For most of my life I had a distant relationship to the humble body scale. It was not a case of me not wanting to know how much I weighed, I had a crazy high metabolism and I never seemed to punch through a particular number on the scale. As one of my friends said, you can’t fatten a thoroughbred and I was lucky in that sense.
Age catches up with us all, along with changes in life. My partner wants to to shed the baby weight and get healthier so I started looking into the body scales again. This is one area of technology I haven’t paid a lot of attention to, so when I was offered to review the Withings Body Cardio, I found myself looking at features that I haven’t even considered before.
Before we go too deep into the review, let me flag the warnings right now.
The Withings Body Cardio uses bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) to take measurements.
Taking away from fancy jargons, that means a low-amplitude electrical current is applied to your body. This makes it unsuitable for pregnant women and people with cardiac pacing device.
I was surprised at how heavy the Body Cardio is when it arrived at my door. To be fair as I mentioned at the start, body scales are not exactly forefront in my mind. When I think about body scales, my first thought goes back to the dinky white analogue one at my parents’ house that we had way back when I was a kid – nevermind that we tossed it out years ago.
The Body Cardio measures in at 327 x 327 mm, and a thickness of just 18mm. The website says it is constructed with a high-strength tempered glass platform with an aluminium base.
Our review unit came in black with silvery grey accent which won’t look out of place in most bathrooms. There is a white variant which is as minimalist as you can expect.
Interestingly, unlike other scales, the Body Cardio has no feet but the chassis incorporates four weight sensors. We get to talk about this design decision later.
Noting upfront the operational limits of the Body Cardio, it has a range from 5kg to 180kg with 100g graduations. It isn’t going to stand in as a kitchen scale in an emergency.
Adding the Body Cardio was largely a pain free process, although I did run into a bunch of hiccups.
There is a button on the right side of the unit to power it on, by holding it for 3 seconds. The screen will lit up and direct you to go.withings.com. All that will really do is to tell you to get the Health Mate app.
The Withings ScanWatch and the Body Cardio (as well as other devices) shares the same app. I still have mine setup, because I like the ScanWatch so much that I wouldn’t let anyone else in the family have it.
The initial setup stage requires a Bluetooth connection between between your device and the Body Cardio. Once you authorise the pairing, it will automatically check and apply any firmware updates.
Once the Body Cardio reboots with the updates, it offers the option to connect to a WiFi network. Why? This is so that you don’t always need your phone nearby to transfer your data.
As part of the set up process, you have the option to set a target weight. This part of the interface I found really nice as it shows your current weight and goal on a sliding scale, with the calculated BMI next to it. It also shows at a glance the range where it is considered to be healthy weight for your metrics.
The Health Mate app allows you to set a pace to get there as well, from 0.1kg up to 1.3kg per week. Not to brag but I never had to work out how much weight you can safely lose in a week, but it seems 0.45 – 0.9kg is considered a healthy and safe rate.
Despite all the features, getting your metrics taken is simple.
The app guides you on how to use the Body Cardio. You put your bare feet onto the scale, with the heels on the second stripe from the bottom. And you only have one job – stay pretty still for about 30 seconds, that is it. Note to self, if you are going to take a photo of your metrics, the top surface of the Body Cardio is highly reflective. You have been duly notified.
Upon stepping on the scales, it starts with your weight. The numbers will flash to confirm a reading has been taken. Once that is done, the scales will identify the user on the scale if known.
After the weight reading is taken, it will cycle through displaying (by user choice):
- a chart of the weight trend over the past seven days
- fat content in percentage
- muscle mass in kg
- current weather and forecast
- heart rate
- vascular age (only after 5 successful activation readings)
- BMI (body mass index)
- bone mass in kg
- water ratio in percentage
The Body Cardio can remember up to 8 users. When it takes a reading that does not match up with a known user, the Health Mate app will pop up a notification for an “unassigned measurement”. It displays the weight, date and time it was taken and prompted to either assign it to an existing profile, or create a new profile.
Let’s dig a bit deeper into the technology. Like most smart scales, the Withings Body Cardio uses bioelectrical impedance to measure the mass of different tissue types. In this case the device measures bone, fat, muscle and water percentage. On top of that it will take readings that are useful indicators of you overall health – heart rate and pulse wave velocity.
Most people should know about the correlation between heart rate and indicator of fitness. A lower heart rate is typically indicator of better fitness.
But what the heck is pulse wave velocity? I had to Google this one. The short answer is that it measures the performance of your arteries and is widely accepted as a highly reliable prognostic parameter for existence of cardiovascular diseases that can lead to mortality. Unhealthy or stiffer arteries means your heart have to work harder to pump blood around your body.
Once the Body Cardio has established a baseline, it will display your vascular age on every weigh in with an indicator for the healthy range and where you are at.
I consider myself to be fairly widely read, but boy am I learning lots doing this review.
Did you know that the skeleton of an average male weighs between 2.5 kg and 3.5kg? For females it’s between 1.5 kg and 2.5kg. Nope I didn’t know this either, I had assumed that bones would weigh more but I guess it’s logical now that I think about the composition.
