There are over 10,000 fitness apps for Blackberry’s, iPhones, iPads, etc. and more being created daily. The fitness app “Loseit” has had over six million downloads! People use these apps to do calorie counting the easy way, track their workouts, look up health information and restaurant menus, and communicate with online friends who are helping them with a type of social networking accountability. The vast majority are either free or cost just ninety-nine cents!
Wellness coaches know that the people who track their efforts at behavioral change become the success stories. Bringing some real objectivity into your wellness plan helps you beat the self-deception of a subjective estimate of how well you are doing at exercising, getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, and eating well.
The great thing about these apps is their ease of use. One of the major barriers to success in calorie counting is how tedious and laborious it can be. Apps can make it easy to not only look up nutritional content of the food we eat, they also allow you to easily log the information into a daily dietary record. You can avoid that anxious time at the restaurant table trying to make a healthy choice on an unfamiliar menu by looking it up ahead of time and having your healthy order already chosen. You can use apps to plan meals as well, another key to healthy eating.
Fitness apps also can help you track your workouts, or even give you a limited amount of advice through digital “trainer” apps. Though never as good as the real live trainer, they can help with suggested workouts, tips and record keeping. Using GPS technology the apps can help you map your route on your walk, run or bike ride. As fascinated as I am with maps, I enjoy creating new ones when I go out on a run either at home or when I’m on the road. The workouts you do can be part of a greater overall plan towards a specific goal, like running a 10K race.
Apps are the tip of an online iceberg, of course. There are entire websites behind each that give you even more information and features. One of the most helpful features for staying in shape or losing weight is making use of the social support available. Sure, 99% of the world does not care what you had for breakfast. Do us all a favor and don’t pollute your Facebook page with that news. However, fellow app users with the same type of weight loss goal as you, do, in fact care to hear about it!
The founders of the “MyFitnessPal” app studied 500,000 of their own users and compared their recorded weights against how many “friends” they had on the service. People who added friends on MyFitnessPal and shared their calorie counts with them lost 50% more weight than the typical user. People with at least 10 friends lost an average of 20.5 pounds.
The downside of fitness apps
• An app is only as good as the degree to which people will use it, and continue to use it (adherence).
• Without an ally, like a wellness coach, trainer, etc., and an overall wellness plan, the user may lose the motivation and let the app collect digital dust.
• Some apps are way too complicated. One of the biggest names in health information out there has an app for calorie counting that is so laborious that most folks quickly abandon it.
• Some data-bases are better than others. If you’re having to enter many of the foods you eat manually it becomes another barrier to use.
• Let’s face it. Tracking can become really tedious, especially when it’s all we are doing.
• Not everyone is tech-savvy, or so inclined. For some good old paper and pen, or a wall calendar is preferable.
• Bottom line…it’s just a tool.
While fitness apps can be a great tools, they are just that. Anything that makes tracking easier is a great idea. When combined with the alliance and services of real, live coach, the possibility for change can be greatly improved. Lifestyle change is not just behavior modification. We still have to overcome barriers, both internal and external, and work with the WHOLE person.
Going solo with fitness apps may be great for the person with fairly high levels of self-directedness and readiness for change. For most folks who have struggled with lasting lifestyle change, however, the support, accountability and connection with a wellness coach is irreplaceable. Fitness apps can be terrific as a supplement to the coaching process. They are easily overrated, but the reality is that our clients are already using them. Wellness coaches needs to get on board and be app savvy too.
A recorded webinar that I did on this topic is not archived and available for free at our website, www.realbalance.com. Just look in the resources section.
How are you using fitness apps? Please leave a comment here.