments that are easy to forget but easy to implement on hearing them, thereby improving energy economy and preventing injury.

Moov stats

Subtle dings throughout the run indicated that I was keeping pace to achieve the interval, which felt less like a chore and more like a fun thing to aim for, as if I’d ‘gamified’ my run.

Upping the level mid-session was a bit of a pain as I had to remove my phone from my waistband and unlock the screen to swipe, so maybe a Notification Screen extension could fix this, or alternatively better interaction with the tracker itself (currently you only press it to sync, and that’s all the interactivity there is).

The brisk walking programme works much the same – motivational and inspiring in equal measure. I’ve also tried the boxing workout and found it to be heaps of fun. It involves placing your phone or tablet on an eye-level surface and standing about two metres in front so you can see the screen and follow the punch ‘track’ as the session progresses. Think of it as Guitar Hero for Rocky types. And following the call to keep moving and stay on top of your form and footwork really works up a sweat.

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I’d never tried boxing as a cardio exercise before, but I’m looking forward to keeping it up to see if I can improve my hit rate, timing and score. An additional Moov device can also be worn on the other wrist – using the one still works fine, although you only get speed and strength data for your jabs, hooks and crosses on a single arm. But it’s motivating just the same.

And that’s the boon of the Moov Now. It pushes you to challenge yourself, where previously you might have been content to tread water in your regular exercise routines or just clock up a set amount of steps over the course of a day.

Sure, there’s plenty to be said for continuous all-day tracking wearables. But by the same token, there’s much to be gained from a coaching device like the Moov Now if you’re looking to escape a plodding daily routine, a training rut or simply take your athletic performance to the next level. By that count, Moov Now gets my vote.

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