Lifetime: Are you app(t) to track your lifestyle
By Catherine Sabiston, PhD
Published Monday, January 30, 2012 10:48AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, June 20, 2012 3:05PM EDT
Now that you are setting proper goals, planning your diet and exercise, in control of or managing your emotions better, adding a little more activity to your days – even though it is winter, and eating more vegetables and fruits (and less of the starchy carbohydrates), you are probably overwhelmed with these new lifestyle choices and in need of a good on-hand information and training program and tracking/ monitoring systems. What is the best thing about keeping track of your emotions, behaviours, habits, etc? It is a big motivator to keep up the healthy lifestyle choices and allows you to get to know yourself even better.
Tracking and monitoring can be done the traditional way, with a notepad or coil book and a pen (aka diary) or using some of the newest technology that you may hold in your hand daily. There is no right way to track and monitor, but some ways are more fun than others! I am summarizing a few free apps that you can get on your iOS and/or Android phones and tablets, and websites. One big caveat to using different apps – more expensive does not mean better! I strongly suggest you download a few free ones, try them out for your own needs, and then research the ones that will cost you. The same goes for the different "packages" available for some of the programs. Try the free versions for a while before paying for some of the additional features (many of which are good value).
There are apps for everything, from keeping track of your diet, sleep, and exercise to giving you beautiful scenes to bike or run to and apps that design workouts for you, give you the nutritional information on foods in the grocery store or at a restaurant, and provide ambient noise to help you relax or fall asleep. Tools to help you lead a healthy lifestyle are right at your fingertips.
Let's summarize a few, keeping in mind that these are very personal choices and it might take some playing around to find the best match for you.
This is a great alternative to a personal trainer that you can use at your home, office, or on the road. The Nike Training Club teaches you to do specific exercises and workouts based on your personal goals, and then provides incentives (points) to reward you for accomplishing your challenges. There is a photo and video demonstrating the exercise as well as a written description. The depth and quality of the videos used is quite impressive for a free product and you will find yourself getting all the answers you need regarding specific exercises by watching the video/photo aids for each exercise. There is a timer that counts down on the exercises and helps you track your progress. Also, you can sync your music so that you are working out to your own beat.
If you are someone who wants to use the services of a personal trainer or a gym and is too hesitant to visit one in person, this is the app for you.
Nike also has an excellent built in running app for the iPhone, but for those of you that want to go with a non-Nike approach, or who dont want to spend the extra money on a sensor for your shoe, then this is the right app for you. Runkeeper offers all of the same features of the Nike version and will track your walks/jogs/runs by using the GPS in your phone, give you feedback, and will show your running routes after exercising so you can create the perfect walking/jogging/running route for yourself.
A website that lets you sign up for free (there are also premium plans if you feel they are necessary for your needs)
4. Walk Score
This website gives you a "score" for your neighbourhood in terms of degree of car-dependency or walkability. This is a big issue because living in a high-walkability place facilitates adding activity to your lifestyle. Just type in your address and it will map your house, along with providing information on the closest amenities in your area. You can also type in your commute and find out details on distance and times to commute based on driving, cycling, or walking. A great app to use if you are thinking of moving – get to know the areas where you would like to live.
This app is helpful when you want to eat out and choose specific restaurants, as well as providing you with information on the nutritional values in the foods you have or want to eat. You can use it to track what you ate after the fact, or to plan what you are going to eat at any number of places. Restaurant Nutrition has over 60,000 food items and over 250 restaurants in its database. Product information includes a full nutritional workup as well as a social networking aspect where users can rate the menu item in terms of quality and nutritional value.
Many adults don't drink enough water. Our bodies are about 60% water, we use water for most of our daily functions and lose a lot of water throughout the day, and it is important to drink enough – for men, it is recommended that you drink about 3 liters per day (about 13 glasses) whereas for women the recommendation is about 2.2 liters (9 glasses). For those of you that don't drink enough water in a day and always have excuses that you forget or its not part of your routine, then this app is for you. Waterlogged allows you to track your daily consumption by allowing you to choose the glass or bottle size that you drank and/or the quantity, and matches it to your daily goals – like all goals, start slowly and then increase until regular water consumption is part of your day.
For those of you who do not want to get into professional workout regiments, Fit Friendzy offers a more casual and social approach. Using fitness functions, you can challenge your friends to exercise with you, join in on an existing challenge with other Fit Friendzy users, or do one on your own. Challenges range from relatively easy tasks (walk 30 minutes a day for a month) to more long-term goals (like run a marathon or climb a mountain). Fit Friendzy acts as a personal trainer by tracking your exercises, minutes worked out, distance speed and total calories burned. There are over 50 free exercise challenges included with the app.
A truly socially connected workout and exercise app, Fleetly Fitness allows you to earn points for logging workouts, connect with friends, join online challenges (for all levels), and also helps tailor your exercise to different locations such as in a hotel room when you are travelling or other challenging exercise locations. Also, the app gives you a good variety of challenges, considering anything from basketball to swimming and specific "ab ripper" ones. I find the user experience on this app difficult to navigate and confusing at times, but it does give you variety and lets you stay connected to others so that sense of community and social motivation is an asset for some.
For an unconventional slant on exercise and motivation, check out The Virtual Active: BitGym Edition which allows you to turn your bike, run (treadmill), or elliptical workout at the gym into an outdoor virtual tour of 10 extraordinary locations ranging from the Swiss Alps to the Venice Canals. This app aims to remove the monotonous and repetitive aspect of exercise and gives you some great views! Most of the options are about 7 or 8 dollars for a package of 6 scenes within a certain theme (i.e., Swiss Alps) but there is one free scenery option that takes you out on trails.
A great shopping assistant for those days where you find yourself at the grocery store shopping for food on an empty stomach. Calorie Counter will provide detailed nutritional information on almost all items you can pick up and buy at a store. By scanning the barcode on the food label, Calorie Counter will provide you with a quick overview of the product's nutritional value and also offers in-depth information on the product in question as well as the other 1.1 million options in the library. Tracking all major nutrients (calories, fat, carbohydrates, protein, sugar, fiber, cholesterol and more) its an extremely helpful app to take along with you on those days where your appetite is deciding what goes on the grocery list instead of your fine tuned healthy decision making!