Philips DirectLife Advanced Activity Monitor

The Philips Activity Monitor

Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V.

Note: As of July 1, 2016, DirectLife services have been discontinued.

We know we need to be more active and there are plenty of tools out there, like pedometers and heart rate monitors, to motivate us. Counting steps is one option, of course, but the Philips Activity Monitor offers another one. This amazing little gadget, which is small enough to fit in your pocket, measures your movement throughout the day and converts it into calories burned, allowing you to track your activity on a daily basis. With weekly activity goals to meet and a monitor that shows your progress, you may find yourself actually inventing more reasons to move.

The Basics

If you're looking for motivation to stay active, the Philips Activity Monitor, along with the DirectLife Activity Program, is an excellent choice. You don't get a diet or an exercise program, but a program designed to help you become more active by setting goals based on your current activity levels. The monitor tracks your movements and, when plugged into the computer, transmits your data to the website where you can track your progress. The DirectLife Activity Program includes:

  • The activity monitor along with a necklace, pouch and USB adapter
  • Membership to a personalized web page to chart progress
  • Regular feedback on your progress
  • Your own personal coach
  • Price: The starter package is $99 and includes the monitor and the first 4 months of your membership. After that, the membership fee is $12.50 a month.

The monitor is small, a little more than an inch square and can be worn in different ways - around your neck, in your pocket or attached to your belt. It measures activity based on the Philips Tracmor system, which measures your body's acceleration. It's important to wear the monitor the same way every day and it's easy to change those settings as needed.

After an assessment period, you'll get activity goals for each week that include weekly calorie and workout targets - five 30-minute moderate workouts and three 20-minute vigorous workouts. You can check your progress by either plugging it into your computer or checking the indicator lights on the front of the monitor. Each time you meet 15% of your goal, a circle lights up showing you how close you are to 100%.

Getting Started

The Philips Activity Monitor may be one of the easiest gadgets you've ever used. Once you sign up, register at the website and download the software, you connect the activity monitor to your computer using the USB connector. This will open the DirectLife website where you can enter information including your height, weight, goals and your preferred wearing position (in your pocket, around your neck, on your chest or on a belt). The goals include being healthy, fit, active or sporty, each with a different level of activity and calorie targets.

Your 7-Day Assessment

The first part of the program may drive you a little crazy, simply because there is no plan until you've completed the assessment. Your job is to wear the monitor every day, allowing it to track your normal activity. If you plug the monitor in during that period, all you get is the opening screen telling you how many days you have left.

Your 12 Week Plan

After your 7 days is up, you'll receive your assessment and a 12-week plan based on your current activity levels and goals. In my case, I averaged 743 calories a day, so my new goal was to burn 757 calories a day the first week. Each week, my calorie goals increase a little at a time, culminating at an average of 920 calories by the end of the 12 weeks. After the 12 week plan, you go through a 'stay active' phase before going onto the next 12-week plan.

You don't get a specific exercise plan or calendar - how you increase your activity is up to you, although the website does offer advice for different activities.

Tracking Your Progress

While the activity monitor tracks your movements, the website allows you to see how you're doing and track your progress in a variety of ways. When you plug it in, you instantly see your daily activity levels on the opening screen including yesterday's achievement, the progress you've made on today's achievement and even your rank among other participants that fall into your peer group. From there you can also access:

  • Your history: View your past progress by day, week or month or even by the hour. Your progress is shown in graph form with green bars that change color depending on how hard you worked. This gives you an idea of which activities give you the most bang for your buck. The lighter the workout, the lighter the color. The dark green bars indicate a more vigorous workout.
  • Daily average activity: This shows the average number of calories you've burned for the day.
  • Weekly activity: You can also see how many days of moderate and vigorous activity you've gotten each week. Your target is 5 days of moderate activity for at least 30 minutes and 3 days of vigorous exercise for 20 minutes. Each time you meet one of these targets, you get a check mark and a gold star. Well, okay, just the check mark, but you deserve a gold star.
  • Your personal plan: In this section, you get an overview of your goals, your 12-week plan as well as activity ideas.
  • People: In this area, you can see where you rank among other participants based on your age and gender.

    You can change your information, settings and goals at any time.


    • Small and compact - It's easy to wear on a daily basis, though a belt clip would be nice
    • Easy to use - There are no buttons to push and the website is easy to navigate
    • Motivating - Watching the indicator lights build up over the day motivates you to do everything you can to reach your activity goals
    • Support - The site includes an extensive help section and you can also email your personal coach with questions


    • Accuracy: Because the activity monitor measures movement at your core, not all activities are measured correctly, particularly cycling or weight training. I also found that my elliptical and stairclimber workouts weren't measured well. This can be frustrating for an exerciser, especially when you fall short of your activity goals because some workouts weren't measured. The monitor also doesn't measure any activity lasting under 10 minutes.Philips covers this on their website, stating that the idea is to raise your activity levels overall and that, "[h]ow you go about your daily routine is therefore much more important than any specific activity you perform."
    • Positioning - It would be nice to have a waistband clip since you may not always have a pocket or belt. I did try it around my neck, but it bounced during workouts and wasn't very stylish.

    Overall the Philips Activity Monitor is impressive. This small yet sophisticated device is an excellent way to motivate yourself with reasonable activity goals that gradually increase over time. It's a great choice for sedentary people, but regular exercisers may find the lack of accuracy during workouts frustrating.

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