Body-assessment gadgets are popping up in gyms nationwide. With help from Robert Vaughan, PhD, an exercise physiologist at Baylor University's Tom Landry Health and Wellness Center in Dallas, we tested them to see if they're worth your time—and your dime.
Metabolic Profilers (Body Gem; New Leaf)
What it is: A computerized device that assesses your resting metabolic rate (RMR), or how many calories you would burn if you just sat all day long.
How it works: You breathe into a mask (New Leaf) or mouthpiece (Body Gem) for 10 to 15 minutes while a computer measures your RMR based on how much oxygen you inhale (plus, in New Leaf's case, how much carbon dioxide you exhale).
Cost: $40 to $100
Bottom line: It may be a useful way to figure out why all that dieting and exercising isn't helping you lose weight—as long as the tester is knowledgeable and experienced, and the test is conducted in a quiet, distraction-free area.
Next Page: Body Analyzer [ pagebreak ]
Body Analyzer, From Fitness Expert
What it is: A desktop device connected to a computer that measures body composition.
How it works: You hold on for a few seconds while it sends weak electrical currents into your body (you won't feel anything). It reads your body composition by measuring the return current.
Cost: Around $10
Bottom line: It's easy to skew the results (by not following pretest guidelines like drinking a glass of water, for example, or by not sitting perfectly still). When done by an experienced tester, the skin-fold test is more reliable. But if you want to know your body composition and are sick of having your skin pinched, this is a passable alternative.
Details: 801-558-8474 or www.fitnessexpert.com
Pharmanex Bio-Photonic Scanner
What it is: A tabletop device that looks like a new-age toaster and is hooked up to a computer. It analyzes the antioxidants in your body.
How it works: When you put your hand on it, a blue-light laser scans your hand (painlessly) to determine your antioxidant level.
Cost: $5 to $10
Bottom line: It will measure levels of some antioxidants, but it's mostly a gimmick to push the company's vitamin supplements. If you're worried about your antioxidant level, skip this test and invest in a jar of multivitamins instead.
Details: 800-487-8000 or www.pharmanexscanner.com