Friday, February 13, 2015

Tech Savvy Fitness: 5 Tips for using Technology to Better your Health

Today, I can honestly call myself a fitness lover. I try to exercise for at least 30 minutes every day because I know that a workout can lift my mood like nothing else. I actually enjoy that oh-so-sore feeling in my muscles the next day. And I especially love trying on clothes and not being able to decide what to buy because everything fits just right -- instead of hating the way I look in the mirror. But if you know my story at all (you can read about it here & here), you know that wasn't always the case -- and if I learned anything from my battle with depression, it's that our health care system is broken in more ways than one. In my opinion, the more we do to stay well and prevent ourselves from getting sick in the first place, the better off we all are.

Lucky for us, technology is on our side. Getting healthy these days doesn't have to be as difficult or even as boring as it used to be. There are a wide variety of tools and resources to help you on your journey and, most importantly, you don't have to do it on your own. Recent technology has impacted the health community in a number of ways, making the experience more fun, social and -- in my opinion -- effective! Today I wanted to share a few ways that I've used technology to take control of my health.

1) Get Informed:  

Gone are the days of having to rely on doctors and tests to get a glimpse of how our bodies are performing. There are a variety of personal gadgets and monitors available to provide the you with essential information such as your heart rate, BMI, caloric intake, caloric burn during a workout, and even sleep patterns. Knowing how your daily habits and activities are impacting your health can help you plan a better course of action moving forward. As the saying goes -- "Information is power."

Wearable wireless technology is one of the easiest ways to track and monitor your overall health, and with a variety of affordable options out there to choose from you really don't have to break the bank to go digital. Here are a few popular gadgets (all under $100) to get you started. I personally own and love #1 and #2, but I have heard great testimonials about the others as well.

  1. Polar FT4 Heart Rate Monitor: This wrist watch syncs to a heart rate chest strap (made of soft material that adapts to your body shape) and uses your personal data to provide an accurate count of calories burned during physical activity. It's water proof and if you're a gym-goer, it's also compatible with gym equipment using GymLink. Not to mention it comes in a range of fun colors like the pink one I own! 
  2. UP24 by Jawbone: This little bracelet is so much more than a monitor. It not only tracks your activity throughout the day (and night!) and syncs with your smartphone to give you an accurate count of steps taken, calories burned and sleep patterns, but it also has a Smart Alarm that wakes you at the most ideal time for you to wake feeling refreshed, and an Idle Alert (both are a gentle vibration on the wrist) to let you know when you've been sitting still for too long. You can also connect with your friends to compare and comment on each other's stats, adding a fun social (or competitive?) aspect.
  3. MisFit Flash: Here's another bracelet tracker that syncs with your smartphone to track activity and sleep, but unlike the UP 24, it's also waterproof -- making it equally great for tracking your swim activity -- and it's about half the price. 
  4. FitBit One: If you're worried that a plastic bracelet would be too much of a disruption to your style, you can opt for this little gadget that can easily clip into your pocket, belt or bra. It tracks steps, distance, calories burned, stairs climbed and quality of sleep, and also has a silent alarm feature to wake you (and not your partner). 

2) Get Organized: 

In keeping with the "information is power" theme, don't underestimate mobile apps. Getting healthy and losing weight can be overwhelming but even if you aren't in a position to splurge on a new gadget, these apps can offer plenty of support when it comes to tracking your nutrition, activity and overall progress. Here are a few of my favorites:

  1. MyFitnessPal: A free online food diary with a searchable database of over 1,000,000 items. You can even scan the barcode of an item to enter it into your log. 
  2. Run Keeper: This app will track your runs, walks, bike rides, training workouts and other fitness activities just using the GPS on your iPhone. 
  3. Map My Run: Another app that will track your your fitness activities using your mobile device's GPS. You can record workout details including duration, distance, pace, speed, elevation, calories burned, and route traveled on an interactive map.
  4. Sleep Cycle: This app tracks your sleep patterns (using an accelerometer to identify sleep phases by tracking your movements in bed) and wakes you up during your light phase of sleep so you wake feeling naturally rested. 
  5. Couch-to-5K: This isn't necessarily an app that will get you organized but it will, however, help you train your body to run 5K in an organized fashion. I ran my first 5K race last year, and I couldn't have done it without this app, which gradually takes you from running for 30 seconds to running for 30 minutes over the course of several weeks. 

