Recent technological advances in sensors, low-power integrated circuits, and wireless communications have enabled the design of low-cost, miniature, lightweight, intelligent physiological sensor platforms that can be seamlessly integrated into a body area network for health monitoring. Wireless body area networks (WBANs) promise unobtrusive ambulatory health monitoring for extended periods of time and near real-time updates of patients' medical records through the Internet. A number of innovative systems for health monitoring have recently been proposed. However, they typically rely on custom communication protocols and hardware designs, lacking generality and flexibility. The lack of standard platforms, system software support, and standards makes these systems expensive. Bulky sensors, high price, and frequent battery changes are all likely to limit user compliance. To address some of these challenges, we prototyped a WBAN utilizing a common off-the-shelf wireless sensor platform with a ZigBee-compliant radio interface and an ultra low-power microcontroller. The standard platform interfaces to custom sensor boards that are equipped with accelerometers for motion monitoring and a bioamplifier for electrocardiogram or electromyogram monitoring. Software modules for on-board processing, communication, and network synchronization have been developed using the TinyOS operating system. Although the initial WBAN prototype targets ambulatory monitoring of user activity, the developed sensors can easily be adapted to monitor other physiological parameters. In this paper, we discuss initial results, implementation challenges, and the need for standardization in this dynamic and promising research field.