One of the nicest surprises in life is when people or things exceed our expectations. Take the modern vices of Facebook, Twitter and iPhone apps, for instance. Our relationship with them is like dating the popular guy in college. Sure, he knows everyone and is fun to be around, but he can be a bit mindless at times and his addictive personality makes us borderline obsessive. It’s not a perfect scenario, but we are content with the diversion provided from our otherwise stressful and occasionally lackluster life.
However, what if we found out there was depth behind his seemingly superficial persona? Suppose this relationship could actually enrich our lives instead of merely filling us with vapid information and useless skills (Angry Birds, anyone?). It seems unlikely, but it is what many are starting to discover. By harnessing the innate strengths of Facebook, Twitter and apps and combining them with the proven keys to meeting diet and fitness goals, we are able to achieve some impressive net gains.
Thanks in large part to Afterschool Specials, peer pressure has gotten a bad rap. As it turns out, positive peer pressure can be an incredibly motivating factor in the fitness realm. Back in the old days, that meant finding an exercise or diet partner. These days, it means finding hundreds of them. With Facebook and Twitter, we have the ability to get our friends involved. Their real-time support will have us lacing up our running shoes and putting down the Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey. No more slacking between gym visits or slip-ups between weigh-ins.
Capitalizing on the wealth of available fitness apps is another option. In addition to tracking speed, distance, time traveled and route using your iPhone’s GPS, Runmeter (left on iPhone) can share information with select friends before, during and after your run. Unlike its competitors, Runmeter (as well as sister apps Walkmeter and Cyclemeter) also uses text-to-speech software so you can hear mid-workout shout-outs posted on your Facebook wall and from incoming Twitter feeds.
If it turns out that your friends are more couch potatoes than couch jumpers, feel free to make new ones. There are Facebook fitness and diet groups to meet every goal (from losing the muffin top to training for a 5K) and preferred method of exercise. Or stalk your inspiration from the privacy of your iPhone. Choose a fitness or diet guru who speaks to you and follow them on Facebook or Twitter for advice and insight.
In terms of dieting, keeping a food journal has long been a recommended strategy. However, its effectiveness is somewhat limited if you’re the only one reading it. Frankly, I’m used to disappointing myself. Posting it for others to see ramps up the accountability as well as the shame factor associated with cheating. (There goes that positive peer pressure again.)
Consider Tweet What You Eat (TWYE; right on iPad), a free Twitter-based online food diary. Users (more than 30,000 of them), use TWYE to count and post their daily calorie consumption. You can even create a “Do Not Eat” list of foods you want to avoid and TWYE will keep track of the number of times you’ve eaten each food.
Posting your diet or fitness goals on Facebook taps into the same accountability incentives. Once it’s out there for all to see, you’ll be more likely to make strides towards its achievement.
If it’s true that everything we really needed to know we learned in kindergarten, then perhaps it’s wise for some to revert back to the basic reward and punishment system. Forget corporal punishment; GymPact hits (or helps) you where it really matters—the wallet. Users set up a weekly workout schedule and put cash on the line before using a check-in app every time they hit the gym. (Don’t think you can cheat the system. You need to stay at the gym for at least 30 minutes for it to count.) At the end of the week, if you don’t meet your weekly goal, your cash is distributed to users who did. The more days you commit to, the bigger return on the weekly payout if you’re successful.
For those underwhelmed by the monotony of eating healthy and staying fit, the calorie-counting and diet-tracking app SlimKicker has turned the process into a winnable level-up game with small victories. After entering your overall goals (weight loss or improved health) and personal stats, the app will provide you with a diet summary and recommended nutrition goals. You then begin earning points and badges based on what you eat (whole foods are worth more than processed ones) and what you do for exercise as you work towards personally set rewards (a spa treatment, a cheat meal, etc.). You also can sign up for one of the seven- to 30-day diet and fitness challenges at a variety of difficulty levels (“Resist Baked Goods,” “Move During Commercials”), which are used to encourage positive long-term habits as well as earn you more points.
Nexercise (left), a fitness app, employs a similar gamified approach with points and medals but takes it to the next level by offering swag and the opportunity for a little friendly competition. Users begin by telling Nexercise what activity they’re about to start (anything from aerobics to yard work) and then, with their phone somewhere on their body, go ahead and do it. When finished, they hit a button and the app verifies that the activity has taken place through the motion of the device. Points earned go towards winning prizes from $5 coupons for items like energy bars to $250 gift cards. The app also has a built-in social component that allows users to challenge friends and compete for bragging rights.
Perhaps we underestimated our relationship with social media. Maybe it is a bit more altruistic than our original superficial expectations. Unfortunately, this new information, while refreshing in some lights, will likely only serve to fuel our addiction and time commitment. If it’s any solace, at least now it’s time suckage under the guise of self-improvement.
|Tap & Track||$3.99||Keep tabs on your calorie, fat, carb and protein intake and see how it fits in your diet plan and recommended daily goals.|
|Fooducate||Free||Scan food barcodes in the grocery store, find out the food’s health value (graded A to D) and discover healthier options.|
|Munch 5-A-Day||Free||A fun and easy way to track your fruit and vegetable consumption with the goal of meeting the five recommended portions per day and earning badges.|
|GAIN Fitness||Free||Use this digital personal trainer to build a customized workout based on your body, goals and schedule.|
|Daily Workout||$.99||Choose your target area (Daily Workout has separate apps for abs, butt, arms and legs), time commitment (five to 10 minutes) and difficulty rating to access a guided video for your daily workout.|
|BeatBurn Treadmill/Outdoor Trainer||$3.99||Uses an exclusive beat-sync technology to change the beat of your iPod music to perfectly match your pace.|
|Heart Rate (Paramon Apps LLC)||$.99||Measure your pulse by placing your forefinger on the iPhone’s camera and track calories burned, recovery pulse and more before creating a daily timetable.|
|Livifi||$4.99||Keep your body, mind and relationships in shape with exercises and goals to help you create and live a healthier life.|
|Insight Timer-Meditation Timer||$1.99||Harness the soothing and inspiring effects of meditation with this timer app that allows you to focus inward instead of on the clock.|
|Sleep Machine (SleepSoft LLC)||$1.99||A highly customizable ambient sound and white noise player that allows you to get an often undervalued good night’s sleep.|