Review: Withings Body Comp Scale and Health+ Subscription
Smart scale pioneer Withings has been making Wi-Fi-connected scales for more than a decade. As the Body Comp name suggests, Withings' latest scales provide a breakdown of your body composition, adding vascular age, visceral fat, and nerve health to the usual list of measurements. The Body Comp ($210) scales come with a year's subscription to Withings' new Health+ fitness service, adding practical advice to all that data, with programs that include workouts and meal suggestions to cajole you toward healthier habits.
Upgrading from the excellent Withings Body+ ($100), I was eager to see whether the Body Comp and Health+ subscription would justify the extra expense. After spending several weeks with these scales, I'm not convinced the new measurements are essential, and I was underwhelmed by the fledgling subscription fitness service.
The Withings Body Comp scales come in black or white and feature a familiar durable design with a glass top, circular metal centerpiece, and a little display to show your stats. Setup is simple, with four AAA batteries included (enough for 15 months of battery life if you weigh yourself once daily).
One of the things I like about the Body Comp is that the scales connect directly to Wi-Fi, so your phone doesn't have to be nearby to upload your latest measurements. The Health Mate app is good, particularly if you use other Withings devices, like the ScanWatch (8/10, WIRED Recommends) or the Sleep Mat. But you can also export your measurements to Apple Health, Google Fit, Fitbit, Strava, and a few other apps.
The Health Mate app displays charts of your weight over time, enables you to set goals, and offers bits and pieces of advice. We'll get into what Health+ adds in a moment. While you need to dig into the app to see longer-term trends and get the most value from your Body Comp scales, you can customize the scale display to show you the stats you want.
Hop onto the scales in bare feet (ideally naked) to get accurate measurements. The scales support up to eight users and usually identify you correctly by weight (this works fine for my family, but two people at a similar weight may have to attribute measurements specifically). The sensors in the Body Comp scales can be a little temperamental. Place your feet in the center, standing completely still, to trigger a set of measurements. You have to stay there for several seconds, which can be annoying on a cold morning.
By default, Body Comp shows your weight, weight trend (up or down since the last measurement), fat mass, muscle mass, visceral fat, heart rate, pulse wave velocity, vascular age, and a nerve health score, plus the weather and air quality. It also measures BMI (body mass index), body water percentage, and bone mass, and it can display your steps (if you have a linked tracker). You can customize the display for each user.
Upgrading from the Body+ scales, Body Comp adds vascular age, visceral fat, and nerve health. The Pulse Wave Velocity metric measures the speed at which heartbeat-generated waves move along your arteries, with lower results indicating better heart health. The Body Comp gives you a vascular age range (mine was 44 to 48). Your number should be within that range or higher. If it's significantly lower, you could be at risk for vascular diseases in later life.
Visceral fat is deep inside your body, cushioning your organs, and too much of it is associated with various chronic health conditions. The Body Comp measures this using multi-frequency bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA), essentially the rate an electrical current travels through your body. Most smart scales use this technique, but few break out your visceral fat. The index is on a scale of 1 to 20, and you want a result between 1 and 5.
The nerve health measurement is taken by stimulating the sweat glands in your feet, and it provides a score out of 100. It can warn of peripheral neuropathy, where conditions like diabetes lead to nerve damage in your extremities. You don't get a confirmed score here until the Body Comp has 25 days of measurements, but it does offer a predicted score, and anything above 50 is considered normal.
These additional metrics can flag things to ask your doctor about, but they are finicky to measure. When I stepped off the Body Comp scale too quickly or shifted my weight even slightly, the vascular and nerve measurements failed. Mine were all within normal range and have stayed consistent over the past few weeks. These measurements are likely superfluous for most folks.
You get 12 months of Health+ with your Body Comp scale, a subscription that automatically renews and currently costs $9.95 per month. Weirdly, you can only get Health+ with a Body Comp or Body Scan scale at the time of writing. Body Scan (GBP400) is Withings premium smart scale, which adds six-lead ECG. It is not currently available in the US, but based on UK pricing, will likely cost around $400 when it does land stateside.
Don't worry about losing any of the functionality of your smart scale when your Health+ subscription ends. I actually had some trouble activating my Health+ subscription, so I initially tried the scales without it and can confirm that all measurements are independent of the subscription service.
What Health+ adds is a new Programs tab in the app where you can choose from a handful of six-week programs. A couple are focused on activity, a couple on nutrition, and one on sleep. The programs aim to help you build healthier habits through daily missions that mix workouts, articles with advice, and meal suggestions. But you can only do one program at a time, and if you quit one to start another, you lose your progress.
Halfway through the High Energy, Big Results program, I am aching and disappointed. All of the workouts, and some of the articles and meal suggestions, come from 8fit, a German subscription workout and meal service that Withings acquired in February 2022.
My first mission was a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workout. Frustratingly, the Health Mate app does not have a HIIT category, so I had to record it as Other and manually track the session on my ScanWatch. The instructor offered minimal direction and very little in the way of modifications for folks at different levels, and there was no music. This one-size-fits-all approach doesn't seem to take into account of your age, fitness level, or the measurements from your scales.
Although I'm far from an athlete, I work out regularly (mostly HIIT and yoga), but this session was grueling, leaving me sore for days afterward. Although most of the subsequent workouts haven't been as tough, they are not suitable for beginners. Your experience will depend on your fitness level, but I found it a jarring switch from the slick production values of Apple Fitness+, with its enormous library of categorized workouts with motivational music, a range of modifications, and integration with the Apple Watch.
Health+ also includes meal suggestions. On some days, you get shopping lists of ingredients and recipes, such as a goat cheese and plum sandwich for lunch, but it's not a complete eating plan. If you already eat healthy, there isn't much value here, but some recipes might introduce you to tasty and nutritious foods. The articles offer solid advice, but there's nothing you couldn't find using Google.
While you can save your favorite workouts, articles, and recipes, there doesn't seem to be any way of accessing a library of content to browse. Considering you could pay $80 a year for access to all the 8fit workouts and recipes, I'm struggling to see the value in Health+. It will improve as Withings adds more content, but it feels hastily cobbled together. I can't help wondering if that's why Withings has limited its availability; I certainly wouldn't pay $10 per month for it.
Ultimately, the Body Comp scales themselves are a pleasure to use, but compared to more affordable options the extras are not worth the price. Spend more than $100 on smart scales and you get diminishing returns. The Body+ ($100) is still the sweet spot in Withings' lineup. As for Health+, it needs a lot more work to compete with the best fitness apps and services.