Withings Body Cardio review: A smart scale worth standing on?

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Withings Body Cardio review: A smart scale worth standing on?

Withings Body Cardio is a $180 bathroom scale that connects to the internet, which begs the question: Do you need a $180 bathroom scale that connects to the internet? For many people, the idea sounds more than a little absurd, considering you can pick up a bathroom scale at the drugstore for something like 10 bucks. But if you need to lose weight, either for your health or the aesthetics or both, the Withings Body Cardio could be your new best friend for your weight loss journey.

First, some context: Recent studies show that people who weigh themselves every day are more likely to lose weight than people who don’t. But not only do those people lose the weight – they also maintain that weight loss with more success than people who don’t weigh in every day.

While many believe that weighing yourself everyday will cause you to go insane, it’s actually the opposite. People who weigh in every day report feeling more in control of their hunger and an improved body image.

People who weigh themselves every day quickly learn a very important fact: Your weight is not a static number. It fluctuates – sometimes wildly – from day to day. Your weight on any given day doesn’t really give you a good idea of how successful your weight loss campaign is. Instead, you want to be looking at the trend line, and the more data you throw into that trend line, the easier it is to see your short-term and long-term progress.

Back to the Withings Body Cardio. This $180 bathroom scale that connects to the internet wants to make it absurdly easy to fit a daily weigh-in into your schedule. But in addition to making it a daily habit, Withings also makes it easy to see all of your data in context. The accompanying Withings Healthmate app uses your data to build trend lines instantly – all you need to do is step on the scale.

Withings Body Cardio: what it really measures

But the Withings Body Cardio does more than just measure how much you weigh. In addition to your weight, the Body Cardio can measure your fat mass, muscle mass, bone mass, body water percentage, your heart rate, and something called your Pulse Wave Velocity. Withings wants the Pulse Wave Velocity to be the star of the show, and the reason for buying the Body Cardio over one of their less expensive smart scales.

What is Pulse Wave Velocity?

Pulse Wave Velocity is the rate at which pressure waves move down the vessels of the circulatory system. The way Withings spins it, your Pulse Wave Velocity is a single measurement that tells you whether or your heart is healthy or not. Weight loss and heart health often go hand-in-hand, making this measurement a natural addition to your home scale.

While the Body Cardio is no replacement for visiting your doctor, I do appreciate this move towards measuring something beyond just your heart rate. Many high-end fitness trackers passively track heart rate, but don’t really give you the context you need to understand it. Measuring Pulse Wave Velocity is a step towards providing the average consumer a way to put heart health in context.

In my experience, however, the Body Cardio can be very finicky when it comes to measuring your heart rate, and in turn, your Pulse Wave Velocity. Because it takes the measurement through your feet, it does not appear as accurate to me as the heart rate readings I get from my Apple Watch, which takes a measurement through the wrist. Complicating this is the fact that you need to stand on the scale in a specific location to get any kind of heart rate or Pulse Wave Velocity reading at all. All of this makes it seem like the Pulse Wave Velocity measurement in the Body Cardio is not quite ready for prime time.

Fat, muscle, and bone mass

If you’re using exercise to help lose weight – or you’re any kind of athlete at all – you know your weight may actually go back up as you start adding muscle. The popular wisdom that muscle weighs more than fat is not true – a pound is a standard unit of measurement, and a pound of muscle weighs exactly the same as a pound of fat – it is true that muscle is far more dense than fat. That means that despite the fact that you’re slimming down physically, your weight may stay the same number.

The Withings Body Cardio uses electric waves (that you can’t feel) to measure the percentage of fat, muscle, and bone in your body. As you lose weight, you’ll start to see your fat mass go down and your muscle mass go up, giving you an extra layer of insight into the changes going on inside your body.

While bone mass is not directly related to weight loss, measuring it daily can be a great early warning sign of osteoporosis, a disease caused by bones naturally becoming thinner with age. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, "54 million Americans have osteoporosis and low bone mass," with some studies suggesting that up to one in four men and one in two women above the age of 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis.

However, all of these measurements are also available in Withings’ cheaper smart scale, which comes in at $129.95. What you’re really paying for with the Body Cardio is the Pulse Wave Velocity measurement, which comes at a $50 premium.

But do you really need a $180 bathroom scale?

If it weren’t for all the extra data measured above, you could recreate the Body Cardio’s main selling point with a $10 bathroom scale and a notebook. Additionally, there are a bunch of apps that let you track your weight, including Apple’s built-in Health app.

For the vast majority of people, the Body Cardio is going to be overkill. But if you’re serious about losing weight, especially if you’re doing it due to heart problems or a family history of heart problems, the Body Cardio does provide several benefits over a regular old bathroom scale.

While the Pulse Wave Velocity measurement may be finicky, it can be a helpful way to get insight into your heart health in-between doctor’s visits. Even if the measurement isn’t 100% accurate, what’s more important is that each measurement is accurate relative to other measurements by the same scale. Basically, this means that if you’re trending towards a healthier Pulse Wave Velocity, you’ll be able to accurately see that, even if the numbers aren’t exactly right.

Of course, if you don’t want to pay an extra $50 for a somewhat fussy heart health measurement, you’ll be well off with the Withings Body, which measures everything else the Body Cardio can, but for only $129.95.

While you can manually input numbers from your bathroom scale into your phone or a paper notebook, there is something to be said for the ease of using the Body Cardio. You step on the scale and it sends your measurements to the cloud, instantly, allowing you to move on with the rest of your day and check your trend lines later.

Is that ease of use worth $180? If you’re serious about losing weight and keeping your heart healthy, it very well could be.