Activ5: Fun Isometric Workouts (Almost) Anywhere

Dr. Mac’s Rants & Raves
Episode # 368

I’ve been playing (actually, working out) with an Activ5 Portable Fitness Device from Activbody for the past few weeks and so far, I’m impressed.

Before I explain, here’s some background: I don’t get much exercise as I sit in front of my Mac most of the day. And I hate going to a gym—it chews up too much time and usually smells funny.

While I do walk 5 or more miles every day to get some exercise, I know that my core and upper body aren’t getting a lot of love. Which is why I’m so impressed with Activ5.

So, what, exactly, is Activ5? It’s is a small, battery-operated handheld device about the size of a flattened tangerine.

Activ5 is a small pressure-sensitive device that fits in the palm of your hand.
Activ5 is a small pressure-sensitive device that fits in the palm of your hand.

It measures compressive force when you press its exterior surfaces either between two body parts (like your palms or your bicep and forearm) or when you press it against a stationary object (such as a desktop or the floor) with a body part while the free iOS (or Android) companion app coaches you through exercises.

There’s plenty of variety with more than 100 different workout programs in categories such as Upper Body, Lower Body, Get Strong, Get Toned, Yoga/Pilates, Awesome Abs, Butt Burner, Healthy Joints (one of my favorites), and Car/Plane/Train to name a few. Each workout program includes up to 18 separate exercises, or you can choose an exercise aimed at a specific body part such as Shoulders, Chest, Biceps, Core, Obliques, and such.

Most workouts are no more than 5 minutes and I’m trying (not so successfully) to complete three workouts a day (which is less time than it takes me to drive to the gym).

Activ5 comes with an adjustable plastic smartphone stand, a nice touch that is handy with Activ5’s exercise programs that require the use of both hands.

The exercises are easy to follow. You set a maximum resistance level the first time, and the app adjusts to your fitness level automatically and provides the appropriate workout.

You set your "Max Power" the first time you do an exercise.
You set your “Max Power” the first time you do an exercise.

If you’re a fan of the Apple Health app, you’ll be happy to know your workouts are reported and integrated and there’s an Apple Watch app that displays heart rate, calories burned, and time spent working out.

Activ5's Apple Watch app.
Activ5’s Apple Watch app.

Finally, if, like me, you’d rather play games than exercise, there are several games available that use the Activ5 as a controller. My favorite is Activ Fly, in which a paper airplane flies across the screen. You control its flight by squeezing harder to go higher or softer to go lower, and the object is to collect all of the stars on the screen without crashing into a building or other object. It’s fun, more challenging than you might expect, and gives your hands and arms a decent workout.

Play Activ Fly by pressing harder to fly higher.
Play Activ Fly by pressing harder to fly higher.

One last thing: Activebody recommends you consult a physician to see if isometric exercise is recommended for you before you begin, which isn’t a bad idea.

Activ5 is on sale for $119.90 (regularly $129.90). I’ve spent more on gym memberships and fitness gear I never used, which is why I’m impressed Activ5 and continue using it every day.

One thought on “Activ5: Fun Isometric Workouts (Almost) Anywhere

  • Bob:

    Thanks for highlighting this. The Apple Health app is making it easier for people to follow a number of important health indicators, and monitor both their overall activity as well as trends and improvements in those indicators.

    First off, your daily 5 mile walks are a great workout, and walking is one of the single best exercises that you can do, and should not be under-estimated for their total body benefits.

    Isometric exercise can be a great way to improve strength and tone, and this device, which provides feedback, is a huge step.

    I have frequently used isometrics when travelling in locations where I could not find workout facilities or where I could not do more active cardio workouts without disturbing the peace (like a 5am workout in a cheap hotel with paper thin walls and floors), and highly recommend them for anyone interested in finding a sustainable workout regimen. They are also a great way to take a break at one’s desk and give your muscles (and heart) some love. I also endorse, for anyone new to exercise, to first check with your physician to determine what types of exercise are advisable, given your baseline health status.

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