Trainers with a mind of their own, MP3 players that shout at you to go faster – there’s just no excuse not to get in shape. Mark Prigg roadtests the very latest fitness gagdets

The worlds of gadgets and fitness seem a million miles away from each other at first glance, but in recent months the market for high-tech ways to exercise has exploded, with everyone from mobile phone makers to games console manufacturers developing new ways to keep fit.

It’s now possible to play an almost real game of tennis in your living room, and even have your iPod shout at you to run faster as you wheeze your way around the park. Here are the essential gadget you’ll need to keep fit the high-tech way:

Available only at JD Sports

It’s definitely one to file under gadgets you never thought you’d need – computer-controlled trainers. Yet, amazingly, these Adidas shoes (pictured above) are a very clever idea. Each shoe has a built-in motor to control the cushioning, and a sensor and microprocessor which act like the shoe’s brain: sensing, understanding and adapting to the runner’s needs.

There are a few extra steps – remembering to turn on your trainers before you run, for example, and the ability to programme the amount of cushioning you feel – but otherwise, they’ll take care of everything.

In use, they feel great – if you’re running on hard concrete they’ll provide some give, whereas muddy grass will see them harden up to give support.

It’s tough to tell whether a high-end pair of properly fitted (and almost certainly cheaper) trainers would do just as good a job, but for the real techno fan, they’ll certainly be a talking point down the pub after you’ve done a few laps of the park.

PROS: Shoes controlled by a computer – what more could
you want?
CONS: Probably overkill for most of us…


It’s taken Sony a long time to catch up with the iPod, but it’s finally starting to get there. The cylindrical S-series (see above, main picture) is designed for sports use, and is very well executed. It’s water-resistant and, instead of a scroll wheel, you get a collar which can be twisted to change tracks.

Not only does it also have an FM tuner, but its one-line display is easy to see in the dark. It also beats the iPod hands down on battery life – it takes just three minutes to charge up the batteries for three hours of playback, or a total of 18 hours of battery life on a full charge.

For sports fans, the G-Sensor inside is a pedometer, and there’s also a calorie counter and a stopwatch, too. Once you’ve input your height, weight and striding distance, it will be able to tell you exactly how many steps you’ve made, the distance you’ve run (calculated by your stride) and the calories burnt.

A generous 2Gb of storage will keep you going for hours, and you can also use a preset sports mode, where it will play music until you reach your chosen time limit, or chosen distance.

Overall it’s a great little music player, and for the dedicated jogger a worthy rival to the ubiquitous iPod Nano.

PROS: Tiny size, great display.
CONS: Only 2Gb of storage, and the software is terrible.

£29 + iPod Nano from £99

The iPod has done more for jogging than possibly any other gadget – look in any park or gym, and you’ll see white earphones everywhere. Apple has now teamed up with Nike to produce the Nike+iPod system, which uses a nifty sensor you place in your shoe to turn your music player into a talking, stats-gathering personal trainer.

You’ll need an iPod Nano, a £19 Sports Pack (containing a sensor and receiver) and a pair of £65 Nike Moire+ trainers. Before hitting the road, decide on the type of workout (one with a time, distance or calorie target, or a “basic” type) and what your “Powersong” will be. This is a crucial decision – if you’re in lactic acid hell, holding down the centre buttons will administer your chosen dose of power rock. If you’re not on target, it will tell you – a bizarre moment the first time the computerised voice shouts at you…

The feather in the system’s swoosh cap is the Nike+ site, where you can upload your stats for free. This is done via iTunes, which asks you whether to send over your info every time you plug in the Nano, but the slick design, automated uploading process and simple graphs mean it’s easily the best of its kind.

PROS: Superb integration.
CONS: Only works with Nike’s trainers.


They may be the weirdest-looking headphones you’ve ever seen, but these Sennheisers (pictured above) are a runner’s dream. They’ve got a built-in neckband which means they are held firmly in place and are so light that you’ll soon forget you’re wearing them.

The styling is not exactly subtle, being grey and green, and there is also a reflective Sennheiser logo on the back. The fit is surprisingly good, and because they are water-resistant, you can wear them in any weather, and wash the sweat off when you get home. Sound-wise, they really deliver: the bass is superb, and far better than anything you’ll have heard from Apple’s headphones. However, because of the neckband, moving your head right back is a problem – not great on a road bike, for example. But overall, these are an innovative, brilliant-sounding solution for anyone who is fed up with their iPod headphones falling out during a jog.

PROS: Stay in place if you fall down a hole.
CONS: Not ideal for all sports.

NOKIA 5500
From free

The 5500 has almost every function you could ever want in a phone, including a 2MP camera and an FM radio. But by far the most interesting and important exercise feature is the pedometer or step-counter, which uses a 3D sensor to track the distance you’ve run, walked, rowed or cycled, and it can even be used on a step machine (there are separate settings for all five of these exercise types).

As with the Nike+iPod, there’s also a website you can upload your data to. It’s not quite as slick as Apple’s offering but very good – for dedicated runners it’s also worth bearing in mind the combined music player, phone and pedometer means it really is the only gadget you’ll have to carry about with you. There are also some excellent features for when you’re running. For instance, if you get a text message and don’t want to stop, you can make the phone read it out by tapping it twice – a superb idea, and very well executed.

PROS: Brilliant features, and one gadget to rule them all…
CONS: It’s quite ugly, and doesn’t have the iPod “cool” factor.


The first thing that hits you about the Wii is the console’s diminutive size – it’s only a little larger than a stack of four DVD cases. Setting it up is a breeze, and the instructions are easy to understand.

The key to the Wii is the controller. Shaped like a TV remote, it uses a small sensor bar placed in front of your TV to control movement on screen. It’s an incredibly intuitive way to control games, and the Wii sports game supplied with every console makes full use of it. It feels instantly comfortable, and the games walk you through the controls at first. It’s simple – in Wii tennis, you swing the controller like a racket, in golf like a club, and in boxing a second joystick plugs in, allowing you to throw punches with both hands. While Microsoft and Sony have thrown everything into expensive graphics, sound and multimedia features, Nintendo has captured the one thing games players really want – fun. After your first set of Wii tennis, it’s tough not to grin inanely, the game is so much fun.

The console also has some excellent online features, whereby you can download games from Nintendo’s extensive back catalogue, and there are even news updates and weather forecasts available once you’ve hooked it up to the internet. There’s also a neat feature allowing you to plug memory cards from a phone or camera into the console, and view them on screen or send them to friends over the internet. Overall, the Wii doesn’t have the fancy graphics and bone-crunching sounds of its rivals, but that’s not really the point of the console.

It’s designed for all the family, and within seconds of picking up the controller you can see that this works. Games are fun, social activities that actually force you into exercise, rather than solitary pursuits played on the sofa. If you can get hold of one it’s