In May, I challenged you to Go Old School with your fitness plan. With kids returning to school, it seems that September is a perfect time to take the opposite view and look to the future. Technology can sometimes act as an obstacle to fitness – particularly when we consider how much time we spend sitting on our duffs as we consume it. But technology also can help us reach fitness goals in ways that were never possible before. So, this month, I challenge you to find an electronic-based fitness tool that speaks to you and give it a try.
When I began my research for this post, I knew the amount of products would be vast, but I was totally unprepared for just how many apps and web-linked devices there are. Doing a comprehensive list and review would be impossible. Instead, I’ve decided to give an overview of the types of products available along with a few specific examples in each category.
For the Technically-Challenged
If this month’s small step sounds like a complete nightmare to you, don’t fret. There are lots of simple, inexpensive gadgets out there that do all the work for you and don’t require that you know what a USB, Wifi or app is. Many pedometers ($15-30) and heart monitors ($25-100) can be worn as a watch or armband and track your movements throughout the day. This type of device need not have much more than an on/off button and clock feature. But even the simplest of tracking tools have been proven to help motivate people to start moving and keep moving. If you enjoy interval training, the Gymboss Interval Timer and Stopwatch ($20) makes keeping track of your high and low intervals a snap.
For Smartphone Addicts
The amount of fitness-based apps is dizzying. The best thing you can do is decide just what it is that you need an app to do for you to meet your fitness goals and then do a little research to find the best one available for your phone.
If you know that keeping a food log is necessary for you to eat healthy and control portions, then an app that can replace the drudgery of keeping a handwritten journal can be the difference for you. MyFitnessPal (free – Windows, iOS, Android, Blackberry) boasts a database of over 2 million foods.
For those who need the accountability of a virtual coach, social media integration or even actually putting money on sticking to your workouts, there are lots to choose from. Cody (free – iOS) contains a virtual fitness coach that offers advice and encouragement based on workouts that you log through the app. Fitocracy (free – iOS, Android) matches a tracking component with social media, creating a community of people who motivate and encourage each other to workout. If you’re willing to put your money where your mouth is, you can get GymPact (free – iOS, Android) where you get to keep your money if you meet workout goals but have to pay up if you skip out.
If you used to love working out to DVDs but don’t anymore because being tied to a DVD player is too confining in 2013, there are app substitutes. Daily Burn (free with $10/mo online subscription – iOS, Android) allows you to stream workouts of all varieties, from yoga to HIIT, in any environment, using any equipment, directly through your device. This puts any type of workout video literally at your fingertips anytime, anywhere.
If you workout outdoors and always carry your smartphone with you, download a cardio tracking app and you can have an MP3 player and workout tracker all in one. Couch to 5k (free – iOS, Android) is an interactive coach for beginner runners. For more seasoned exercisers, Runkeeper (free – iOS, Android) tracks the duration, length and calories burned of a wide variety of outdoor workouts including walking, running and cross-country skiing.
For Gadget Lovers
You can keep track of an amazing amount of fitness variables if you’re willing to purchase a tracking device and upload the information to its accompanying website. BodyMedia FIT CORE ($119) is an armband that tracks calories burned, steps taken and quantity and quality of sleep. All this information is transmitted through USB to a website that uses the information to help you set goals and track progress. You can also input food consumption on the website and get a nutrition analysis. FitBit ($100) is similar to FIT CORE in what it measures but it’s the size of a Bluetooth device that’s clipped onto clothing and information is uploaded to fitbit.com wirelessly. FitBit also allows you to compete with other FitBit users. Nike has a series of devices that can be placed in certain models of their footwear ($110) and the information can be tracked and monitored through Nike’s website (Nike+ Sportband, $55) or, if you also own an iPod, can be uploaded automatically to your device (Nike+ iPod Sport Kit $30).
Perhaps you already have a Nintendo or Playstation 2 in your house. If your kids aren’t using it anymore, don’t let it collect dust. Purchase Wii Fit ($80 for Nintendo) or Dance Revolution ($50 for Playstation 2) and workout while having kid-like, old-fashioned fun.
It’s a brave new world out there and it’s ever changing. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that new gadgets and apps are coming out every day that can make a positive impact on our quests to be fit. Really, the most difficult part of this month’s small step is deciding which technology tool will work best for you. Once you’ve acquired it, the device does all the work for you.