The Withings Body Cardio Smart Scale is Not Your Ordinary Scale
Smart health devices can add real value to a family’s health and overall wellness. But, before discussing the Withings Body Cardio Smart Scale, the technology behind it, and how it helps individuals manage their health, I think it is important to dive into cardiovascular (or “cardio”) health, why it is important, and the risk factors that can impact it.
The National Association of Chronic Disease Directors defines cardiovascular health as the health of the heart and blood vessels. Cardiovascular disease is a group of diseases of the heart and blood vessels, including coronary heart disease, stroke, heart failure, heart arrhythmias, and heart valve problems. There are several risk factors that lead to the development of cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, tobacco use, and diabetes.
A person’s risk of developing high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and diabetes can be influenced by their genetic makeup. There are also modifiable factors, or factors under our control, that contribute to these health issues. According to the Mayo Clinic, one of primary modifiable risk factors for both diabetes and high blood cholesterol is being overweight or obese. The Mayo Clinic says that eating too much saturated fat or trans fats creates risk factors for high blood cholesterol and contributes to being overweight.
With the above in mind, an easy to use tool that can help you monitor your cardiovascular health, body composition, and body weight in your own home can be very beneficial in helping you reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, including a heart attack or a stroke.
Withings Body Cardio Smart Scale
Withings is a French technology company specializing in the development and manufacture of health technology products. They were founded in 2008 and have offices in France, Hong Kong, and the U.S. Their product line includes smart watches with health sensors, smart scales, blood pressure monitors, a sleep monitor, and even a non-contact thermometer. However, Withings does much more than just design and sell these products to consumers. They also work to integrate the data collected by their products with medical professionals so physicians can better manage their patient’s health.
The Withings Body Cardio Smart Scale is not your ordinary scale. It includes technology and sensors so it can not only monitor your weight, but provide you with measurements of your standing heart rate (a general indicator of overall fitness and wellness), Body Mass Index (a screening for weight category — underweight, healthy, obese), total body fat, total body water, bone mass, and muscle mass.
The Withings Body Cardio Smart Scale offers many features, as well:
- Weight Trend Screen – Displays a graph with the previous eight measurements, as well as the difference between the latest measurement and the one before
- Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Connectivity
- Multi-User – Recognizes and tracks up to eight users
- Baby Mode – Parents can track their child’s weight by simply stepping on the scale while holding their baby.
- Pregnancy Mode – Provides personalized guidance with obstetrician-reviewed advice, tips, and personalized weight tracking
- App Connected – Every weigh-in automatically appears in the Withings Health Mate app. The app coaches the users with tips and encouragement to help them reach their objectives
- Local Weather Forecast – For added convenience, the scale will display the local weather forecast when connected to Wi-Fi
How the Technology Works
To get the most out of a smart scale, like the Withings Body Cardio Smart Scale, it is important to understand how the technology behind the scale works so you can interpret the data properly. For this, as well as other parts of this article, I leveraged the expertise of my wife. She has a master’s degree in exercise physiology and worked in physiology research and corporate wellness for many years before going back to school to become a medical professional.
The Withings Body Cardio smart scale uses weight sensors to accurately measure your weight, provide a weight trend graph over time, and calculate your BMI, or body mass index. The smart scale also uses a process, called bioelectrical impedance, by sending a weak, painless electrical current through your body to provide you with estimates of your body composition. The estimates of body composition provided by the scale are percentage of body fat, muscle mass, total body water, and bone mass. Bioelectrical impedance is also used to measure your heart rate in beats per minute and calculate your “vascular age” by estimating the level of elasticity of your arteries.
Research has verified that the smart scale provides an accurate standing heart rate and also effectively evaluates your vascular age by estimating your pulse wave velocity, which is the time it takes for the blood in the arteries to travel from the heart to the scale sensors for your feet. An individual with stiff arteries, which is frequently caused by cardiovascular disease, would have a relatively increased amount of time for the blood to travel from the heart to the scale sensors and would have a “not optimal” or higher than their chronological age result. If an individual’s arteries are healthy and elastic, the blood would travel faster from the heart to the scale sensors and result in a normal or possibly “optimal” or younger than their chronological age result.
