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Can A Smart Bathroom Scale Make You Any Healthier?

Some argue that app connectivity makes a pound counter more helpful, but others say it merely gussies up an outmoded barometer of health.

By JANINE ANNETT
Tue, Jun 14, 2022Grey Clock 4 min

USING A BATHROOM SCALE once meant nervously watching a literal needle wiggle around until it settled on a number, whether dismaying or encouraging. In 2022, such scales have gone the way of the slide projector and Rolodex, replaced by newer digital versions that employ more-advanced technology. But in an era when nearly every device is smart whether we like it or not, even these might be headed for obsolescence.

Some doctors and personal trainers argue that it’s high time we all embraced smart bathroom scales that do much more than display your weight. Step on one and it sends a mild electrical current through your body to gather data. Because fat and water resist electricity differently, the scale can use a process called Bioelectric Impedance Analysis to measure how much of each your body has. It then sends this data to an app on your phone, uses software to estimate other metrics and keeps track of how each changes in your body over time.

It’s a pretty neat trick, but not all healthcare professionals are convinced this data is a useful way to measure one’s overall health. (And some experts would rather you ditch all bathroom scales entirely.) So is a smart scale a smart move? Here, we present both sides of the issue.

Yes, a smart scale can help you keep tabs on important health statistics.

If you want to lose or gain weight, maintain your current weight, add muscle or decrease body fat, proponents say a smart scale can help you measure and analyze your progress toward these goals much better than scales that can’t track data.

Their argument is simple: You can’t change what you do not understand. “Self-monitoring is a key strategy for making any behavior change or setting a personal goal,” said Dr. Robert F. Kushner, a weight management expert and professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. And while both smart and unconnected scales let you measure weight, only a smart scale automatically helps you track how that weight fluctuates, revealing how your body responds to any lifestyle changes you are making. Theoretically, you could track this yourself with pen and paper. But who has the time?

Jake Sarnowski, a 40-year-old product manager, was already struggling to balance an exercise routine with the demands of family life. Then, with his wife and two children, he moved to Woodbury, Minn., a place distinguished, as he put it, by “a lot of deep-fried cheese curds.” He hadn’t owned a scale for years, but when he spotted a smart scale from Wyze on sale last October, he bought it. He said he values the way it lets him keep tabs on his weight. “It’s my product-manager instinct kicking in. Whatever is measured is improved,” he said.

You can usually get the extra features of a smart scale without paying extra—many cost about the same (or even less) than “dumb” digital alternatives. The Wyze Scale X, a new release from the company that also makes smart home security devices, can measure 13 body composition metrics. You can find other models, like the Etekcity ESF24 Smart Fitness Scale that measures the same metrics, or more opulent options, like the In body H20N, which includes a handlebar that allows it to more accurately measure data from the top half of your body, instead of relying on estimates. Fans say any of these could help you meet your fitness goals, provided you don’t mind immediately checking your phone after stepping on the scale.

No, a smart scale encourages you to fixate on the wrong kind of health data.

Not everyone feels people need the extra information a smart scale provides. Maryelizabeth Carter, owner of Underground Trainers, a boutique personal fitness service in Rutherford, N.J., said most folks just don’t need real-time access to information as granular as their bone mass and their metabolic age. These measures can be hard to understand, especially without active guidance from a medical professional. And Ms. Carter said getting too caught up in the numbers can actually lead to unhealthy behaviours. “You can lose track of your overall objectives. Being in good physical shape is dependent on healthy eating and living, not just the information provided by a scale,” she said. An old-fashioned scale, by comparison, only provides data that you might actually know how to use.

Some experts go further and question whether weighing yourself at all is a good idea. Hannah Coakley, a registered dietitian and nutrition therapist in Brooklyn who specializes in eating disorder treatment and recovery, said scales—smart or not—can do more harm than good. “Study after study shows that when we take a weight-first approach to health, it simply doesn’t work,” said Mx. Coakley, who uses the gender-neutral honorific. “Leading with weight can be ultimately damaging or stigmatizing. There are other ways to look at health.” If you want to spend money on something that will improve your health, they recommend a subscription to a meditation app or a gym membership (“not to burn calories but to move your body”). And for an option that won’t cost anything, “get outside and do what makes you feel good.”

Anna Millhiser, a 36-year-old vice president of client success and hospital partnerships who lives in Baltimore, wasn’t too worried about how tracking weight could impact her health when she bought a Garmin smart scale about five years ago. But once its batteries ran out, she felt no need to replace them. “I realized weighing myself wasn’t high on my priority list, so I just stopped and life went on,” she said. “It’s been dead for probably two years.”

 

Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: June 13, 2022

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It comes as falling volumes and declining prices reflected a weakness likely to continue in the established homes market.

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The nation’s housing sales fell by $8 billion in the three months to March when compared to the previous quarter according to data provider CoreLogic’s quarterly Pain & Gain report.

It comes as falling volumes and declining prices reflected a weakness likely to continue in the established homes market.

The fall in nominal profits from $38 billion in December echoed the decline in loss-making sales to $261 million from $355 million. Declines in housing values only kicked in after the March quarter, with the extent of loss-making sales predicted to increase.

CoreLogic’s analysis of 106,000 establish home sales in the March quarter showed the proportion of profit-making sales fell to 92.7% from the December quarter’s 94% peak figure.

The March quarter saw the first time profitable housing sales fell in a year and a half — unit profitability declining faster than houses.

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As part of the NSW government’s budget, changes have been made to the tax.

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NSW first home buyers will be given the choice to pay stamp duty or an annual land tax under a major reform by the Perrottet government in a test to move away from transfer duties.

In Dominic Perrottet’s first budget as the NSW premier, he has proposed an overhaul of property and housing taxes.

Under the new $730 million property tax plan — that sits at the core of the NSW Budget — first home buyers will have the option of paying the upfront cost of stamp duty, or an annual property tax payment of $400 plus 0.3% of the land value of the property. It will be available on homes valued at less than $1.5 million.

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