3) Get Connected: 

Believe it or not, social media was the catalyst for my own fitness transformation. It's through social media that I was inspired by others to take the leap into fitness and now it's one of my biggest tools for supporting others as a coach. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have allowed me to get to know hundreds of people in the fitness community that I otherwise would never have met. So even if you don't have a local support network, you can easily tap into the online fitness community, aka #fitfam.

Everyone knows that the two main ingredients to health or weight loss are a healthy diet and exercise. But what most people don't realize -- and why so many people fall of track with their good intentions -- is that ACCOUNTABILITY is the missing ingredient in the recipe for success. Having someone to keep you accountable to your goals is like the secret sauce when it comes to health and fitness, which is why I host monthly online accountability groups for my clients. It's that sense of community and shared struggles, triumphs and goals that encourages us to really follow through on what we say we're going to do. Let's be honest, most of us have no problem letting ourselves down -- but when it comes to others, we will do everything in our power not to disappoint. Even as a coach, knowing that I have a handful of women online who are depending on me (many of whom I've never even met) is what pushes me when I just don't want to push myself. (If you'd like to know more about my next online group, just fill out this quick application and I'll get in touch with more information!

4) Gain Access: 

Streaming fitness is one of the newest technologies to hit the wellness scene. Now you can literally have everything you need to get fit in the palm of your hand. Gone are the days of having to pay for an expensive gym membership or exercise class to get in a great workout with an expert trainer. Not only does Beachbody (named by Fast Company as one of the world's top ten innovative companies in fitness in 2015) offer its incredible home workouts on DVD, but beginning in March 2015 the company will make hundred's of its world-class workouts available for instant streaming to laptops, tablets, and mobile devices -- basically, anywhere you have an internet connection. That means you'll never miss a workout because you can take them with you! You can workout at home, at the gym, outdoors, even on vacation. This new service will also extend the reach of Beachbody programs globally (DVD shipping is currently limited to the US and Canada)! So if you are outside of the shipping area and have been dying to get your hands on one of these programs, this is your chance!

The new Beachbody On Demand service will be available strictly to Team Beachbody's club members, and will be well-worth the quarterly charge of $38.87 if you ask me (umm... that's less than $12/month!) because members will have unlimited access to many of the company's most successful programs like P90X, P90X2, P90X3, Insanity, TurboFire, Brazil Butt Lift, Ten Minute Trainer, ChaLEAN Extreme and Hip Hip Abs. Members will also have online access to all the step-by-step program guides, workout calendars, and nutrition plans that come with the workouts. Other perks of club membership include access to personalized meal plans, live monthly chats with celebrity trainers like Shaun T, your own personal coach for 24-7 accountability and support, and a 10% discount on all purchases in the Team Beachbody store, including Shakeology.

The first people to sign up for Club Membership will gain access to Beachbody On Demand at the current low price, but I have a feeling the price will go up soon given the value of what's being offered (over $1,000 worth of workout programs), so I recommend enrolling now to lock in this low price!

5) Get Rewarded

And if all of those helpful apps and gadgets still don't motivate you, maybe the old "carrot on a stick" will do the trick. Beachbody will send you a free t-shirt just for completing your program and when you share your results you'll also be entered to win cash prizes of anywhere from $500 up to 100,000!!

And as I mentioned earlier in this post, our health care system is broken -- but the silver lining is that many employers and health insurers realize this. So, not only do many health insurers now offer free online tools for members track and monitor their own health between doctor's visits, some even go as far as offering incentives to those who make an effort to manage their own health. For example, my Anthem Blue Cross plan offers an annual monetary bonus of up to $200 for completing an online health assessment and biometric screening (those who score in the healthy range on 3 out of 4 of the biometric markers are eligible for the full reward amount). And it's not just the big-name insurers that are getting in on the fun! Oscar Insurance, a provider in New York and New Jersey, actually provides free MisFit Flash activity trackers to members, allowing them to receive cash rewards (up to $240 a year!) just for meeting daily activity goals. So if you're going to be getting healthy anyway, you might as well get paid to do it -- am I right?!

Seriously, in this day and age, all of the tools and resources you need are as close as a click away. If you need more help on where to start, feel free to get in touch. You can comment below or email me here.

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