The scale user should be aware that research has shown that body composition results of percentage of body fat, muscle mass, total body water, and bone mass are estimated by bioelectrical impedance. It helps to know that any smart scale using bioelectrical impedance is not the most accurate method to estimate body composition, but for most people, it works well enough to give the owner a convenient and effective tool to follow their body composition progress over time. If the user can effectively control the various factors that can alter their results, they can get consistent readings that can improve the effectiveness of this smart scale for estimating their body composition progress over time.
Be aware of several factors to improve the consistency of your bioelectrical impedance smart scale results. First, results will vary with different brands and models of scales. Use the same scale to get more consistent results.
Also note that both bare feet should be centered on the scale. Avoid movement of any part of your upper or lower body until the final measurement result is obtained. Bioelectrical impedance will not work with only one foot or when socks are worn.
You will also want to use the scale at the same time every day for consistent readings. It is generally recommended to use it in the early morning before breakfast and after a shower when your skin is moist, which improves the bioelectric impedance reading.
It is also recommended to have the same level of hydration each time you use the scale. If you are dehydrated from exercise, hot weather, illness, or other reasons, this may reduce the amount of water in your body and increase the estimated amount of fat in your body.
A recent meal, fasting, or malnutrition can alter the readings. Drinking high salt liquids or eating high salt foods can also alter the results. Changes in skin temperature, especially of your feet where they contact the sensors, can alter the results, as well. Additionally, calluses on your feet, dry skin on the bottom of your feet, and jewelry or piercings on your feet or legs can alter the measurement.
Athletes and other heavily muscled or significantly lean individuals will likely benefit from using “athlete mode” that adjusts for their relatively reduced fat levels during calculation of their estimated body composition results.
According to Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, Markedly obese people will have less accurate estimation results compared to those of average body composition. The scale will still be useful for a markedly obese person to monitor their progress over time, but the accuracy of the measurements will improve for them as they reduce their percentage of body fat.
Finally, a fever, especially a high fever, can alter the results.
In summary, if the user is consistent about their daily amount of water intake, food consumed, and amount of exercise and uses the scale at the same time every day for the reading, the estimation results will be fairly consistent for the user to rely on. As long as the user is aware of the factors that can cause variations in the measurement of their body composition, they can use this scale as a great tool to help guide them in their health and fitness program.
Users should also be aware of a few precautions before using a bioelectrical impedance smart scale. First, it is recommended to avoid using any bioelectrical impedance device with a pacemaker, defibrillator, or any other electrical implant device in the body. Also, many experts recommend not using bioelectrical impedance devices during pregnancy. Indeed, this scale has a “pregnancy mode” that uses only the weight sensor with no bioelectrical impedance for body composition. This mode plots weight changes over the course of the pregnancy, which can be quite useful. Similarly, this scale has a ‘baby mode” for the caretaker to hold an infant, step on the smart scale to monitor and plot the infant’s weight changes over time without using bioelectrical impedance.
Hands-on with the Withings Body Cardio Smart Scale
Setting up the Withings Body Cardio Smart Scale was quite simple.
- Press and hold the button on the side of the scale to turn it on.
- Visit go.withings.com and use the link to the appropriate app store to download the Health Mate app to your smart phone or tablet.
- Choose to sign up for an account or login if you already have one.
- Choose the Withings product you want to setup (in this case the Withings Body Cardio Smart Scale).
- Press the install button on the screen.
- Pair the scale with your smart phone using Bluetooth.
- Login using either Apple, Google, or by providing your email address and specifying a password.
- Connect the scale to your Wi-Fi network by choosing the network’s SSID from the displayed list and providing the password.
- The scale will then update itself if there is an available software update.
- You can then personalize your scale by selecting which information you want to be displayed on the scale when you step onto it. Choices include your weight trend (a graph of the previous weight readings), fat mass, muscle mass, local weather conditions, heart rage, vascular age, BMI, body water, and bone mass.
