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Withings Health Companion app: A new way to look at personal fitness

I'm a big fan of the Withings line of personal health devices -- over the years, I've purchased one of their Wi-Fi Body Scales and a Blood Pressure Monitor. The devices are great, and it's nice (and sometimes frustrating) to see how your health is doing over time. But the stats that were provided did little to motivate me to really exercise more, eat less, and even care about taking my blood pressure daily. The completely new Withings Health Companion app (free) is designed to not only monitor your health, but motivate you to do something about it.

Unlike the previous WiScale app, which just tracked weight and BP and is the tool with which you take your blood pressure, the Withings Health Companion app lets you set goals and reminders. Upon launching the app, you see a "butterfly" with four wings -- one cyan, one orange, one magenta, and one green. Each wing is associated with a different health factor -- sleep, activity, heart, and weight. The idea is that you should try to eventually "fill" each wing with color, indicating that you're managing sleep, activity, your heart health, and your weight.

To do this, the Withings Health Companion tries to "turn long-term goals into small achievable targets, and monitor your weekly progress toward your goals." In my personal case, I am able to monitor my heart health (BP and heart rate) using the Withings Blood Pressure Monitor and add my weight to the app every day using the Wi-Fi Body Scale. For capturing activity, I have now set up RunKeeper to report my activities to the app. I wish that there was a way to send info from my FitBit, which I wear constantly, to the app.

The last item, sleep, requires input from other devices made by BodyMedia and Zeo. Once again, I'd prefer to have my sleep information sent to the Withings Health Companion app from the FitBit, which also tracks that info. There doesn't appear to be a way of adding my nightly sleep information to the app manually, which is somewhat irritating. Since I'm not exactly thrilled about having to spend a minimum of US$149 for yet another monitoring device, I'm hoping that FitBit and Withings will work out a way for the FitBit data to be used by the Health Companion.

Of course, I could use the FitBit website to monitor all of this, since I could get activity readings and sleep information from the FitBit and weight data transferred from the Withings scale, but there's no way to track blood pressure. Sigh -- it's like these companies all want to get you tied into their particular ecosystem and don't want to make it easy for you to choose the combination of apps and devices to track your health.

At this point, one of the "wings" of the butterfly will always be withered, since this app won't let me add my sleep information. I do, however, like the way that the app displays all pertinent health information on one screen and reminds me to take readings or to exercise.

Do you have a favorite app or mobile website for tracking your health and personal fitness? Tell us about it in the comments.

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