It’s September and, with kids returning to school, it seems timely to infuse our fitness routines with fresh, cutting-edge exercise and nutrition aids. Let’s harness the power of technology.
Yes, technology can sometimes act as an obstacle to fitness – particularly when we consider how much time we spend sitting on our duffs consuming 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. Here’s a tiny sampling of what’s out there:
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 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.
Some examples with links include pedometer (Omron), watch pedometer (Smart Health), heart rate monitor (Polar). If you enjoy interval training, the Gymboss Interval Timer and Stopwatch makes keeping track of your high and low intervals a snap.
For Smartphone Users
The amount of fitness-based apps is dizzying. I recommend deciding exactly what it is you need an app to do for you and then do a little research to find the best app for that task available on your phone.
The following is a sampling of free fitness apps offered on my Windows-based phone, but there are lots more options for Android and iOS-based phones:
- Stopwatch Timer: stopwatch, lap timer and countdown
- 5 Minute Home Workout: Offers workouts falling into one of six categories – Abs, Fat-Loss, Chest & Arms, Butt & Legs, Yoga and Pilates. Boasts detailed written instructions, 3D animations and 42 different exercises.
- Runtastic: GPS aided tracking of time, distance, speed, elevation and calories burned for outdoor workouts including biking, walking, hiking and running; also has a feature to manually input indoor workouts such as a cardio machine or strength training workouts.
- miCoach Train & Run: Uses GPS and voice training provided by Adidas coaches with training plans for learning how to run for exercise all the way to training for a marathon.
- MyFitnessPal: Tracks calorie input and output. Read about my experience using MyFitnessPal here.
- Office Yoga – Fitness at Work: Offers office-friendly, yoga-based exercises in nineteen languages.
If you’re looking for less of a DIY feel than most free apps offer, you could consider a subscription based app such as Daily Burn, Microsoft’s Xbox Fitness or Apple’s Zova through iTunes. Most subscriptions offer unlimited streaming of workout videos and some offer a virtual personal trainer. Some independent personal trainers, like me, offer personal training via apps like Skype or FaceTime. It’s usually more economical than in-person fitness training and definitely more convenient.
For Gadget Lovers
They can track not only workouts and daily steps but sleep quantity and quality as well. Some allow the user to input daily calorie intake to give her monitoring control over every aspect of her fitness. These are pricier than a standard pedometer or heart-rate monitor, but there’s a greater range of price points available on wearables compared to when they first burst onto the fitness scene.
They aren’t perfect, however. They often are inaccurate and some types of workouts, such as strength training, are difficult, if not impossible, for a wearable device to record. If you’re interested in a wearable tracking device, do your homework before purchasing.
According to PCMag, the following are the Top 10 Best Fitness Trackers for 2016:
- Fitbit Surge
- Fitbit Charge HR
- Garmin Forerunner (priciest at $450)
- Garmin Vivoactive
- Misfit Flash Link (cheapest at $20)
- Mio Alpha 2
- Misfit Ray
- Polar A360
- Samsung Gear Fit2
- TomTom Spark Cardio + Music
Click here to view PCMag’s helpful comparison chart listing smartphone compatibility, features, battery life and links to reviews and retailers offering the lowest price for each of the top ten devices. Following the chart are some pointers on how to select the right wearable for your needs.
It’s a brave new world out there and it’s ever changing. It’s not 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.
If you’re new to the Small Steps series, you can read about the philosophy and strategies of the series here. Know the Small Steps strategies don’t need to be done in any particular order and are independent of one another. So, you can begin the series with this post, continue throughout the rest of the year and pick up what you missed next year.
Previous Small Steps posts: January’s Portion Control, February’s Plan Ahead, March’s Accentuate the Positives, Eliminate the Negatives, April’s Substitutions, May’s Go Old School, June’s +1, July’s Reflect, Revamp & Renew, August’s Summer Reset.