By Adam Z. Lein | July 19, 2013 5:58 AM
Originally, Smartphones were really made to help keep all of your communications, scheduling, and mobile business needs organized on one device while you’re out and about. They’ve grown to offer so much more and one of the popular functions these days is to use your smartphone to help keep you in shape and healthy. There are so many exercise apps, food logging apps, and other health related apps on all of the smartphone platforms out there that you might find that everyone uses something different. Here at Pocketnow, a number of us have been working really hard to get in shape and stay healthy with the help of our smartphones. Read on to hear about some of the apps and techniques that we’ve been using and be sure to let us know what kind of healthy smartphone apps you might be using in the comments below.
My favorite type of exercise has always been bicycling. On my Windows Phone, I use the Endomondo app to track my cycling routes via GPS. It also supports other outdoor activities like running, walking, hiking, horse riding, etc. If I see a friend working out, I can send them comments and it reads the comments to them in their headphones. I can also analyze my route later on with altitude and speed graphs that are matched with coordinates on a map. When I’m finished with a workout, it calculates my calories burned and syncs that information over to the MyFitnessPal app which I use for tracking my food intake and weight changes every day. MyFitnessPal has a great live tile on Windows Phone that shows how many calories I have remaining for the day so that I can very easily decide whether or not I can afford to eat that pizza for dinner. It also has a pin-able “barcode scanner” tile that lets me quickly log all of the nutritional information for the (packaged) foods that I eat. That, combined with the automatic sync of Endomondo calories burned, makes calorie counting very easy. I also use the Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2012 game on Xbox Kinect as a virtual personal trainer to do some indoor calorie burning. That game has a Your Shape Center mobile companion app on Windows Phone that also lets me track calories burned. Unfortunately, I have to manually type those into MyFitnessPal in order to offset my calorie intake, but that’s not a big deal. Both the Endomondo and MyFitnessPal apps have social networking aspects that allow me and my friends to encourage each other to eat healthier or work out more. They’re both available on a wide variety of platforms as well, so it doesn’t matter what kind of smartphones my friends may have. Thanks (in part) to my smartphone, I’m feeling much healthier than I was a couple of years ago when I wasn’t using any of these apps.
I started running with the idea of losing weight, but I later learned that to actually enjoy it, you have to forget about the scale. Still, I’ve managed to lose 35 pounds since I started in January. I think I can finally call myself a long-distance runner. You have to be able to run at least 5 kilometers or 3.11 miles non-stop in order to qualify for that, and I was able to reach that goal around three months ago after weeks of training, and am now running 10 kilometers non-stop, every other day, and training for a half-marathon (13.1 miles). I mix running with Spinning in order complete two hours of work-out every day, since that’s how long it takes the average person to run a half-marathon.
Running has been tough for me, and I guess that’s why I like it. It’s tough for me because there’s no such things as resting on the pedals, or while you go down hill, or a little break between arm and chest work. All sports have their own level of difficulty to each person, but this was the one that really became challenging and addictive to me. Surely to learn to run, you will have to walk every now and then, but you can’t really consider yourself a runner until you’re able to fully run your goal, and for professional runners, that’s 26.2 miles!
After much testing between smartphones, my device of choice for running is an iPhone 5. It is for the oddest reasons, so let me explain. I run using the Nike+ Running app because it’s the most ubiquitous, and I can even use on an iPod if I have to, so sadly that immediately ruled out the use of a Windows Phone. The reason why I avoid using Android phones after much testing, is because I do tempo-running. This means running in cadence to the specific beat of a song to guarantee a specific pace. Music reliability is key for this, which Nike+ handles perfectly on-top of their run-tracking UI, but sadly Android phones are always hit or miss with their headset controls. If I pressed the headset button on every single Android phone I have, it would launch Google Music and give me two songs at the same time. Just frustrating, where the iPhone simply doesn’t fumble with these things.
