Technology has changed the way we live - no doubt about it. It has made our lives easier, more productive, and opened doors to many new careers. It has changed the way we run our factories and the way we operate our homes. For the most part, however, technology has replaced our physical labor with sedentary activities. The computer, more than anything, has captured our interests dramatically. We've surrounded ourselves with portable tablets and smart phones, enabling us to keep the world at our fingertips without ever leaving our easy chair!
Is that information overload, or can we use it to our advantage? There’s no doubt that most of us tend to take the “easy route” whenever possible. Don’t walk across the street to talk to your neighbor. Just send them a text message. Do you get out of your car at the bank or go through the drive through? We’ve even stopped walking the malls as much as we used to because it’s easier to shop online! All of these choices reinforce our sedentary lifestyles.
In spite of these negatives, though, there are some exciting technology benefits for the fitness buffs. Through GPS technology, we have instant access to possible running, walking and biking routes. Want to find out how many calories you consumed today? There’s an app for that! And maybe most exciting of all, by wearing a small wrist band or clip on your waistband you can find out just how active you actually are each day.
Knowledge can be empowering and motivating. Let’s see how you can put it to use.
Avid runners tend to be fairly obsessive individuals, so it’s only natural that most of them find it nearly impossible to run without a GPS watch telling them exactly how far they’ve gone and at what pace. It’s difficult to improve if you don’t know what you’ve done in the past. Many of the watches include a heart rate monitor which will tell you how hard you’re really working and give you an accurate total of calories burned.
Walkers, too, benefit greatly by a heart rate monitor. While elevated heart rate is pretty much a given with running, it takes a little more push on a walker’s part to get their heart rate in a true “working” mode; only when it is will high fitness levels be achieved. In addition, calorie count is only truly accurate when heart rate is included.
Bicyclists have even more technology at their fingertips (or actually on their handlebars) with mini bike computers. Not only will the device give the cyclist their planned route, but their speed, elevation, distance and other information is being recorded as they ride. And at the end of the ride, the stats can be downloaded into a computer to log the entire experience.
I’m not exaggerating when I say there are hundreds of mobile apps for your tablet or smart phone which give you instant information on a myriad of fitness topics. I would caution you to investigate each site before you take its information at face value, but nonetheless, the answers are out there without much work on our part.
If you are trying to lose weight, for example, apps are available to not only give you calorie counts, but some will analyze your entire day’s food intake. I frequently tell my clients who are on a weight loss quest to write down what they eat on a daily basis. This is eye opening information for most people, since so much of our consumption is in the form of “mindless eating.” You can write this information in a spiral notebook if you choose, but using a food tracking app such as MyFitnessPal can possibly tell you not only how much you’re eating, but where you’re doing well and where you’re not.
In addition to logging food intake, it’s a good idea to keep track of your workouts, and of course there are many apps for that as well. MapMyFitness, for example, lets you log each workout and then reports back to you on a weekly basis to let you know how you did. You can also link the site to your friends, so a little competition arises.
Need some help in the gym? There are apps that provide ideas and instruction for aerobic workouts, strength workouts, ab workouts – I could go on and on. All you need is a smartphone! Are they all necessarily safe for your particular fitness level? Not necessarily, so use each with caution.
As our nation’s obesity levels continue to rise, it’s critical that more people become aware of their daily activity levels. In order to put a concrete number to recommended activity, doctors are recommending 10,000 steps a day. It’s impossible to estimate how many steps we take, so how can we know if we’re even close to that number?
You may have noticed more and more people wearing wrist bands that occasionally light up, displaying various numbers. These are fitness trackers, designed to tell you just how active you are (or aren’t) each day. Whether you choose a Nike+Fuelband SE, a Fitbit Flex, or a Jawbone UP24, your activity numbers can be recorded, transferred to your smartphone, and tracked on a daily basis. Some of them even give you an hourly reminder to “Get up and move”!
The manufacturers all have their own formulas for calculating activity so numbers may vary slightly between brands, but they all serve one general purpose – AWARENESS. You may not be able to get your 10,000 steps each day, but wearing a tracker makes you aware of how active you are and hopefully encourages you to do more.