6 Ways Technology Helped Me 'Hack' Getting Into Shape
It's no secret that Americans are battling a number of sweeping lifestyle health epidemics: According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) one in four Americans will die as a result of heart disease-related illness. Then there's obesity: Over one-third of Americans are considered to be in this category, which is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more.
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Recently, I was determined not to become yet another entrant to those tables of the unhealthy and overweight in America. So, just as I had turned to technology to purchase household items, or to schedule a ride to the airport, I turned to fitness technology to get in shape. What follows are six strategies that helped me to "hack" my fitness.
Gamify exercise and stay accountable with a good fitness tracker.
Software and hardware designers have been hard at work developing interfaces that help us become motivated, if not addicted, in the use of digital platforms like social media networks. Some platforms have applied the same principles that make Candy Crush or Facebook addictive to gamifiy fitness, making it easier to get motivated to make healthy choices.
Fitness hardware from companies like Fitbit and Apple use gamification to encourage wearers to conduct certain activities, like going to the gym, standing regularly and drinking an adequate amount of water. While the data about the effectiveness of wearables can be sketchy, that data overall does indicate that those who use wearables consistently, and who put stock in the gamification features do see a benefit in health outcomes.
Improve sleep with a sleep tracker.
An article in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that people surveyed who were sleep deprived were also more insulin resistant than those who got an adequate amount of sleep. Insulin resistance is associated with weight gain and diabetes.
For those struggling to get a good night's sleep, there are a number of helpful technology solutions to turn to. Eight offers a fitted-sheet sleep tracker that measures heartrate and restfulness to determine sleep quality.
The tracker can even be connected with smart home devices like a Nest thermostat or a smart coffee machine to optimize room temperature to sleep patterns, or to make coffee just before you wake up. The Sleep Cycle alarm clock is another good solution for those who prefer to monitor sleep on their smartphone.
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Reward yourself for making healthy choices.
Pricing psychology has a significant, if not obvious, impact on our daily decisions. A number of new apps allow users to pay themselves for making healthy choices. Self-tipping adds an additional layer of incentives on top of the incentives tied to health and improvements in your quality of life.
Apps like Pact and Tip Yourself make it easy to set and track goals, and to collect cash prizes from your own savings, or from a pool of money contributed by other users.
Monitor weight and BMI with a smart scale.
Today, there are a number of helpful smart scales that integrate with mobile apps to track weight and BMI changes over time. Apple recommends that iPhone customers use a Nokia smart scale, since it integrates with the Apple Health Kit. Fitbit also makes a smart scale that integrates with the Fitbit app and with Fitbit wearables.
In addition to tracking weight, smart scales take the manual process out of tracking BMI (body mass index) and fat body fat percentages. Body mass index is what is used to calculate a person's weight category. There are five key categories to measure yourself against: underweight, healthy, overweight, obese and extremely obese. Unlike weight, BMI is a better indicator of health, as it relates to body composition.
Access customer fitness routines through a personal-trainer app.
A great way to add variation to a workout routine is with the help of a personal trainer. In the past, hiring a personal trainer was expensive and required that you schedule working out around your trainer's availability.
Today, apps like Fitocracy give users access to various workout programs, some of which are custom made by a personal trainer hired through the platform. Personal fitness trainer apps help users to stay accountable, since a trainer will be checking in to see your progress, while also making workouts more effective and more varied.
In some respects, technology can make it harder to get in shape. Work follows us home through constant instant messages, email and social media. But technology can also be used to hack health by letting us turn to a few reliable resources.
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To get in shape, consider using a wearable fitness tracker. Doing so will help you analyze what other activities are associated with healthy decisions, and can make fitness more fun. Be sure to find ways to get restful sleep, and consider creating some sort of reward system to give yourself encouragement throughout your health journey.