Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

March 11, 2012

March motivation

Tech solutions to New Year’s resolutions

By Jake Crandall

— Making the commitment to stay fit during these cold Western New York months can sometimes be easier said than done. The resolution to eat healthier, or to ditch the nicotine fades as we settle back into our evermore hectic schedules. But with spring looming just over the horizon, maybe you’re in need of a technologic solution to get back on track, or hopefully take your fitness goals to the next level.

The simplest of these solutions is no innovation, but something many Internet users should be at least vaguely familiar with, the forum. Forums have become a popular way for members to connect and share their progress, seek motivation and encourage others.

If you’re a smartphone user, free apps such as RunKeeper (Available on iPhone and Android) and MapMyFitness (Available on iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry) allow you to log physical activities such as jogging, walking, biking, etc using GPS. Both apps have their own community driven forums to communicate with fellow members and keep track of goals. You can find other members in your area and link accounts to social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Both apps support the Wahoo ANT+ sensors ($119.99 from wahoofitness.com) which can transmit data such as heart rate, speed, and cadance. The RunKeeper app can integrate with Withings wireless scales and blood pressure cuffs ($159 and $129 from withings.com). However, their Blood pressure cuff is only compatible with iOS devices (iPhone/iPod touch/iPad).

If tracking your physical activities is one part of the fitness puzzle, it goes without saying that being aware of your diet is the other. Apps like DailyBurn and MyFitnessPal (available on iOS devices, Android, and computer) you can keep track of caloric intake. DailyBurn will also monitor nutrition. With its built in UPC food scanner, it’s never been easier to log food items. DailyBurn has customizable fitness workouts you can subscribe to and both apps will let you keep track of other physical workouts.

One other resolution WNYers have trouble keeping is kicking the nicotine habbit. According to the New York State Department of Health website (health.ny.gov) 25,500 New Yorkers die from smoking and smoking related illnesses each year; Another 2,500 are killed from secondhand smoke. If those statistics aren’t enough motivation, maybe the fact that cigarettes are hovering around the $10 mark is.

Again, there’s an app for that too.

MyQuitCoach from livestrong.com (iOS devices only) will track the amount smokers smoke, calculate savings over time, provide a custom-tailored quitting program and reward users along the way to being smoke-free. Users can also join the livestrong.com community to lend and receive support and motivation.

Another techno-related gadget to aid in smoking cessatation are electronic cigarettes, or e-cigs. An e-cig usually consists of two parts, a flavor cartridge and a battery. They offer an alternative to more popular cessation methods without the loss of the physical and social aspect of smoking that some smokers struggle to give up.

Although they may be controversial and their usefulness as a smoking cessation product has yet to be fully understood, some smokers are finding these devices helpful in the trek to being completely nicotine free. Users can control the amount of nicotine they take in, and can ween down to nicotine-free cartridges.

Be aware, these devices aren’t without their own risks. They do contain nicotine, a drug with cardiovascular side effects including increases in heart rate and blood pressure. And most contain propylene glycol (found in most fog machines) to generate the vapor. What they lack is the cabon monoxide, tar, and other chemicals found in traditional “analog” cigarettes.

Several studies have found that e-cig users have cut down on smoking regular cigarettes and a portion have quit smoking altogether; and with higher success rates than more popular methods such as nicotine gum or patches. E-cig users in one particular study that had quit smoking, had done so for six months or longer.

Systems typically start at the $50 to $70 range and can be bought online and at some local retailers. The jury may be out on these still, but if you’re struggling with other methods of quitting, it might be worth taking a look at.

There it is, a technologic pick-me-up on the path to a healthier you.

Jake Crandall is a page designerfor the Union-Sun & Journal.You can reach him at jacob.crandall@lockportjournal.com or follow him on twitter @jcrandall729