Overwhelmed by Fitness Gadgets? There's an App for That

Those gadgets that you strap on your body and connect to your iPhone or Android purport to be able to measure fitness improvements (or lack of), but here's a low-tech alternative.
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I would never view myself as a grumpy, curmudgeonly Luddite. However, after reading an article in the New York Times -- "A Monitor of Health, Worn Lightly" -- by technology writer David Pogue, I was mentally exhausted and ready to dump my iPhone in the garbage.

Instead, I got down on the floor and did 20 push-ups.

Pogue started the article with this newsflash:

"Maybe you've heard. We Americans are not, ahem, the very models of physical fitness. We're overweight, underexercised and underslept.

We don't need more studies to remind us that being so fat, lazy and tired is bad for our mood, productivity and health. What we need is to change our ways."

He's right, of course, but Pogue should have included this bit of information, as well: Being physically unfit, which often leads to poor health, is the No. 1 biggest financial risk as we age.

There are myriad reasons why moving our bodies every day should be as integrated into our lives as brushing our teeth:

  • Better general health

  • Weight management
  • Deters many diseases, including some cancers
  • Sounder sleep
  • Improved health numbers (cholesterol, blood pressure, etc.)
  • But, there are even more reasons and excuses we give ourselves -- and the world -- why we can't and don't: no time, have to work late, too cold, too rainy, and on and on.

    One of the big reasons why people often stop exercising is they don't see results quickly enough, and they give up before they've barely started. It's a Catch-22 that has not gone unnoticed by marketers of gyms, equipment or gadgets (not to mention authors of diet books). Instead of promoting old-fashioned discipline and the fitness basics that truly work (walking, running, push-ups, sit-ups, and so on), they're eager to offer up their latest technological wonders -- such as those reviewed by Pogue in the article -- as the new "magic bullets" to improved fitness and health. Not only are they expensive (in excess of $100), they are complicated, and for the most part, unnecessary.

    Apparently, most readers who left comments agree with me. A few wrote:

    And you need yet another device to manage your life? Just get off your rear end at least walk half an hour a day, even if you move around during the day.

    So exactly how pathetic of creatures have we become with our little devices now?

    Anything that gets people to be active is good. That said, why is it that people [need] gimmicks, gizmos, and gadgets to get them off their butts?

    These gadgets claim to measure physical activity and fitness improvements, but there's a much simpler, cheaper and sustainable approach to consider:

    Low-tech, High-impact Fitness:

    • Walk 10,000 steps every day -- That's how many steps we should take every single day, and each step you take is one step closer to better health. Build up to it if you need to, and try adding some gentle running into your walking program. Go at your pace, but keep going.

  • Get a pedometer -- If you feel the need to monitor your activities, especially in the beginning, get a simple, inexpensive pedometer, which is all you need to count every step. Don't be coerced into buying one that offers other information. All you need to know is how many steps you've walked or run. If you have an iPhone, there's an "app" for a pedometer.
  • Find reasons to walk every day -- Walk to work, park your car farther away, take the stairs. You know how to do this.
  • Tell everyone you know that you're starting a fitness program -- Go to www.stickk.com, where you can make a public proclamation about your intentions. The more people you tell, the more you will be motivated to start -- and stick to -- your program.
  • Do a "core strength training in 15 minutes a day" program -- There are four key moves everyone should do every day (in conjunction with the walking or running cardio program): sit-ups (20), push-ups (20), squats (20) and the plank (hold for 60 seconds). Do these as a "circuit" (i.e., move from one to the other quickly) and build up to three sets. (See this article for details on how to do each one correctly.)
  • Those gadgets that you strap on your body and connect to your iPhone or Android purport to be able to measure improvements (or lack of), but here's a low-tech alternative:

    • Have a physical exam -- Before you start on any exercise program, see your doctor, and have your "key health numbers" checked: weight, waist measurement, BMI, cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, triglycerides. Then, after six months of being on your program, have your doctor re-check everything. It is the best measurement of success there is. When I turned 50 and started doing what I'm recommending here, my health numbers improved dramatically across the board.
  • Weigh yourself -- If weight loss -- and management -- is a goal, you'll be able to measure your success by simply stepping on a scale. If there hasn't been any movement toward your goal, cut back your calories and increase your physical activity until you've seen an improvement. Not too complicated.
    • Monitor how you feel -- If you're like the majority of people, you will feel better on many levels once you've committed to a regular fitness program. You'll have more energy, will sleep, focus and concentrate better, and you'll experience a general sense of well-being.

    Technology will continue to push forward, offering more sophisticated tools to monitor our fitness, eating, health and lives. But, after reading another New York Times article, which reported on new technology that can monitor our health, continuously, one commenter saw the irony. She wrote:

    A host of authoritative voices already warn us not to have a piece of cheesecake, a second Scotch, a cigar. And yet not every decision we humans make is in the service of perfect health. Some of us still drink wine because we derive pleasure from it, not because our doctors tell us that, in moderation, it's good for us.

    Now imagine those voices coming in the form of a constant stream of data from "wireless sensors worn on your body and placed in your home," an all-seeing, ever-present expert telling each of us, every moment, how we ought to live.

    The truth is, we all know how to live our lives, although we often ignore our inner voices. Show yourself, and the world, that you've got this.

    For more information on living your best life after 50, visit my website -- www.bestofeverythingafter50.com. Staying connected is a powerful tool: "Friend" me on Facebook, and "Tweet" me on Twitter (BGrufferman).

    Turning 50 is more than an age... it's a movement.

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