Using Your Cellphone To Get In Shape
Forbes tells about mobile applications that help provide diet and fitness guidance--everywhere you go. Marathoner Paul Whitehead goes on training runs with a few necessities: identification, house keys, a digital radio, gel packs of the energy supplement Lucozade--and his Blackberry.health and fitness Updated: Sep 17, 2009 18:02 IST
These mobile applications help provide diet and fitness guidance--everywhere you go.
Marathoner Paul Whitehead goes on training runs with a few necessities: identification, house keys, a digital radio, gel packs of the energy supplement Lucozade--and his Blackberry.
Though Whitehead, the 38-year-old head of business development for Channel 4 television in the U.K., could use the phone for work purposes, he actually deploys it to track his speed, distance and pace with an application known as AllSport GPS. The program, which is downloadable for $5.99 a month for most major carriers, uses the phone's built-in Global Positioning System to monitor his location and movement.
Whitehead credits the application with helping him run more efficiently and shave 16 minutes from his 2007 time in the London Marathon. Last year he clocked four hours and 18 minutes.
"I knew the second time around what to expect," Whitehead says, "but certainly the device helped me manage my first 13 miles. I knew what I was capable of from training runs."
This and other mobile applications offered by Research In Motion ( RIMM - news - people ), the maker of Blackberry devices, as well as by Apple ( AAPL - news - people ), offer the added advantage that they go with the user everywhere--an important consideration for busy professionals who have to be creative about getting the most out of their fitness routines.
Finding the right mobile application can not only help make dieting and exercise more efficient, offering users not only raw and interpreted data about their choices and performance, but also a dynamic coaching and community experience that boosts motivation and commitment levels.
Using Your Cellphone To Get In Shape Rebecca Ruiz, 09.14.09, 05:00 PM EDT These mobile applications help provide diet and fitness guidance--everywhere you go. Rebecca Of course. I have lost a l
Comment On This Story
Fitness at Your Fingertips
Before mobile applications, people who wanted to track their health and fitness choices did so on paper, keeping diaries of their diets and exercise routines. (Nike Plus, a wireless sensor system that tracks workout statistics and syncs with a computer, is a notable exception.)
Joe Perez, executive vice president of product marketing and community for Livestrong.com, a wellness Web site co-founded by Lance Armstrong, says the ability to transfer that tedious hand-on-paper logging process to a speedy and intuitive mobile application has opened up a range of possibilities that weren't previously possible for dieters and exercisers.
With the most advanced applications, users can collect and analyze data instantaneously, whether it's the calorie count and nutritional makeup of a bagel with cream cheese or the pace and splits of a just-completed eight-mile run.
The Livestrong mobile application, which costs $2.99, includes a basic calorie counter and fitness log, but also offers options to graph and chart this information, as well as to share it with like-minded friends on the company's Web site. Nearly 1 million people have purchased the program.
Dugg on Forbes.com
Julie Ask, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, a market research company, says that the utility and immediacy of health and fitness applications is what makes them so appealing. Although the company doesn't make forecasts on products until they see $100 million in sales (which these applications have yet to reach), the race to catch exercisers' attention--and market share--is on: The Blackberry App World has nearly 70 applications in this category, and Apple's App Store has more than 1,500. Most focus on tracking calorie intake and exercise performance, but the choices also include yoga, pushup and pedometer applications, among many others.
Coaching and Community
Given the diversity, it's unsurprising that applications vary in expertise and approach. FitDeck ($14.95), a virtual set of flash cards that feature an illustration of a strength-building exercise and specific directions on how to perform them, was designed by a former Navy SEAL for long-term use. Hundred PushUps (99 cents), by comparison, helps users complete 100 consecutive pushups by the end of a six-week training period.
Making a decision about what works best for each individual, says Pete McCall, an exercise physiologist and spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise, means being very specific about one's goals. A person who has never run a 5k, or 3.1 miles, for example, might want to opt for the aptly named Couch to 5K application as opposed to a more ambitious program.
Paul Whitehead, the marathoner, discovered AllSport GPS through the recommendation of a friend. Otherwise, he says, the choice might have been made at random.
Fraser Edward, Research in Motion's manager of market development for health care, suggests that consumers look for applications with coaching and community aspects. These measures can help buyers distinguish between novel applications that will go unused after a week and ones that have long-term potential.
Sensei for Weight Loss ($9.99), for example, incorporates coaching through motivational reminder e-mails about fitness goals and shopping lists based on preferred foods. Both Livestrong and MapMyRun, a free application that uses GPS for tracking physical activity, have user forums and Facebook compatibility to promote follow-through and encourage shared commitment.
Edward says such applications will only become more dynamic as they are integrated with Bluetooth devices like heart-rate monitors, blood-pressure cuffs and weight scales--a trend he expects to emerge next spring.
"We're quite a few years away from your doctor prescribing a smart phone for what's going on," says Fraser, citing the example of someone who needs to quit smoking and drop 20 pounds. "But that could be one of the tools, and I think that's where we want to go."