New Year’s Resolution: Use Apps, Gadgets, and Mobile Tech To Get In Shape
It’s the first day of 2012 and you know what that means: hangovers! And resolutions.
It’s what everyone does as the old year rolls over into the new, and everyone swears they will keep up with them beyond January 31st. It often proves harder and harder as the weeks and months go on.
This year, why not couple making resolutions with finding ways to keep them going? And why not use technology to help? I’m not just talking about downloading a few apps, but using gadgets, smartphones, tablets, computers and other tech to keep you going all year long.
We’re doing a series of posts on how to use apps, software, gadgets and the web to help you keep your 2012 resolutions, starting with the most popular resolution: Get In Better Shape.
Streaming video isn’t just for TV shows and movies. Now you can access full-length workout videos online. You won’t have to do the same routines and exercises over and over, you can switch it up every day of the week. Plus, you can try out different types of exercise from dance to martial arts to yoga to pilates.
Free fitness videos aren’t as abundant as pay services, but do exist. Hulu has a health and fitness category with full-length workout videos for adults and kids. Fitness Magazine has an extensive video library of exercises that allows you to build your own workout and focus on specific areas, if you want. You have to join the site to access them, but that’s free. YouTube is full of exercise videos, but they’re not very well organized. If you have a particular fitness celebrity you’d like to learn from or want instruction on a piece of equipment, try searching for those keywords specifically for the best results.
Though not free, the Netflix instant streaming catalog includes a handful of useful fitness videos that won’t cost anything extra to access if you’re a member. Plus, you can play them on any device from your laptop to your TV to your tablet. GaiamTV has a large library and costs $9.95/month but does offer a long 10-day free trial. Apps for iOS devices allow you to stream videos to devices other than your computer and the site promises Android, Samsung Smart TV and Roku box apps soon.
One way to keep yourself motivated throughout the year is to make fitness fun — these gadgets help with that. You don’t need to rush out and buy them all. Instead, pick one that’s most likely to help you reach your goals.
If you prefer to keep your fitness exploits indoors you have several good choices. Though not mobile, the Xbox Kinect is really great for getting in shape. There are a ton of fitness games for the Xbox, many specifically focused on exercise. Sensors and cameras inside the Kinect can see your whole body, so it can determine if your posture or form or movements are correct. Also consider games like Dance Central and Michael Jackson: the Experience that get your whole body moving and add a lot of fun to the mix so you won’t feel like you’re exercising.
Gadgets that track your movements throughout the day give you visual evidence of your progress. Fitbit is one of the most popular, but I’m also fond of NewYu. This wearable monitor will track all movements, not just walking and running. Exercise equipment like ellipticals, movement you do throughout the day, and calories burned when washing dishes or engaging in other activities.
NewYu syncs to Android phones and an accompanying app via Bluetooth and with an online dashboard accessible from tablets and smartphones as well as computers. Track your steps, activity, calories burned, how much you move in your sleep, and even how many calories you consume.
Other gadgets are more useful if you exercise outside or at a gym. Motorola’s MotoACTV is an MP3 player + smartwatch + fitness monitor rolled into one device. In addition to recording your heart rate, tracking and mapping your workout with GPS, and syncing this data with your Android phone via Bluetooth and the MotoACTV site, the device also keeps track of which songs motivate you most and will play them if you’re starting to flag. It can also connect to ANT+ wireless sensors on exercise equipment.
iPod nano owners can get in on this action, too, with Nike+. Nike+ sensors fit inside certain Nike shoes to keep track of distance run, pace, and duration. As you go, the iPod will give you updates and feedback.
Fitness Apps and Software
Android and iOS users have so many apps to choose from for both phones and tablets it’s hard to know where to start. Here are 7 apps and programs to get you started.
Pocket Trainer [$12.95, Android, iOS, WinPho7, BlackBerry, PC, Mac] — This app puts the power of a personal trainer in your pocket. It will design an exercise regimen based on your needs and goals, then helps you level up as you go along. Works for people who workout at home or in the gym.
Stretch Exercises [Free, Android] — You should always stretch before and after working out, plus during the day to alleviate stress and pain from sitting too long or just dealing with work. This app provides dozens of stretches divided up by the part of body that needs stretching. It provides images, written descriptions, and information on the benefits of a particular stretch.
PocketYoga [$2.99, Android] and Yoga STRETCH [$0.99, iOS] — These apps not only give written instruction on how to do the Yoga poses alongside pictures, but include vocal instructions and music as well.
Time Out [Free, Mac OS X], BreakTime [$4.99, Mac OS X], Big Stretch Reminder [Free, Windows] — Getting in better shape doesn’t have to be all about working out in a gym, it’s also about just moving more in general. But if you work at a desk and in front of a computer all day you may sit in the same position for hours and hours and never think about it.
Dash that habit by taking periodic, regular breaks from sitting and move around, even if just for 5 minutes, and stretch. These computer programs will help you remember to do so. You can set the interval, choose what messages appear, and even get helpful instruction on stretches to relieve repetitive stress injuries.
Take-a-Break [Free, Android] — If you can’t install one of the above programs on your work computer, use your smartphone, instead. This app will let you set a break interval and offers exercises to benefit the desk worker. There aren’t any good apps for this for iOS, but iPhone 4S owners can get Siri to set break reminders for you.
Starting a heath and fitness routine is easy when compared to keeping it up long enough for it to become habit. One way to stay motivated is to join online communities that offer social interaction, goal setting, fitness tips, and progress tracking. Another is to subscribe to podcasts and magazines that will serve as regular reminders and offer tips.
Fitocracy [Free] — This social network for fitness enthusiasts uses the principles of gamification to keep you motivated as well as community support. It allows you to set goals and get rewarded for reaching them. By adding game elements, including leveling up, rewards, and social cache, users are more motivated to keep going. Plus you can get fitness advice from the community. There’s no corresponding app, but there is a mobile site.
SparkPeople [Free] — This health and fitness community is designed with both information sharing and community-based motivation in mind. One of the nicest aspects of joining is getting access to Spark’s extensive exercise video library. These videos emphasize short workouts that you can fit into your routine. You also get access to articles on fitness, support groups, message boards, food tracking and recipes.
Runkeeper [Free] — This site combines community and tracking via smartphone apps.
Magazines — Most mainstream magazines are now available digitally, which means they’ll download to your smartphone or tablet each month ready to read. I prefer magazines for Nook better myself as they tend to look better than Kindle versions. Plus, if you have a Nook Color/Tablet, an Android tablet, or an iPad, you can see them in full layout mode. Here are some top titles from Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/?sort=SA&size=22&cat=2268401&store=emag
Podcasts — Like magazines, these are a regular and on-the-go way to either learn more about fitness and exercise, get motivated, or find new exercises. Here are some picks from iTunes most popular, but you can get them on any mobile device:
- The Fitness Boost — “Common Sense, Motivational, Weight Loss, Fitness, Diet, Nutritional and Exercise tips and information.”
- Fit Girl: Your Guide to Getting In Shape — A mix of video and audio podcasts with “expert advice on time management, weight loss, workout programs and exercise instruction.”
- PODRUNNER: Workout Music — Not just for running, but any exercise where staying motivated and pumped is necessary.
- Motion Traxx — “Upbeat Workout Music for Running and General Exercise.”
Hopefully these suggestions will get you started on a year of getting fit. We’ll have many more posts on better resolutions through tech in the next three days, including a guide on nutrition and healthy eating apps.
Feel free to share your favorite apps, websites and gadgets in the comments. Tell us what keeps you motivated.