More people are spending larger amounts of time on their personal devices and less time being active, but this doesn't have to be the case if you view your device as your own personal trainer.
Your device won't do the hard work for you, but new fitness technology and health apps on your phone can help you by encouraging more movement, tracking steps, suggesting workouts and helping measure things like calorie intake, heart rate or even sleep trends. Additionally, health apps can even be used to connect you with other fitness-minded people for social support and accountability, competition and celebration of goals achieved.
Today, more than two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese. This cultural trend along with its precipitating causes of poor dietary choices and inactivity have led to epidemic levels of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, strokes and many types of cancer. The concerning issue is that the majority of these can be prevented if the weight gain and resulting high blood pressure, blood fats and blood sugars can be brought back to optimal levels. Weight gain comes from an energy imbalance, and this is influenced by how we live, our eating habits and our activity levels -- all things that fitness technology and health apps can help us with.
For example, a recent study led by researchers from Harvard University found that senior women (average age 72) were 41% less likely to die during the next four years if they took at least 4,400 steps a day. Benefits increased up to 58% for those who took 7,500 steps. but how will you know how many steps you are taking without a tracking device?
Three of the most popular used these days are the Apple Watch, Fitbit and Garmin, and I encourage you to purchase one to monitor your movement and keep your activity up through the day. You may, for example, notice late in the afternoon that your step count is only 2,200 steps and therefore decide to take a 30-minute walk after dinner to get your step count up. Some fitness devices, like the Garmin, will actually prompt you to get up and move if you've been seated for too long. Also, not only do these devices count steps, they can often tell you distance traveled, calories burned or your heart rate if you need or desire to keep track of those things.
Naturally, these items can vary significantly in price from $50 to anywhere around $400. This does not mean that the most expensive one is the best or that the least expensive one is the worst. It is best to just shop around, see what the different devices can do, and decide which features you need or would most like to have for your goals. Also, many of these devices have a corresponding phone application that you can download for free, which brings me to my next point.
If you have a cellphone, whether an iPhone or an Android, you will already have the ability to access a plethora of apps that will do just about anything health related. All you need to do is go into the app store on your phone, search for what you want specifically, and more than likely you will be able to find it.
For example, if you are looking to find an app to help track your meals and keep your calories in check you could download Under Armour's MyFitnessPal. This app will allow you to set certain weight-loss goals and then provide you with useful guidelines to hit each day in reaching them. It also is great for helping you track your daily meals so that you can quickly see how many grams of protein, fat or carbohydrate you are eating.
Another great health app is Dr. Greger's Daily Dozen where you can keep track of how many servings you are getting each day of the foods most proven to help with disease reduction and longevity. These are just a couple of examples and there are many more that you could also use. Like I previously said about the devices, you should do a little bit of research on apps and find the one that best suits your specific needs and goals.
With the myriad of health-related devices and phone applications, it's easier to track and maintain a healthy lifestyle in our modern age than it has ever been. So why not use this technology to your advantage? Spend a little extra money on some sort of a fitness tracker. Don't think of this as expense, but as an investment in yourself and your future. Download a free app. Find one that you like and that works for you. Then checking your device won't be a distraction from a healthier lifestyle, it will lead you right into one.
Joel Stockburger is a personal trainer at Bradley Wellness Center.