One consistent item in all our lives is our smartphones. Since we have them with us all the time, we should use them to help us get and stay healthy. Here are five ways.
1. Assess first. In any good plan to accomplish anything, you first need to assess where you are. My favorite app for this health-wise is MyFitnessPal. It is a free calorie counter and exercise and food journal for both iPhone and Android. It learns from you so that the more you use it, the easier it is to use. For example, many of us eat the same foods or do the same exercises repeatedly. MyFitnessPal remembers those items so they are easier to find and log. The food journal has over 1 million foods, and you can add your own meals and foods, too. Plus the food journal includes the carbs, fats, protein, sugars, sodium and other nutrients for each of the foods so you can see more than just calorie consumption. Use MyFitnessPal to assess what you are really doing to help or hinder your health by tracking your food and exercise for at least two weeks. Then you can start to formulate a plan to improve the things that will improve your health.
2. Link to a wearable activity tracker. Linking your smartphone to a wearable activity tracker will help you determine how healthy you are (or aren’t) and aid your goal setting. MyFitnessPal can link to Fitbit to track your steps, distance, and calories burned. When you link to Withings Pulse, you can also track your heart rate. Or link to Misfit’s Shine to track your activity and your sleep. And the wearable activity tracker Up by Jawbone allows you to track all those. Find the wearable you like best, link it to your smartphone and get tracking.
3. Exercise, even with snippets of time. I love the exercise apps I have on my smartphone because I can work out with only a few minutes of available time, knowing that even 15 minutes of exercise is effective for improving health. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of “physical activity” each week, which is 30 minutes a day and can be broken down into two or three segments of 10 to 15 minutes. And the AHA makes clear that physical activity is “anything that makes you move your body and burn calories.” Some top options:
- Cardio and weight training. I use Daily Workouts. Each workout is five, eight or 10 minutes long — you choose — and focuses on one area or activity. The areas covered by the workouts are abs, arms, butt, cardio and legs. For when you have more time, there is a full-body workout that lasts 10 to 30 minutes. You’ll need weights for many of the workouts, so keep small dumbbells in your office drawer and you’ll be set for getting fit.
- Yoga. For core strength, flexibility and meditative physical activity, I practice (and desperately need) yoga at least once a week. I use Pocket Yoga for Android and iPhone. This is not an app for novices because you need some familiarity with yoga positions. (Although you can learn them all at the Pocket Yoga website.) The animated (as in, a drawing) yoga instructor has a pleasing voice and the visual and audio backgrounds are relaxing. There are five different practices in your choice of 30, 45 or 60 minutes, and three levels of difficulty for each. Simply Yoga, a yoga app from Daily Workouts, is more suited to beginners. The instructor spends time describing each position in detail, with two practices in your choice of 20, 40 or 60 minutes.
4. Stay connected to the people and things you love. Personal relationships are important components of health and well-being. Use your smartphone, via Skype or FaceTime, to connect “face-to-face” with the people you love when you have free moments throughout your day.
5. Put it down. As great as it is and as much as it can help you, your smartphone still notifies you every time anyone wants to speak with you or wants you to do something. Like any persistent thing, you need to get away from it sometimes, especially in the evenings right before bed because it disrupts your sleep by delaying the release of melatonin, thus disrupting your good health, too.
As the American Heart Association says: “Something is always better than nothing!” So use your phone wisely and get healthy!