Polar Targets 90 Million 'Lite' Exercisers With New Device

Polar watchPolar, the king of the heart-rate monitor business, has launched a new tracking device--one it hopes will expand the fitness assessment category into the mass market. Called the FA20 Activity Computer, it's designed to appeal to the more than 90 million Americans who "aren't couch potatoes, but aren't elite athletes, either," says Jeff Padovan, Polar USA's president.

"We wanted to make a product designed for the people who don't go to gyms, but are making other changes to boost fitness--like parking their car at the other side of the parking lot, chasing the kids around, or gardening to get more exercise," he says. "They want something more than a $6 pedometer to track their progress, and we wanted something that would give these unstructured exercisers valuable information about their fitness routine."

The FA20 Activity Computer looks like any workout watch--"but unlike a heart rate monitor, it measures not just effort but forward motion, including how many calories are burned doing non-structured activities, like housework," he says. The FA20, which sells for about $120, enables users to download information to, so they can track their progress over time. "While it's a step up in sophistication," he says, "it doesn't seem as complicated--or intimidating--as a heart-rate monitor, which requires a chest strap. It's just a very simplified way of managing exercise output."



In addition to print ads in Walking, the company is counting on social media to get the word out--using forums on its own Web sites, a YouTube channel, and soon, a Facebook page. And while the mall-walking crowd may not conjure up your typical viral marketing audience, he says Polar has been impressed with just how active they are in online searches: "When people are interested in changing their behavior, the way they figure out how to do that is on the Web."

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