5 Apps for a Healthy Life

Written by: Christopher Sell

Primary Source: The Wednesday Wake Up

fitbit app

Sometimes I wonder what the athletes of yesterday would think about the exercise enthusiasts of today.

Heart rate monitors, P90x, treadmills with personal television screens in high definition — today’s technology has certainly taken a prominent role in our approach to health and fitness. Trying to figure out what equipment or technology is best for you can sometimes feel overwhelming.

Leading a healthy life is a multifaceted equation. It’s not just a matter of burning a certain amount of calories, or eliminating sugar from your diet. Health, or wellness, really is about pursing a healthy balance of the mind, body and spirit. In addition to physiological health, there are certainly other factors to consider, too, such as financial health, spiritual health, and emotional health. But for the purposes of today’s post, I wanted to share about a few apps that I’ve discovered to be incredibly helpful for my physical health.

Over the last several years, I’ve really made some significant changes in my life to focus on a healthier lifestyle. I’ve eliminated many of my favorite processed foods (Nutrigrain bars, cookies, soda, etc.) for whole and/or organic foods. I’ve expanded my pallet to include veggies I used to avoid at all costs (see: broccoli, tomatoes, spinach). And I’ve become an avid runner. But I’m not sure if I would have been able to meet near as many of my goals without the help of a few apps and my iPhone.

I’ve used most of these extensively, but some (HealthyOut, for example) I’ve only begun to use on a daily basis. I hope you find these suggestions helpful, and I’d love to hear your recommendations, too!

Fitbit. For a few years I had heard about various apps used for tracking daily food consumption to help users strive toward fitness. But everything changed when Fitbit released their own line of wearable products that could sync activity with their app. The fitbit Flex, which I purchased on Amazon this past winter, has redefined the scope and capability of the typical pedometer. The flex wraps around my wrist, and tracks everyday activity like steps, distance, calories, stairs climbed, and active minutes. It even syncs with other fitness apps like RunKeeper so that my daily activity tracking will be inclusive of any runs I’ve logged with other popular apps. The Fitbit app also allows you to log your food and water intake, and it even measures your sleep activity. The result? A really comprehensive profile of your daily habits, milestones, and progress toward goals. Other apps like MyFitnessPalLoseIt, and Pactoffer similar capabilities.

RunKeeper. I’ve been using RunKeeper since the winter of 2010-2011. It was instrumental in helping me track my daily progress toward my ultimate goal of running a full marathon in May 2011. RunKeeper is an intuitive, simple but robust fitness app which enables runners, cyclists, hikers, swimmers, etc., to track their outdoor (or indoor) activity. For outdoor enthusiasts who don’t want to shell out the cash for a GPS-enabled watch, using the RunKeeper app on your smart phone will provide you the benefits of GPS live tracking while exercising. I particularly like the analytic features which allow users to see activity from month-to-month and year-to-year. This is great for spotting emerging trends in your own fitness activity. A similar app worth checking out is MapMyFitness.

Pact. This is a great app for folks who crave a little extra incentive to get them off the couch and into the gym. Users can use the app to set up an account and make a weekly pact to exercise more (Gym Pact) or eat healthier (Veggie Pact or Food Log Pact). You can then set the amount of money you’ll pay other Pact members if you don’t reach your weekly goal. The most tangible benefit? Earning real cash, deposited into your bank account, for meeting your goals and living a healthier lifestyle.

TempoRun. For runners who love to listen to music while exercising, this is the App for you. Simply put: TempoRun plays DJ for your workout. Developed by a team of students at Michigan State University, the app developed for iPhones allows runners to set their pace to songs with steady beats, making their runs more enjoyable and consistent. TempoRun will also automatically categorize your music into levels of workout intensity, from 1 to 10, based on the beat and rhythm of the songs. This is a great tool for a runner who is looking to find the right song that will synchronize with their mood that day.

HealthyOut. Dining out at restaurants continually proves to be a huge problem for folks looking to stick to a strict diet. But HealthyOut, a guide to local restaurant dishes, makes it easier. Set your dietary preference — Atkins, heart healthy, lactose-free, vegan, etc. — and then search for local restaurant dishes that meet your dietary preferences by type, ingredients, cuisine and more. The app even offers users advice on how to make a particular dish selection healthier, such as substituting vegetables for fries, asking for light olive oil, etc.

*Bonus: The Chipotle Nutrition Calculator. I know this isn’t an app, but my favorite “fast-casual” restaurant provides a nifty tool on its website for users who want to calculate the caloric intake for their favorite dish at America’s favorite Mexican grill. It’s super intuitive, and spits out the complete nutritional profile for any customized dish.

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My name is Christopher Sell and I'm an educator in higher education. At my core, I'm passionate about creating synergy and connecting people to opportunity. I place tremendous focus on collaboration, strategic planning, forward-thinking, and teamwork in any professional environment. As an alumnus of Western Michigan University (WMU) and Michigan State University (MSU), I'm equally committed to leveraging relationships with industry and students/graduates to retain & attract talent in the state of Michigan and contribute to the economic revitalization of the "Mitten State" that I love so much. Needless to say, I'm a big fan of the Pure Michigan campaign.

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