My Small Step Philosophy: A fit life is attained by making small, realistic and sustainable changes in food consumption and exercise over time. This allows a person time to create and hone new, fit habits that then become adopted and integrated into her everyday life. The result is a person who is living a fit lifestyle each and every day, making her healthy and strong for a lifetime. I have used this philosophy to create my One Small Step blog series. Each month, I give you one healthy change to work on for that entire month. Sometimes it’s a diet change, sometimes an exercise change and sometimes one of each. The idea is to concentrate only on that one change for a month so that it becomes ingrained into your daily meals or weekly exercise routines, making you able to take on another small change at the beginning of the next month. Just discovering the series now? No worries, the Small Step changes don’t need to be done in any particular order and are independent of one another. You can begin this month, follow along the rest of the year and incorporate what you’ve missed next year.
If you’ve been following my Small Steps toward a fit life program in 2014, you’ve taken control of your daily calorie intake (January’s portion control), practiced planning ahead to minimize high calorie meals and maximize opportunities for exercise (February’s plan ahead), used strategies to manipulate your environment to avoid falling back into unhealthy habits (March’s accentuate the positives and eliminate the negatives), improved the quality of your food choices and quantity of daily activity (April’s substitutions), revisited healthy habits of the past when we were slimmer and healthier (May’s go old school), added strength training and more fresh produce to your bag of tricks (June’s +1) and used the mid-way point, July and August, to reflect upon, revamp and renew your commitment to fitness. Congratulations!
It’s September and, with kids returning to school, it seems time-appropriate to infuse our fitness routines with fresh, cutting-edge exercise and nutrition aids. Let’s embrace technology. Yes, 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.
Caveat: The market for fitness-based electronic aids is booming. This makes it practically impossible for me to do a comprehensive list and review of all the products available. Instead, I’ve given an overview of the types of products currently available followed by 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.
Examples: pedometer (Omron), watch pedometer (Smart Health), heart rate monitor (Polar). If you enjoy interval training, the Gymboss Interval Timer and Stopwatch ($30) makes keeping track of your high and low intervals a snap.
For Smartphone Users
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. The following is a sampling of free fitness apps available on my Windows-based phone:
- Stopwatch Timer: stopwatch, lap timer and countdown
- Gym PocketGuide: Encyclopedia of 100+ exercises and stretches available with photos, videos and step-by-step instructions
- 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 workout
- Active Fitness: A tracking app with a social network component boasting over 300K users
- MyFitnessPal: Tracks calorie input and output. Read about my experience using MyFitnessPal here.
- BeFit: Virtual fitness trainer with auto-generated training programs based on your fitness level with tracking and exercise voice prompts
For Gadget Lovers
You can keep track of an amazing amount of fitness variables if you’re willing to wear a tracking device 24/7 and upload the information to its accompanying website. These are pricier than a standard pedometer or heart-rate monitor, costing $100-$200. But they can track not only workouts and daily steps but hours/quality of sleep as well. Some allow the user to also input daily calorie intake so that these trackers can truly give one a big-picture look at her fitness. They aren’t perfect, however. They can be 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 tracking device like this, do your homework before purchasing. Here is a report on one of the latest accuracy studies done on the most popular wearable tracking devices.
Perhaps you have a gaming device in your home, such as Playstation, Xbox or Nintendo Wii. If you do, you may not realize that there are grown-up friendly fitness games available for these devices. “Just Dance” is available for Xbox 360 ($20) or Playstation 4 ($40) while “Your Shape Fitness” offers a variety of options for Xbox 360 ($30). Nintendo Wii has a number of workout options at various price points through their Wii Fit packages.
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.