- If interested, you can set a weight goal including the pace at which you would like to lose the weight.
Now you are ready to start using the scale by stepping onto it with bare feet. Arrows on the display will help you position yourself, so your weight is properly balanced on the scale.
Your weight will then be shown on the scale’s display followed by the other measurements that you selected during setup step 10. Each measurement is displayed for a few seconds. I found the display very easy to read.
One of the more interesting, and advanced, features of the Withings Body Cardio Smart Scale is its ability to determine your vascular age. According to the Society for Vascular Surgery, “Vascular age” is a measure of the age of the arteries and involves arteries both large and small. Diagnosis of vascular age centers around measuring arterial stiffness. If vascular age is assessed as greater than chronological age, someone may be more at risk of developing vascular disease later in life. Causes of vascular aging include sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, smoking, high and low cholesterol levels and family history of cardiovascular disease.” One thing to note is that the scale won’t display your vascular age until you have completed five separate measurements of your weight and pulse rate.
The Health Mate App
The Health Mate app provides a great deal of added value beyond the display of the measurements captured by the Withings Body Cardio Smart Scale. On the home screen you can select to graphically view changes in your weight over time. The graphs can be scaled on a weekly, monthly, quarterly, or yearly basis.
You can view a timeline of all the measurements collected by the scale each time you have stepped onto it.
The scale’s app also features Programs, which are optional features to help you achieve your goals or better health. The Health Insights program is automatically installed with the app. It can scan all your health data and highlight key data, emerging trends, and notable achievement. Optional programs include the Pregnancy Tracker, Leaderboard, and Meditate with Petite Bambou. Pregnancy Tracker enables you to monitor your weight during pregnancy and receive advice and information on staying on track and staying healthy during your pregnancy. Leaderboard is a social media feature that enables you to compete with friends or family members over a seven-day period. Meditate with Petite Bambou offers guided meditation sessions.
The Trends section on the app provides an ongoing update of your trends over a time. Depending on which devices are connected to the Health Mate App, this can monitor trends in daily steps, your average sleep score, etc.
The Dashboard screen provides a snapshot of the latest measurements taken by the scale. It also displays activity data taken from a variety of connected devices that are recording activity-based data such as floors climbed, workouts, steps, etc. Activity data is not collected from the Body Cardio Smart Scale. It is collected from other connected devices, e.g., smart watches, activity trackers, etc. It also allows you to log your blood pressure so Withings can display more relevant health information and suggestions
The Devices screen shows the various Withings devices that you have integrated with the Health Mate app. You can adjust make changes to the device’s settings, change Wi-Fi settings, customize the data displayed on the scale when you step onto it, check for software updates, add a new Withings device to the app, and more.
The Profile screen provides the ability to change the profile data entered during setup for the user the app is assigned to adjust your weight and step goals, setup reminders, and include data from other activity tracking apps. For example, someone using the Stravo app to track their running activity can incorporate that data into the Health Mate app.
The Profile screen also enables you to add new family members. As stated above, the Withings Body Cardio Smart Scale can manage measurements of up to eight different family members. To add an additional family member, simply select Profile from the menu bar at the bottom of the Health Mate app screen, scroll down to the bottom of the screen, press the “Add” button under the family section, and enter details (including height, weight, and birth date) for that person. Then the scale will automatically be able to recognize this person when they step onto the scale. In addition, when you add the Health Mate app to that person’s smart phone and they log into your account, they will be able to select their profile from the list of family members. The family member will then be able to manage their health goals, receive personalized health advice, etc.
Smart health devices can add real value to a family’s health and overall wellness. The Withings Body Cardio Smart Scale is a well-designed product with advanced features that can aid an entire family in managing their weight, body composition, and prioritize strategies for optimizing their cardiovascular health.
The Withings Health Mate app is also well designed and integrates tightly with the scale. It is full of features that add additional value to the Body Cardio Smart Scale. And, through the app, other Withings products can be integrated with the Body Cardio Smart Scale to provide a wide range of health management features.