In step with tech: How helpful indeed are running apps?

Updated on Oct 26, 2014 12:57 PM IST

More runners than ever are using apps and other tracking devices to streamline their health and fitness regimen and better their performance but do they really help? We investigate...

Hindustan Times | By, New Delhi

It was during one of his work projects, two years ago, that Aditya Vaidyanathan, 29, came across a cellphone-based application called RunKeeper. Two years later, he feels that his fitness regimen is incomplete without using the app.

"I work with a digital media company and brand consultancy is a part of my job profile, which is how I first heard of RunKeeper. It is a great app that motivates you to follow a fitness regimen," says Vaidyanathan.

He walks and runs alternatively for an hour every day to cover a distance of three miles. "All I do is switch on the app on my phone to get detailed information on the distance travelled, speed, and calories burnt. It works on the signals it receives from the pulse of the body and keeps track of my activity. This is what I needed," says Vaidyanathan.

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He started running two years before he stared using the app. "This app has changed things for me. It helps me track and measure my progress," he adds.

For businessman Shuvo Sengupta, 32, the app helped him meet his targets.

Delhi-based Shuvo Sengupta is among a growing number of walkers and runners using apps and gadgets as a part of their fitness regimen. (Sannjeev Verma/ HT Photos)

"I was very much into sports when in school. Lately, however, it has become difficult to take out time for it. I was introduced to the Nike application four years ago as it's in-built in my phone," says Sengupta. "It tells me exactly how many steps I have walked and how many calories have I burnt," he adds.

Sengupta is happy with the advances in mobile technology as he does not like working out in a group.

"I put on my ear phones to listen to the music and switch on the app, and barely come to know where the next one hour has passed. I personally prefer these apps and gadgets as I like to cut myself off from the rest of the world and do my own thing," he says.

Aditya and Shuvo are a part of the growing section of people in India who use technology to spice up their fitness regimen.

A survey of walking trends of 931 people in Delhi and Mumbai reiterated that technology is increasingly enabling walkers to stay motivated to meet their health targets.

Mumbaiites are more tech savvy walkers than Delhiites, found the survey by Max Bupa Walk for Health Survey 2014, conducted by Nielsen. It also throws some interesting insights into how technology is also popular among older walkers. The reasons vary from monitoring calories and heartbeats to explicit instruction on how to cool down while walking.

"There was a time when we had to urge patients to go for a walk, but the trend is changing for good as people are more aware of the benefits of walking and running. All these gadgets, with some very useful applications, have set a goal for people," says Dr Ashok Seth, chairman, cardiac sciences, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute.

"It is also a sort of a fad, you see others doing it and you want to do it too. I know many youngsters who have joined cycling clubs. It's a healthy trend," he adds.

Doctors recommend following a 45 minutes brisk walking schedule that should leave one breathless, along with some stretching exercises. "The idea is to increase the heart rate and maintain it at a certain level. Stretching helps in keeping the joints healthy," adds Dr Seth.


    Rhythma Kaul works as an assistant editor at Hindustan Times. She covers health and related topics, including ministry of health and family welfare, government of India.

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