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Open Access To Exercise Data? 188

Posted by kdawson
from the lub-dub dept.
identity0 writes "A recent Slashdot discussion about heart-rate monitors in schools got me thinking about getting one for my own exercise. It turns out that the available models have a wide range of features: calorie rate, pedometers, GPS, PC connectivity, etc. Being a geek, I want one that will let me look at my exercise data, and I'm curious what experiences Slashdotters have had with them. Some download data to a proprietary application — are open source alternatives available or is the data format easily readable? Others upload data to an online app — can the data be pulled off the site or is it forever trapped on their servers? While I'm not an open source zealot or a paranoid about my data being shared, I would like to know that I can access my data in the future. Whatever method you guys use to monitor your exercise, I'd love to hear about it."
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Open Access To Exercise Data?

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  • Odd question (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BrokenHalo (565198) on Monday October 05, 2009 @04:16AM (#29642135)
    Isn't this the wrong forum to ask this question? Pimply 11-year-old slashbots and exercise? Well, hello?

    *ducks* ;-)
  • Re:Opposite day? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by mewt (1057562) on Monday October 05, 2009 @05:08AM (#29642335) Homepage
    Geeks are the new Alpha Males of Society remember?
  • Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Monday October 05, 2009 @05:20AM (#29642385)
    I'm serious about this. Doing something and then obsessing about the statistical data - it's using up a part of your life you won't get back again. I've always argued (over a 30 year engineering career) that the purpose of automated data collection and analysis is to enable us to do human things, not robot things. Rowing, for instance, should be a fun exercise that keeps you fit, improves your social life, and makes you aware of your environment in new ways. It's turned into something where people listen to canned music while working exercise machines in gyms, trying to turn themselves into machines. Cyclists blast along footpaths and cycle tracks more concerned with what their monitors tell them than looking where they're going, shouting at people on foot. I find this bloody depressing.

    If it's your business, if you want to build an application that takes all this data and turns it into something easy to understand that doesn't intrude on people's lives, that's one thing. But fussing over numbers for the sake of it? There are many, many better things to do in the world.

  • Minimalism (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 05, 2009 @05:28AM (#29642427)

    I hate to sound like a luddite, but I find it far more interesting to use minimal technology when exercising. I think the obsession with metrics is counter-productive. Maybe if you're an world class athlete that needs that extra edge, you can exploit science and technology to your advantage. But it seems less pure than simply going for a hike, a run, or living some free weights. At most a small journal of how long you exercised and what you did, but honestly I never go back and look at what I have been doing. I also am against setting goals for target heart rate, weight, number of reps, etc. It seems all overly competitive. I hate to sound like a hippie, but what is wrong with doing what feels good? I know recording distances, beating personal records, etc will never make me happy, perhaps others find joy in it, but I totally do not understand how that could be.

  • by wehe (135130) <wehe&tuxmobil,org> on Monday October 05, 2009 @05:30AM (#29642437) Homepage Journal
    There is at least a small number of Linux applications for watches and heart rate monitors [], as well as some free and open source tools for bikes [], including applications and open hardware for data acquisition from exercise bicycles. You may find (yet little) information about appropriate data formats, too.
  • Re:Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by NoYob (1630681) on Monday October 05, 2009 @05:43AM (#29642501)
    The data is very useful when you are training. It can be used to train more efficiently, see how altering training can improve performance, monitor how diet is affecting exercise and it can help immensely in preventing injuries and over train - to name a few. It can also help prevent you from slacking off. It's real easy to start to slow down and with something to remind you of performance you can keep a check on yourself - it kicks into the natural competitiveness.
  • Re:Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by stranger_to_himself (1132241) on Monday October 05, 2009 @05:59AM (#29642579) Journal

    It's an interesting point, but I disagree. I run for fitness with the occasional race, and I love the data I get from my Garmin. Its motivating to compete with your personal best and see improvements, and useful to see for example how consistent you are across a run. During training or a race the Garmin can help me run at an even pace. It's really just an easier and more detailed way of keeping a training log. I should add that I'm a statistician and seeing what cool information I can extract from lists of data is my raison d'etre.

  • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AlXtreme (223728) on Monday October 05, 2009 @06:04AM (#29642595) Homepage Journal

    It's turned into something where people listen to canned music while working exercise machines in gyms, trying to turn themselves into machines.

    Maybe, just maybe, people exercise in order to get fit?

    Not everyone has the time/equipment/weather required to get a healthy workout outside and not everyone who enters a gym wants to become a bodybuilder. And if "obsessing" about statistical data keeps you motivated to get fit, I can't see a problem with it.

    Much better to grind a real treadmill and remain healthy than grind in WoW and become an overweight blob.

  • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sobrique (543255) on Monday October 05, 2009 @06:05AM (#29642599) Homepage
    I'm using an exercise monitor to ensure I get enough of a workout each day. I want to know calories out so I can balance my calories in, because doing so 'automatically' I end up gaining weight.
    I therefore use my heart rate monitor to try and sustaince a 130-150bpm workout for 40-60 minutes. I then know I've done 'about the same' amount of work, despite it being rowing one week, covering 8km, and jogging to work the next week. I try to maintain the workload threshold about there, because that's about the optimal intensity to maximise the amount of workout I'm getting - much harder and I get tired too fast.
    I've observed this by using the statistics of my heart rate monitor, combined with exercise distances travelled. I can row hard at So.. yeah. I found that a heart rate monitor has helped me greatly in being efficient about my daily workout.
    So I kind of agree. I'm collecting statistics to allow me to 'take an engineering approach' to my daily calorie intake and general workload.
  • Re:Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hab136 (30884) on Monday October 05, 2009 @07:35AM (#29642999) Journal

    It's turned into something where people listen to canned music while working exercise machines in gyms, trying to turn themselves into machines

    Do you know of a faster, more effective method of getting fit? These people do not have a healthy activity that they enjoy; instead they make a game out of the numbers in order to motivate them to continue to excercise. People like seeing that they've improved week over week.

    Cyclists blast along footpaths and cycle tracks more concerned with what their monitors tell them than looking where they're going, shouting at people on foot.

    There's only so many times you can cycle down the same path before it gets boring. Adding a meta-game of statistics adds fun to the activity.

    Rude people are rude; if they weren't timing their cycling runs, they'd find another way to be rude.

    But fussing over numbers for the sake of it? There are many, many better things to do in the world.

    Some people enjoy obsessing over things, including statistics; these people are probably over-represented in the Slashdot crowd compared to the public.

    There is truth and beauty in science and mathematics, just as there is in nature and human spirit.

  • Re:Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Comatose51 (687974) on Monday October 05, 2009 @09:05AM (#29643783) Homepage
    Speaking as someone who until after graduating college couldn't run more than three miles, I can tell you that my HRMs have made a huge difference in my fitness and exercise. If nothing else, watching my stats improve over time is a huge motivator for me. Maybe it's the same nerdy instinct that drives some of us to play MMORPGs. Give me stats and tell me how to improve it, and I won't stop until I get there. Then when I do, I set the goal even higher, etc. Since my first HRM I've trained to cycle 100 miles and am a week away from doing my first marathon. I know nerds aren't what people imagine as athletes but endurance sports, especially ones that are measurable and can be done solo, can be really appealing to nerds. Our obsessive nature gives us an advantage in exercises that reward mental discipline (unwilling to give up) and patience.
  • Re:Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by thesandtiger (819476) on Monday October 05, 2009 @09:44AM (#29644233)

    This always seems to come as a shock to people on slashdot, but... Not everyone thinks like you do, or does the same things for the same reason.

    For instance, some people (me, and several other folks I know) are interested in getting data on their progress when exercising - it can be interesting to see if subjective experiences of a workout/performance/improvement over time match up with the objective information. It can also be a great motivator - I started on the "couch to 5k" running thing a while back and it was really interesting to look back over the data from runs and see at what time & distance points my pulse was shooting up and at what points it slowed down, or how long it actually took me to cool down to a normal heart rate after a run, etc. It's also been motivating for a few of my friends and family as well as myself - I have a fitness blog that tracks my progress automatically, and when I *don't* run, I've gotten email from my mom asking me if I skipped the day. My father - who is 84 - promised me that for every mile I run, he'll walk. My best friend, who was morbidly obese, said that having photographic evidence of me dropping 20 lbs., and who got to see it happen gradually, said seeing the progress like that helped motivate her - she's dropped almost 40 lbs. in the last year. My ongoing efforts - tracking changes I've made to nutrition, exercise, stretching, all supplemented with data - it's been an interesting project for me to work on. You may find such data pointless, but that's you, not everyone else.

    As to your reasons why people should work out... When I run, I don't *want* to socialize with people. I run for me. I run to forget the stresses of work. I run to not have to think about other people at all. I run to enjoy the way my body feels as I crank out the miles. I run to think things over. I run and have time to listen to things I don't have the time to listen to at other times of the day. I have puh-lenty of socialization going on in my life, plenty of opportunities to hang out with people in many capacities, and exercise is my refuge from that. You may feel like your time spent working out is time for you to be social, and that's great for you if it makes you happy, but I would be really annoyed if someone tried to chat with me while I was getting my me time on the paths.

    You seem to think that tracking the data is incompatible with more "human" reasons for working out, and in my case, and in the cases of many other people, that's just not the case - I'd say it's helped me form better connections with some people at best, and at worst it's simply entertaining for me. I'd suggest learning how to step outside of your own viewpoint and try to see things from different points of view - just as you find the cyclists ignoring the rest of the world around them depressing, I find it a bit sad whenever I see someone who can't seem to understand that other people are different from themselves.

  • Re:Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kheldan (1460303) on Monday October 05, 2009 @10:08AM (#29644539) Journal
    If you're just out for fun then that's fine for you; if you're training more seriously for an endurance sport (training for 100 or 200 mile cycling events, or for half or full marathons, racing of any kind, etc) then you need to train more purposefully if you want to succeed at it, and having performance data is a basic part of that.