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Fitness Test: Withings Body Cardio

We tried the latest smart scale to hit the health scene. See if it's worthy of a spot on your bathroom floor.

What Is it?

Body Cardio is Withings’ latest smart WiFi scale that crafts a holistic picture of your overall health and fitness. The scale measures your weight down to .2 pounds, body composition through body fat percentage, total body water percentage, muscle mass, and bone mass in both athlete and non-athlete modes, heart rate in beats per minute, and pulse wave velocity (more on this in a bit). Research proves weighing yourself every day is one of the easiest ways to lose more weight and maintain this weight loss; so might as well invest in something multidimensional, right? 

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First Impression

As soon as you pull the scale from the box, you'll notice it's incredibly slim (just .7 inches high). It's crafted from tempered glass (which is standard for smart scales now) and it doesn't have any feet or plastic tabs on its base (which is not so standard). Nearly all scales need that extra bit to accurately measure your weight on top of thick surfaces, like a carpet. But the Body Cardio measures precisely whether you have it resting on tile, hardwood, or carpet. You'll also notice there's practically nothing else in the box aside from a micro-USB cord. The scale doesn't run off AA or AAA batteries. It's powered by a rechargeable battery that lasts up to a year. The face of the scale—which, by the way, comes in black or white—is sleek. Light stripes run horizontally across and serve as markers, indicating where to place your feet during weigh in. 

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Setting Up and Syncing 

It's surprisingly quick and easy to get everything set up. (Granted, it's not like you're setting up Ikea furniture with comic-book-strip-picture instructions.) Check the scale's battery power; it might be a good idea to juice it up to 100%. Note: the USB cord doesn't have an outlet brick, so you'll have to use a spare unless you want to charge it through your computer's port. While the scale is charging, download the "Withings Health Mate" app on your smartphone. 

The app will walk you through the process and have you create an account where you'll enter your date of birth, sex, height, and weight. Next, you'll press a button on the side of the scale, connect the "Withings Body Cardio" to your phone's Bluetooth and to the Internet via WiFi. This might take a couple tries; be patient. It won't take more than five minutes. From this point on, the scale will automatically sync with your device on a day-to-day basis.

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Defining Features

You can have up to 8 people using the same scale. It'll automatically recognize who you are (your name will appear on the scale); and if more than one of you has a similar weight, it'll let you select who you are. If your name appears on the left hand corner of the screen, lean left; if it shows on the right, lean right to select. 

To get the most accurate reading, place your heels along the second line from the bottom. Small arrows may appear on the corners of the screen that shows your metrics if your weight isn't properly distributed on the scale. Lean in the direction the arrows indicate until they disappear.

As mentioned, the Body Cardio measures tons of metrics, and it shows nearly all of them on the screen, one after the other. First you'll see your weight. Next you get your resting heart rate (which should be taken with a grain of salt since you're supposed to be seated; walking to the bathroom or weighing yourself after going to the bathroom can alter your rate). When we tested, this didn't always register; the heart rate wasn't taken. After that, your body composition—bone mass, muscle percentage, and water percentage. The screen will also show trends and fluctuations in a mini line graph. If you're using a compatible tracker (like MyFitnessPal, MapMyRun, or your phone’s internal tracking data), your steps from the previous day will appear, followed by the day's weather.

The only thing the screen doesn't show is your pulse wave velocity*; that's only shown on the app. This is a bit odd since your steps are pulled from an app or your phone, then communicated on the scale. Plus, it takes about 5 measurements worth of Pulse Wave Velocity before you start getting any trends, and you need to stand exactly in the right place for it to take. *So, what exactly is pulse wave velocity, and why should you care about it?

To make a very complicated process simple, it's a measure of how quickly blood leaving your heart reaches the vessels in your feet. Traditionally, measuring this takes at least 20 minutes with a bunch of medical gear, so the Withings Body Cardio gives you a mini check up in 15 seconds (though we're not sure how accurately measurements are). High-speed velocity indicates you have high blood pressure and stiff arteries, which indicate you have a higher risk for developing high blood pressure and/or cardiovascular disease. Low blood pressure and soft arteries result in low speed waves.

What's more, pulse wave velocity values can calculate the age of your arteries: Each value over the 75th percentile is a sign of accelerated aging, and each value above the 90th indicates damage in the arterial wall or elevated blood pressure. Typically pulse wave velocity increases with age by about 0.1m/s per year. Check out this graph that shows optimal and not-so-optimal values; the app will also let you know where you stand in regard to the average pulse wave velocity of people in your age group.

(Trying to improve your pulse wave velocity? Increase physical exercise, lower your salt intake, decrease alcohol consumption, lose weight, reduce stress and anxiety, and eat more foods in the Mediterranean diet, as well as dark chocolate and green tea.)

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Overall Impression

Great design and functional features that blow away your traditional bathroom scale. The only downside? The Body Cardio is a bit pricy—$179.95,—and the arterial health feature can be a bit tricky to get down. 

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