What about water percentage in the body? In adult male it is around 60% of the body, and for adult female it is about 55%.
Fun info, the entire human body is about 66 percent water. Our bones are composed of 22 percent water, muscles are 76 percent and blood is 83 percent. Lungs are 90 percent, and our brains are actually 95 percent water. Stay hydrated people!
I can genuinely say, for the first time in my life I got my body composition broken down into hard numbers in the palm of my hands. Without shaming myself, here’s the breakdown in percentages.
- Bone mass – 4%
- Fat mass – 18.5%
- Muscle mass – 77.4%
Things are definitely well within range of healthy, but perhaps a redistribution of where the weight is wouldn’t go astray.
Remember what I said about the Body Cardio not having feet? In a departure from norm, it means it is suitable to use on all kinds of floorin including carpet.
As I mentioned in the ScanWatch review, the real power behind the Withings product is the Health Mate app.
You can log your food intake in the Health Mate app, working to keep track of your intake against your journey to your goal weight. Probably not my brightest moment to go to all you can eat K-BBQ just as I am starting to keep track of my weight. For the record it reported I came back from dinner 1.1kg heavier.
There is also an athlete mode which uses an alternate algorithm to calculate fat mass. The FAQ says if you work out more than 8 hours a week and have a resting heart rate below 60 bpm, you may need to use the Athlete mode. However it does come with some caveats and if you have a value from a DEXA scan or similar, you are recommended to try both modes to see which best matches your DEXA scan results. Further when you change modes, it requires 2 to 3 measurements or 24 hours to take effect.
The Body Cardio can work either via Bluetooth to your phone, which means you need your phone close by; or it can be part of your WiFi network so the data is sync regardless where your phone is.
There is a micro-USB port next to the power switch on the right side of the Body Cardio. It is rated for an average of twelve months battery life although your mileage may vary. I am going to have up to 6 people on mine (plus the cat probably) so I am anticipating I need to recharge more often.
The Body Cardio supports up to 8 users with automatic recognition (based on weight it seems). On my phone separate profiles on Health Mate for myself and our Chief Unboxing Officer Liam. My partner has the app running on her phone with a separate account and profile for herself and our daughter.
This works really well if you are self conscious about your metrics but need to share the Body Cardio with others.
Within the Health Mate app, you can customise the metric display per user.
I had some time out issues initially at set up and the scales will turn itself off. There was no issues resuming the setup though an eventually it was fine.
I find that it doesn’t always detect my heart rate (or maybe I am a vampire). And because it doesn’t detect my heart rate then it won’t register a reading for vascular age.
Also there is a fairly significant discrepancy between the reading for heart rate as detected by the ScanWatch compared to the Body Cardio, to the tune of 20% pretty consistently high on the Body Cardio.
Both the Withings Body Cardio and ScanWatch are designed by Paris based Elium Studio, and both products share an artful simplicity. I really appreciate that I can use it on any surface thanks to the design. That means I can use it either on the carpet in my room, or the hard surface in the bathroom.
I find that the weight component is pretty accurate for me, I get a very similar reading with other scales. The heart rate is a bit out of whack for me, and to be fair, I would not be using the Body Cardio as gospel as it is not a medical grade device. What it does do is give me an indication of where I am health wise and where I need to pay more attention. The tracking of the information via app makes it very handy to see how you are trending generally.
The Withings Body Cardio does not come cheap. It gives a visual representation of where your general well-being is at a glance. I suppose many people have a love hate relationship with the scales, but I am looking from my perspective – pushing 50, high stress environment and children that are still young.
The investment in the Body Cardio at RRP $249.99 is cheaper and less fraught than a hospital bill if something happened that I could have done something about if I had known.
Four weight sensors: Weighing range: 5 -> 180kg (9 -> 396lb); 100g (0.2lb) graduation; Units: kg, lb, st lb
Patented body position detector: Highly-accurate weighing via Position ControlTM technology
Scale: Large, high-strength tempered glass platform; Flat aluminum base; Ultra slim design
Dimensions: 12.8 x 12.8 x 0.7 in. / 327x327x18mm
Display: Large, easy-on-the-eye graphical display (2.4”x1.6”), 128×64 pixels; High-contrast lighting
Storage and memory: Free and unlimited online storage of weight readings; Stores up to 16 readings if scale cannot sync wirelessly
Power supply: Rechargeable li-ion battery (micro USB, included)
Average battery life: up to 12 months
Weight: Four weight sensors; Patent-pending body position detector; Highly accurate weighing
Body Composition: Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis; Athlete and non-athlete mode; Unit: body fat %, total body water %, muscle mass kg or lb, bone mass kg or lb
Heart rate: Patented heart rate measurement technology; Unit: bpm (beats per minute)
Automatic user recognition: Up to 8 different users
Wireless Sync: WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, compatible with WEP/WPA/WPA2-personal networks
Bluetooth connectivity (Bluetooth Smart Ready)
Body Cardio can be installed on a smartphone or a tablet, via the Health Mate app available on iOS (iOS 14 and higher) and Android (8.0 and higher).
Cannot be set up from a computer