In this day and age, there are a few questions that cannot be answered with #technology. We can be connected to people across countries and oceans, receive information on almost any topic at a click of a button and access all the cat videos we'd ever want. The invention of smartphones has made the world even smaller by granting us access to our specific desires through specialized apps. So, it's no surprise that fitness trends have made their way into technology over the last few years.
Along with the slew of fitness apps in the Google playstore and Apple store, gadgets like Fitbits have taken things to a whole other level. So, are these apps and devices making a relevant impact on the nation's health and fitness?
Accessibility and Convenience
The demand for fitness tech is prevalent among smartphone users. We've become accustomed to having some sort of device attached to our hips, but when it comes to trying to get into an exercising habit, there are two main factors that normally come into play: time and motivation. Luckily, fitness apps can be a great assistance in both of these cases.
Time is the world's most precious commodity; you can never have enough, and can never get it back! Besides sports and exercise professionals, almost everyone has sacrificed time in the gym for other aspects of their life. Between a second job, working long hours, family obligations and maintaining a social life, there's a long list of things that can prevent you from a solid workout. So, how can we fit healthy exercise into our daily routine? Luckily, app developers are trying to answer that question and while we may not always be able to complete a full workout, apps such as "7 Minute Workout" condense everything into high intensity intervals.
Now that you've found the time to get in a quick session, here comes the second problem: Motivation.
This is where mobile apps really come in handy. Imagine playing a role-playing game where the more your character trains, battles and accomplishes, the stronger your character becomes. Not only can you see your character take down bigger bosses and hit harder, but we also see numbers associated with attributes improve. That same mentality is often translated in good mobile fitness apps.
As you eat healthier, run and lift, you can use apps to log your activities. Fitbit is known for helpful features like 'steps taken,' 'calories burned,' and 'distance traveled' all at the tap of your finger. Similarly, apps like Weight Watchers help put number values to the things you eat and logging exercise.
Doing this on a regular basis helps put everything into perspective. Monitoring weight goals, increased intensity and repetitions, faster running times, or keeping track of calorie in take will help motivate you to reach your personal goals. But with all these technological advancements and positive aspects to mobile fitness apps, has there been a significant change in healthier habits?
Lack of Change in Obesity and Physical Activity Statistics
With a world of possibilities in the palm of our hands, you would think we would take advantage of it all. However, having all these opportunities at our disposal doesn't mean everything will change in an instant. Despite all the progress in mobile apps, there are still obstacles that have not been remedied entirely.
In fact, obesity levels are still increasing in America.
According to State of Obesity, there has been a steady increase in obesity in every state in the US over the past decade, as well as a steady level of childhood obesity. Sure, we have thousands of fitness apps to help keep us motivated in our quest for a healthier life, but there are easily five times as many apps (if not more) to take away our time and energy, distracting us from our fitness goals. Furthermore, does the ease of access and availability of so many apps make people more or less motivated, or are good old-fashioned motivators like personal trainers more successful?
Besides the frequency and consistency of app usage, you still have to take into account other aspects of a healthy lifestyle that play a huge factor. #Nutrition, the level of effort put forth during exercise and the dreaded "plateauing" are just a few components that can make a world of difference and unfortunately, not all apps take these into consideration. Even if an app encompasses most of these factors, it will not always be as comprehensive as you may want or need.
Pushing past these obstacles can be challenging without proper motivation. Our personal Jiminy Crickets can help, but could also be overshadowed at the thought of a slice of pizza or binge watching a new series on Netflix. So, how can we get that extra push to move from zero to hero?
What's Missing: The Human Element
If you're one of those individuals who struggles to self motivate themselves, the use of a mobile fitness app might have been ineffective so far. There are many ways around ignoring said apps, including but not limited to shutting off notifications, readjusting in-app goals to exert less effort, and even uninstalling an app. This brings up the appeal of one-on-one human interaction.
We've all dealt with automated customer services machines before, and fitness apps can easily be looked at as a faceless being too easily silenced by swiping left. Unless you have your own personal J.A.R.V.I.S., finding that human element in an app can be slightly challenging - but not impossible. While you may not have the physical presence of a workout partner, there are other ways fitness apps have linked the cyber world and human world to truly tackle the nation's health education and overall fitness.
The Solution: Helpful Apps With a Human Flare!
Adding a human element to an app comes in many different shapes and forms. Apps such as Fitbit and Under Armour Record not only allow you to track your personal goals, but also issue challenges to other users (friends and strangers alike)!
A little bit of competition between yourself and others can really kick start your healthier habits in hopes of edging out the competition. Other apps like BodySpace links you with a community of fitness enthusiasts to share training regiments and exercise routines. Bouncing ideas off like-minded people really helps get your mind into a workout mode and almost acts as if you had a personal trainer tailoring a specific program just for you. And last but not least, the app Zombies, Run! disguises exercise as a real life RPG of sorts, simultaneously triggering different mental and emotional responses. This partnered with your desire of goal achievement and the utilization of suspenseful "horror-movie-style" music makes a huge difference!
Whether you want to shed a few pounds, get ripped like Dwayne Johnson or maybe just build healthier habits to live a better life, everything really comes down to the effort you put into achieving your goal. Fitness apps can be a helpful tool in keeping you motivated and on track but they won't do the work for you. The real motivation HAS TO come from your own desire to better yourself.
If you're having a hard time with this, start with some baby steps:
- Cut out certain processed foods from your diet.
- Give yourself a certain amount of one exercise to complete by the end of the day (ex: 100 push ups, 200 squats, and/or 50 burpees, walk/run a certain number of steps)
Do this consistently enough and you will see improvements in your attitude, energy level and physical capabilities and you'll be hungry to do more.