Jawbone Up fitness wristband aims to get you off the sofa

— -- You've been stuffing your face, staying up until the wee hours , and spending way too much time sitting on your butt. You recognize that you ought to eat better, sleep longer and alter your sedentary lifestyle.

What if wearing a bracelet in combination with an app on your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch could somehow motivate you to break those unhealthy habits?

That's precisely what the folks at Jawbone are trying to help you do with the recent introduction of Up, the company's first foray into the world of fitness. Jawbone would appear to be a curious entrant among the Fitbits, Larks, Nike + iPods and similar health-inspired gadgetry. The company is known, after all, for producing popular wireless Bluetooth headsets and the sweet-sounding Jambox portable electronic speaker.

Jawbone may be up for the challenge, but my experience spending a few weeks with the product has been, alas, up and down.

Up has a sturdy steel frame encased in a flexible hard rubber wristband. Built-in motion sensors can track the steps you've taken (at least while walking or running), distance traveled, pace, calories burned, and the hours you were in a deep or light state of slumber. You pay $100 for the band, which comes in multiple colors and small, medium and large. The band works in tandem with the free companion iOS app, which you must download from Apple's iTunes Store. Jawbone says an Android version is coming.

Wearing the light and relatively thin oval band may take a day or two to get used to, but ultimately I found it as unobtrusive as wearing a watch. A few people asked what was wrapped around my wrist, but the Up band — while it won't match everyone's fashion sense — isn't dorky, either.

The band is meant to be worn 24/7 and is sweat-proof and water-resistant. I was able to shower wearing it. But in practice you'll have to take the band on and off more often than you'd like because that's what's required to charge it, set alarms and sync your data.

Indeed, for a company that built its reputation on producing stellar wireless products, the first Up band is inexplicably not wireless. To sync, you must connect the device to the iPhone or other iOS device. You lift off the easily misplaced cap at one end of the band to reveal a mini-jack that plugs into the phone's headset jack. Then you open the app, tap a sync icon and wait a few seconds for the process to be completed. Tedious. What's more, the band isn't charging during this exercise. You must separately charge it via a proprietary USB adapter you connect to a computer.

From within the app you can view colorful graphs and measure your progress against goals or challenges set by you or other users (number of steps, miles, minutes of exercise, hours of sleep). You can invite friends to be "teammates" and share data and challenges with them.

You'll also find challenges from other fitness outfits, such as Alliance for a Healthier Generation, DailyFeats, GE Healthymagination, and 24 Hour Fitness. Some even lead to discounts or other rewards. One challenge from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation is to "find creative ways to add steps to your day with a goal of accumulating 100,000 steps over 10 days." Along with your phone, you can create GPS route maps during workouts.

The band can wake you with a silent vibrating alarm, supposedly at the ideal moment in your natural sleep cycle. Or you can have the band vibrate on your wrist when you've been inactive for a specified period of time.

To monitor what you've been eating, you can snap a picture of your food plate from within the app. Later, after you've had a chance to digest your meal, Up will ask you how you feel. Alas, there's no calorie counter.

That's just one of the frustrating things about Up. The software is sometimes plain baffling. I had no idea what the "12%" that showed up next to a picture of one of my meals meant. Similarly, I saw a "93%" next to a sleep graph, which, in theory, sounds as though I got a sound night of sleep. But when I dug into the charts a little deeper, the "sleep quality" rating attached to that night was a 71. So which is it?

The rechargeable battery is supposed to last about 10 days. But the battery on the first band I tried pooped out well before that, and then I couldn't charge it at all. Jawbone says a few of the early bands had battery issues that are being addressed.

I have other nits. To have the band measure sleep, you must remember to press and hold down a button on one end of the band. I wish the band would automatically detect when I nodded off.

What's more, all your synched data are stored within the iOS device, but your data aren't stored on a companion website.

There's an upside to all of this. Jawbone can and will make refinements to the software moving forward. After all, most of us can stand to eat smarter and exercise more.

E-mail: ebaig@usatoday.com. Follow @edbaig on Twitter