The New Age of Digital Fitness: High-tech tools to get you off the couch

July 1, 2014

Are apps, gadgets, and social media turning wellness into an out-of-body experience?

FitnessTech3Mike Olsen still has the polo shirt that he wore in 2008 when he was at his heaviest—283 pounds, to be exact. “It reminds me of an umbrella now, or a hammock,” he says. Six years later and 100 pounds lighter, thanks to a fitness and diet revamp that has melted the pudge off and replaced it with muscle, you’ll find him sporting different clothes—and one telltale gadget on his wrist. “It’s a Fitbit, and it’s one of my favorite tools,” says Olsen, 33, of New Windsor. “It keeps track of how many steps I take each day, how many miles I travel on foot, how many calories I burn, how many flights of stairs I walk up—I don’t know how it does that, it blows my mind—and how many minutes I’ve been active,” he says. “Oh, and it’s also a watch.” One of several motion-tracking wristbands on the market these days, the Fitbit helps him set and reach his daily goals, which are anything but modest. The five-foot-eleven, sixth-grade English teacher strives to take no less than 20,000 steps and burn 3,500 calories daily. “I don’t hit that every day,” says Olsen. “But at night if I feel my wrist vibrate to let me know I’ve reached my goal, it’s a great feeling.”

Survival of the (High-Tech) Fittest

These days, if you want to work out, plug yourself in. If you need to lose weight, log on. Time for boot camp? Boot up. Gadgets, apps, and social media tools for health and fitness are all the rage. Wearable activity trackers like the Fitbit, Jawbone, and NikeFuel are the accessories of choice for the fit and wannabe fit alike. (Despite a recall of its Fitbit Force model earlier this year after some customers complained that the device gave them rashes, Fitbit still leads the pack with 67 percent of market share.) Don’t want to invest in a multipurpose wristband or clip-on tracker? There’s a motion-tracking app for your Android, too, such as the free Pacer pedometer. For calorie counters, food-tracking apps like MyFitnessPal, Daily Burn, and My Diet Diary will crunch the numbers. There are even “smart scales” like the Withings Smart Body Analyzer, which do a lot more than give you your weight; they also measure your body mass index, heart rate, and air quality. (No, they don’t tell you your fortune.) read more