Q: Can you recommend some decent fitness apps to install on my smartphone?
A: Traditionally, this column focuses on business-related technology, but because employee health can affect employee productivity, let’s assume this fitness topic fits. My Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone includes the S Health fitness app, which measures and records my heart rate and stress level, and a built-in pedometer logs the distance I walk or run. The app also allows me to record my exercise, food, weight, and sleep. The food tool automatically calculates my calorie intake (based on portion size), and, if I desire, the app makes it easy to take a picture of each meal before I eat it. The app also calculates my level of stress (based on my heart rate), but the science supporting this specific calculation seems to be unproven.
- Fitbit. The Fitbit app automatically syncs your fitness tracker’s data to your smartphone to help record your health statistics, track daily goals, log the steps you walk or run, record calories burned, and track sleep patterns.
- 7 Minute Workout. This app integrates with Google Fit-compatible watches and wearables, and walks you through an intense seven-minute workout featuring 12 exercises (which I assume are intended to be performed multiple times throughout the day).
- Virtual Walk. This app enables you to invite distant friends to virtually walk or run various routes while you each walk or run on your respective treadmills, with your friend’s progress and yours mutually tracked on a map. In addition, rich content and pictures describing the various landmarks you pass are displayed as your walk or run progresses, resulting in a more engaging workout experience. The result is that you may be able to forget you are walking alone on a treadmill. The app also uses GPS to track your actual walks or runs.
- Charity Miles (free). The Charity Miles app enables you to earn corporate sponsorships for charity whenever you walk, run, or bike. Participating charities include Habitat for Humanity, Wounded Warrior Project, and others. The more you exercise, the more corporate sponsors donate to the respective charities you choose.
- Sleep Cycle (99¢). This app requires you to lay your smartphone on your mattress near your pillow. It then analyzes and records your sleep patterns and can even set off an alarm so you wake during your lightest sleep phase.
The fitness tracker that best fits your needs depends on the activities you want to monitor (running, swimming, climbing, or skiing), the type of smartphone you have, and your budget. When you are shopping for a fitness tracker, some of the key features to search for include Bluetooth syncing, smart recognition sensors that detect your activity, water resistance, heart rate monitoring, pedometer, stopwatch, sleep monitoring, and long battery life. In addition to health management tools, many of these devices can also notify you of phone calls and text messages, provide weather forecasts, and allow you to mute your smartphone’s volume.
One of my favorite health apps is GoMeals, a free tool that displays the calorie, sugar, and carbohydrate counts for the foods you eat, including most meals served by most of the top restaurant chains in the United States. I find the carbohydrate count particularly useful because this information is usually not made available by restaurants. (I am trying to limit my carbohydrates to less than 210 grams per day, which may help stave off diabetes, according to dietitians. This app, pictured at right, is essential to helping me achieve that objective.)
J. Carlton Collins (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a technology consultant, a CPE instructor, and a JofA contributing editor.
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