Gadgets, Apps Can Help You Monitor Your Activity Level

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Earlier this week, I wrote a sharepost that focused on my own use of personal monitoring devices that help track activity. Since my experience has been limited to two devices, I thought I’d ask some friends who are committed exercisers for their feedback on what they are using and how it makes a difference for them. I hope this is useful to you!

    On-Body Monitoring System

    My friend, Kaye, used a fitness monitor called the bodybugg to gauge her metabolism.  “I had to wear a strap around my rib cage that sent signals to the watch band on my wrist,” she explained. “It told me my pulse and projected how many calories I burned. All the info could be downloaded to my computer and turned into a graphic representation of my calorie consumption vs. output each day. It was pretty cool and was very enlightening to see how many calories I burned doing various activities.”

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    She only used the monitoring device for a six-month period. “I learned that one hour of Zumba burned 400 calories, and 30 minutes of walking only burned about 120,” she said. “So it made me aware of the importance of intensity in my exercise. After monitoring myself for six months, I no longer needed the graphic feedback because I got a pretty good feeling for what was an appropriate portion size, and what constituted a good workout.”

    Gadgets & Apps

    I always see my friend, Rick, posting via an app that he’s completed a run or walk on his Facebook page. I asked him about his use of apps, and here’s what he said: “Over the past few years I have used a variety of tools in my pursuit of physical fitness.  Some were apps on my phone and others were devices worn on the clothing. I started with simple pedometers to track my steps and then graduated to an electronic pedometer. The next step was the discovery and use of the Fitbit. Along the way, I have used apps like Nike, Map My Run and now Runtastic. Caloric counter or food diaries have also been used. Currently, I use Runtastic and MyFitnessPal.” He said while these gadgets and apps have been helpful in gauging his activities, he believes that the actual motivation to exercise has to come from within an individual person, not from a gadget (or app).

    Phone Apps

    My incredibly fit friend, Brenda, uses RunKeeper on her iPhone. She said this particular app tracks all activities, average minutes per mile, calories, workout summary, goals, heart rate, updates weight to keep calories burned accurate. It also provides a detailed history of activities as well as a notification when you when you hit new personal bests and milestone. Since she’s always been committed to exercise, this particular app hasn’t helped Brenda get into a regular exercise routine.  “I already had a sense of accountability; however,  it allows me to challenge myself each time I walk and set goals based on speed,” she said. “I look forward to working out knowing that RunKeeper is keeping track and also keeps a history of my workouts!”

    Another friend, Nora, has used several phone apps to gauge her activity. She currently uses the Nike iPhone app to measure running mileage, time/pace and the route she goes. “You can enter more stats after your run, if you want (i.e. how you were feeling, what shoes you ran in, what surface you ran on),” Nora said, adding, “You can create challenges to motivate yourself, and there's a website that goes with it that keeps track of all your data.”

  • She’s found many of the features very useful, although there are many she still wants to explore. “I used it a lot when I first started running, as it was a great way to look at my ‘accomplishments.’ You earn little rewards and such,” Nora said. “You can set it up to send you reminders too, but I haven't tried that yet. You can choose to listen to music, have your current stats spoken to you while you are running, etc. I still use it for all my runs, even if I only let it run in the background.”

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    Nora previously has used other apps to measure her exercise levels. The first one was called Nike + iPod and involved a sensor placed in the shoe.  “This one has a "walk" mode in addition to the "run" mode. you can calibrate them too for more accuracy,” she said. “I don't use this one anymore, because I don't want to have to keep track of my sensor.” The second app, Map My Run, can be used while running and biking and allows the user to log food intake. “What I like about this one is the fact that you can map out runs using an online map via a personal computer so you can look for good routes or it will suggest nearby routes to you using your phone,” Nora said. “So, overall, I think Map My Run has more options, but I usually use Nike to keep it simple.”

    As this sharepost illustrates, there are a multitude of gadgets and apps out there to track your activity. I hope you’ll explore them and determine which, if any, is right for you!

Published On: January 23, 2014