Moving beyond stats and graphs, a new set of gadgets, games, and apps add community and entertainment to exercise.
Apps gone social
There is no shortage of fitness-focused mobile phone and iPad apps. Many people enthusiastically download them when they first decide to get healthy, but eventually the apps become unused memorials to broken diets and lapsed training programs. Several apps, however, are employing social-networking mainstays, such as badges, to provide motivation against quitting when the going gets tough--or at least when it gets just plain boring.
RunKeeper is a free GPS-enabled app for iPhone and Android that lets you track the distance, time, pace, route, and even elevation of your runs. Its partnership with Foursquare lets you earn badges when you have completed 5Ks, marathon runs, and distances in between. Your badges appear not only on your Foursquare account but also in your RunKeeper feed so you can impress your running buddies.
WorkSmart Labs CardioTrainer, one of the first Android fitness apps, uses a smartphone's GPS capabilities to track your participation in outdoor sports such as running, biking, and even cross-country skiing. You can record how far you went, as well as how many calories you've burned. It's smart enough to stop recording when you're waiting at a traffic light. The latest update even helps you out with New Year's resolutions by placing a humanitarian wager on them: Pick a resolution (such as 'I will exercise twice a week for the next two months') and then select a cause (such as 'donate $20 to the Red Cross'). If you don't make good on the resolution, your cause gets its money. If you stick to it, your money is refunded.
CardioTrainer motivates you to stick to your resolutions by putting a donation to a charity at stake
Mashable is reporting that Nike will be revamping its NikeWomen Training Club iPhone app this month, replacing its current cartoon style with a sleek photographic look. The revised version will include 60 audio-guided workouts at beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels and at 15-, 30-, and 45-minute durations. You'll unlock different badges with kudos from sports celebrities as you continue to use the app.
When it comes to getting fit and losing weight, no technology can eliminate the effort required to exercise regularly, cut calories, and eat healthy - but today's hardware and software can make the commitment a little more entertaining.