2011 is officially here! And with the dawn of a new year comes new resolutions, usually for more happiness and better health. Technology can help with both. Getting new gadgets makes you happy and using them can actually help to keep you healthy.
The first thing to know is that whatever type of fitness person you are – marathoner, yogini, dancer or muscle man – there’s probably a tech-aided service out there that can make your life easier. So here’s a roundup of the best fitness gizmos, websites and apps galore to keep you hale and hearty throughout the New Year.
If running is your thing, look no further than RunKeeper, a mobile app to track your runs, available on the Android and iPhone. They have a free lite version but also a paid Pro version that is now free until the end of January. You can map your run using GPS, track your speed, calories burned and other information which automatically syncs to their website. The Pro version adds customizable audio cues and advanced coaching for planning workouts and setting goals. Given that they’re one of the top grossing apps this season, RunKeeper must be doing something right.
The Nike + iPod Sport Kit is another great running tool. This includes a sensor that you insert in your shoe which sends data back to your iPod (through a receiver) or iPhone (built-in support). The application provides voice feedback and the ability to add customizable playlists. It measures distance traveled, calories burned and integrates with a Nike + website where you can track progress. A hardware-free version is also available as the Nike+ GPS app with granular level detail including fastest and slowest mile along with pretty graphics on your average speed.
There's a plethora of other apps for runners, including: Couch to 5K running plan for iPhone (Couch to 5K) and Android (C25K), MapMyRun for tracking pace, distance and route in the iPhone and BlackBerry and MapMyRide for runners and cyclists in iPhone, Blackberry and Android platforms.
What you measure, you improve, and so there’s a whole host of tracking devices for smart phones that let you monitor your activity. The best dedicated device however is the FitBit, equipped with a 3D motion sensor (similar to Nintendo Wii) that tracks calories burned, steps taken, distance travelled and sleep quality on a detailed minute-by-minute basis. The little device needs to be clipped on and beams data back to the wireless base station which automatically syncs the data with the FitBit’s online dashboard. The website also includes a basic food log for users to enter in the food they consumed daily.
For those more inclined to exercise if rewards are involved, Nexercise is an app (coming soon) that provides financial incentives for points received each time an activity is engaged in. Points are redeemed for deep discounts on items such as workout DVD's and energy bars. More driven by competition? Fitfeud encourages you to create and track fitness competitions across an organization or group to motivate people to reach their health and fitness goals. Participants sign-up and report their progress at a private, secure web site and are able to see real-time personal statistics and overall competition rankings. Competitions can be completely customized and based on exercise, nutrition, activities, weight-loss – anything that can be counted.
Studies prove that having a food journal to track what you eat every day is a sure fire way not only to be more aware of your intake but also to lose weight. Mobile devices have made this process a lot more convenient with food tracking apps and services in every possible shape, color and size. One of the most popular apps is Lose It!, a calorie tracking mobile app that allows you to track your food intake and exercise, set weight loss goals and daily calorie budgets. If you’re partial to using your iPad to jot down what you eat, Calorie Counter is an iPhone and iPad app that helps you find the foods you eat and track your weight – the same company also makes an Android app of the same name. Livestrong.com also has a Calorie Tracker app for the iPhone and Blackberry which lets users log food items they’ve eaten, powered by The Daily Plate’s expansive database.
Online Fitness Communities
It takes a village to raise to a child or so goes the saying. Child rearing or not, achieving fitness goals is more possible with a social component. Why not use technology to tap into online communities that can help you? Daily Burn helps you track your daily food and exercise but focuses on the mantra “Accountability Works.” Daily Burn lets users have Motivators, online partners holding you accountable for your fitness goals as well as the option to compete in user-generated fitness challenge groups, ranging from people looking to lose 5 pounds to those just interested in rock climbing. There’s also a Daily Burn iPhone app to complement the website services.
Fivi is a health and wellness community where people create workouts and allows for customization from existing workouts or a library of high quality targeted content. They are also launching a virtual trainer for marathon aspirants. There’s a complementary iFivi app for iPhone and a FitVirtual app for Android, coming soon. The service is looking to turn fitness, and more broadly, health awareness, into a social affair.
Sometimes kick-starting new fitness habits requires more than a tracking device or supportive online community and that usually comes in the form of a trainer who kicks your butt. Fit Orbit, the Ron Conway backed online startup, provides just that. It lets users choose their own personal trainer (pre-screened and certified) who provides them with customized fitness and meal plans on a weekly basis.
For something less involved, try a mobile app like iPersonalTrainer that designs workout routines based on fitness level and goals and serves them up through instructional videos. The app also adjusts the recommended weights and reps based on tracking your progress. Another interesting mobile option is the Nike Women Training Club, a training app that gives customized workouts with visual and audio guidance as well as on-demand instruction from a Nike Pro Trainer. For Android users, YourSport is a leading training app.
|RunKeeper||Runners||Run tracking; Mobile app (iPhone, Android)||Free (until Jan 31st 2011); $9.99 regular||Android – iPhone|
|Nike+ iPod Sport Kit||Any type of cardio||Cardio tracking; Hardware (sensor) with mobile device tracking (iPod, iPhone)||$29.99 one-time purchase||Amazon|
|Nike+ GPS||Runners||Run tracking; Mobile app (iPhone)||$1.99 one-time purchase||iPhone|
|Couch to 5K||Runners||Mobile app (iPhone, Android)||$2.99 one-time purchase||Android – iPhone|
|MapMyRun||Runners||Mobile app (Android, iPhone, Blackberry)||Free||Android – Blackberry – iPhone|
|MapMyRide||Cyclists||Mobile app (Android, iPhone, Blackberry)||Free||Android – Blackberry – iPhone|
|FitBit||Tracking||Motion tracking device & base station||$99 + $10 (Shipping)||fitbit.com or Amazon|
|LoseIt!||Calorie Counting||Mobile app (iPhone)||Free||iPhone|
|Calorie Counter||Calorie Counting||Mobile app (iPad, iPhone and Android)||Free||Android – iPad – iPhone|
|Free; Advanced features range from $5.99 to $24.99/month||iPhone|
|Fivi||Fitness Comunities||Website||Free||fivi.com – iPhone|
|FitFeud||Fitness Comunities||Website||Contact for group pricing||fitfeud.com|
|Fit Orbit||Personal Training||Online service||$6.99/week to
|iPersonal Trainer||Personal Training||Mobile app (iPhone)||$1.99 one-time purchase||iPhone|
|Nike Women Training Club||Personal Training||Mobile app (iPhone)||Free||iPhone|
|Your Sport||Personal Training||Mobile app (Android)||$2.99 one-time purchase||mymobitools.com|
If there’s any fitness gadget or service you use that’s not on here, please post them in the comments area below.
Image by Ernst Moeksis.