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Friday November 28th 2014

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There’s an App for That

How Technology is Changing Fitness
By Jennie McKeon

Getting through the day without using technology is nearly impossible. For some, a smart phone is more than just an accessory, but an appendage.

It turns out that smart phones and other gadgets can serve a higher purpose than updating social media. According to a story on Sciencedaily.com a new Northwestern Medicine study shows that using a mobile app can help people lose an average of 15 pounds and keep it off for at least a year.

The study included 69 overweight and obese adults who were an average age of 58 and primarily men. The results found that those who used their mobile phone and attended 80 percent of their health education sessions lost 15 pounds and maintained the loss for a year. The average weight loss for the mobile phone group—even the ones who did not attend the education sessions—was 8.6 pounds. The control group, which received the education sessions but no mobile app, did not lose weight.

There’s still more research to be done to truly measure the success of mobile apps. Currently, physician researchers at University Hospitals Case Medical Center MacDonald Women’s Hospital are exploring the benefits of the app “Lose It!” a free smartphone app for postpartum weight loss.

However, there’s no denying that if fitness is easier to access, it can make an impact.

“Smart phones and all those gadgets make tracking your diet and exercise a lot easier,” said Matthew Nixon, development coordinator and exercise instructor at the downtown YMCA branch. “You have an app for just about everything.”

Staying Accountable
Using apps and social media in accordance with exercise and a healthy diet can go a long way.

Jason Leger hit 300-pounds before he started his fitness regime. He praises the popular app, MyFitnessPal, as well as social media and friends.

“So far, it has worked monumentally,” he said of MyFitnessPal. “It keeps me in check and also helps me see how far I have come.”

Leger posts his progress on Facebook as well. Letting friends in on your fitness not only lends you encouragement, but makes you want to keep it up.

“It’s kept me accountable, not only to fitness goals, but other things, which if I didn’t live up to, my integrity would be cheapened.”

Leger also hopes to be an inspiration to others. At 225-pounds after ten months he already is.  A simple picture can really make a difference.

“To put yourself out there is pretty powerful,” Nixon said.

Even fitness groups like Fixed on Fitness—which do not use apps let alone much equipment—use social media to boost morale.

“It gets people interested in what others are doing and it allows our clients to connect with each other outside of camp,” said Kenzie Presnell, co-owner of Fixed on Fitness. “Social media can be a great tool to connect people. We love to see Facebook chats between Fixed on Fitness campers.”

Fitness at your Fingertips

The obvious draw to using technology is to simplify what you’d rather not do—it is, after all, called a “workout.”

“People have instant access to a vast array of information, workouts, injury prevention, and nutrition information,” Presnell said.

However, you do have to make sure that what you’re reading is from credible sources. Look for reviews, or recommendations from personal trainers and fitness magazines. For fitness first-timers, having a cheat sheet about what to eat and what exercises work is a great way to begin your new wellness program.

As Rachel Mock, wellness coach at the downtown YMCA explained, it’s great to use technology to get started.

“There’s even apps for showing you how to use gym equipment,” she said. “That’s awesome because a lot of people have no idea how to use the equipment and are terrified or insecure.”

That insecurity is why some might turn to Wii Fit.

“It allows you to exercise in an atmosphere that’s comfortable for you,” Nixon said. “For some, that’s a perfect way to get started. Any exercise is better than none.”

And for anyone who is trying to track a specific diet, apps take away the guessing and the math that lends some people to just give up.

Erin Fluegge has lost almost 70-pounds this year. While the feat was a lot more work than downloading apps, she attributes technology to her game plan. She used apps such as Weight Watchers and Nike+.

“In the past I never tried diets,” she said. “Now, I think it’s easier to track everything online and join groups.”

The Weight Watchers app not only tracks her foods and activity, but has a barcode scanner so even grocery shopping is easier. And having more access to support is encouraging as well.

“Weight Watchers is a pretty good group,” she said. “They make me realize that people are going through the same thing as me.”

When she needs extra inspiration, Fluegge turns to Pinterest.

“I search ‘health and fitness’ and look at all those inspirational quotes,” she said. “And the pretty cakes.”

Even though apps and fancy gadgets can be a great aid in your fitness regime, you still have to work out and watch what you eat.

“Technology is great, but it doesn’t really affect your workout,” said Rachel Mock. “It just makes it easier.”

And to be as successful as Fluegge, you have to really step it up. Even when she’s out of town, she’ll contact her trainer for workouts.

“I saw him more than my family,” she said. “You have to have motivation and determination to reach your fitness goals. There’s no ‘Let me type this into my phone and lose two pounds.’”

YMCA DOWNTON
WHERE: 410 N. Palafox
DETAILS: 438-4406 or ymcanwfl.org

FIXED ON FITNESS
DETAILS: 607-6978 or info@fixedonfitness.com

Recommended Fitness Apps

MyFitnessPal- A favorite for all levels of fitness. The app tracks your food intake and activity and provides you with support through an online community.

MapMyRun- The app enables you to use the built-in GPS on your smart phone to track all of your fitness activities. You can record you workout details including:  duration, distance, pace, speed, elevation, calories burned and route traveled on an interactive map.

Lose It- A personal trainer in your pocket. Enter your goal weight into the app and it takes your profile and goal weight and puts together your personal daily budget. Lose It also offers goals around sleep, exercise, measurements, macronutrients and more.

Weight Watchers- Track and calculate your points, search over 31,000 food options including meals and recipes, track your progress and connect with friends in the community.

Nike+- The app features a GPS, pace tracker, timer, calorie counter, pedometer, music player and can connect to your social media to show off the good work you’re doing.