The other reason why I use an iPhone 5 is because of accessories. Sadly this is still a problem with most other Android phones. I have a serious sweat problem, and believe it or not, my shoes become soaked in sweat once I start reaching the fifth mile, so you can imagine that a sweat-proof armband is not enough to protect my phone. I tried using the nano-coated Motorola Atrix HD once, but the display is useless with sweat. As a solution I use the “LIFEPROOF Frē” to keep the iPhone 5 protected, and I use a universal armband so that the phone fits within the case. You simply can’t go wrong with this case, I highly recommend it for sports.
After much testing of at least eight different headsets that even included some Bluetooth headsets, I did the most insane of investments on my book in spending $150 on a pair of Bose SIE2i headphones. They’re not only waterproof, but they provide awesome sound quality and an in-ear fit that doesn’t create suction in your ear canal. The design of the ear adaptors is simply the most genius invention I’ve ever used, and they’ve lasted well over 400 miles without a problem. Trust me, if you sweat like I do, in-ear headphones are code for a massive headache after so much bouncing in a run.
In order to teach myself to run, I used an app called 10K Runner which is sadly only available on iOS. It integrates perfectly with Nike+ so that one does the teaching and the other does the tracking and controlling of music. You’ll notice I don’t use weight-control apps, and that’s mainly because running has a lot of plateauing when it comes to weight loss. You simply can’t run and diet at the same time, or else your body will leave you hanging somewhere. That’s probably why I like running, since I also like eating, and I’d rather run more miles to eat than have to go on a diet. Trust me, once you get the hang of it, the pounds will shed on their own.
Overall, I’m anything but an expert at running. What has worked for me hasn’t worked for one of my friends that runs with me, but I’m sure that all the testing and frustrations that I had to go through will save you a couple of bucks if you take my word for it. Happy running!
Anton D. Nagy
About the most complex application that I have found to be extremely useful for me, personally, is MyNetDiary Pro. There are several reasons for that, beyond the fact that it is cross-platform (unfortunately Windows Phone is missing from the list, but Android and iOS are in). It automatically syncs with my cloud-account and changes I make, or records that I take, reflect on any of my Android phones, tablets, iPhone, and iPad.
I can track my calorie intake, by food name, barcode, portions, etc., and it will calculate the “approximate” calorie count that I’ve ingested. I can also track the amount of calories that I have lost, either by inputting separate exercises, or the number of calories that my heart-rate monitor-enabled training watch is counting. It has daily and weekly charts, analysis, as well as recommendations. I highly recommend it for everyone that wants to keep track of their diet, or wants to seriously train for achieving a goal.
Another app that I enjoy using on Android, as well as on the iPhone (again, no Windows Phone), is Map My Walk+, definitely useful for all the cardio power walking or jogging that I do on days that I either skip the gym for muscle reconstruction (or have to go late in the evening). Since it’s GPS enabled it automatically tracks distance, elevation, pace, etc., and calculates the rough amount of calories burned. This, coupled with my heart-rate monitor info, gives me accurate representation of how hard, of for how long, to push, for optimal results.
One of the things I liked best about the Verizon Galaxy S 4 was SHealth. In addition to keeping track of how much you walk, it also has a fairly nice calorie tracker with a lot of built-in meals. If your lunch isn’t on the list, adding it isn’t difficult. Regardless, the problem with every health-related app today is remembering to actually use it. Incomplete data doesn’t help. That’s one reason I like my Withing WiFi scale. It automatically updates their app, but with IFTTT I’m able to get notifications to my Pebble, and push the various measurements into a Google Spreadsheet.
Once upon a time, I fancied myself a budding runner. A couple of friends on mine had recently learned to run 5K’s, so I figured, “Heck I can do that too!” So I downloaded the webOS version of “Learn To Run“. I got through two weeks and everything hurt. I couldn’t breathe. It….did not go well. Now all of my friends who run say “That’s when you need to push through!” Well, I pushed. And I failed.
It’s not a total loss though. I do get out and ride my bike every day now. And since my wife recently picked up a new peddler, we make it a family activity. The smartphone isn’t really involved. There really aren’t many cycling apps available on Windows Phone, and chances are I’d forget to use them anyway. Very proud of the rest of the team though. Way to be a lot healthier than me!
So does your smartphone help you keep healthy? Let us know in the comments below.