The accessibility of modern apps and gadgets has evolved considerably since phones became smart and computers became hand-held. Their role in all areas of our lives is now without question, but one of the areas of biggest impact seems to be with our health.
Seriously, technological development has gone hand-in-hospital-glove with the medical revolution which sees more individuals taking responsibility for their own health and fitness, as means of illness prevention and fitness improvement. As the BBC’s Monitor Me programme demonstrated last year, some GPs are now just as likely to prescribe an app or online programme such as the Couch to 5K podcasts (see the NHS website for more details… yes, really) instead of a pill for more fitness-related health issues! With many gyms now also offering a wide range of exercise video’s to help you get started from the comfort of your own home. But why and how can tracking your fitness actually improve fitness levels?
One reason why tracking is successful is that it motivates individuals to be accountable: hence why those on food or fiscal diets are similarly encouraged to keep intake and spending diaries. With fitness too, logging your daily activity is an act of accountability:
- Initially in providing a base-line of “usual” activity.
- Then to act as a record of all actions towards a final goal – that push for progress.
The thing is, by simply tracking what you do (or don’t do) to begin with, you begin to become an active participant in your own health, reducing levels of passive behaviour and starting to sow that seed of activity and motivation. All of which starts to build up self-awareness, that point where mind and body jog along together nicely. Just as that couch potato mentality fuels passivity (and vice versa) so self-awareness fuels activity and motivation – a stimulus in itself to improved mental health which can kick in even at the monitoring and information-gathering stage of the tracking. Once you’ve started monitoring your physical activities to improve fitness and health, you’ll receive the benefits of improved mental health, including stress reduction, the release of happy endorphins as well as boosting self-confidence and esteem, which in turn boost motivation to keep on going.
Keep on tracking…
So how to track effectively? Technology means there are now lots of devices available, for example FitBit Flex and Jawbone Up fitness trackers, which are worn on the wrist. These are a step on from the casual pedometer, providing instead information on 3 dimensions of activity and allowing users to choose their own data comparison point from which to measure their progress. These can work delightfully in tandem with smartphone apps and enhance other fitness phenomena such as the whole online Couch to 5k movement. What’s also interesting about some of the fitness tracking apps and websites out there is the social aspect to them. Despite the fact that some of us are naturally inclined not to reveal our weight and sloth-like statistics to a less-than-trusted circle, many of the forums and websites which sync to these apps are a regular show-and-tell of personal poundage, where even the slowest progress that you wouldn’t want to share with your athletic other half (just me?) is happily aired to like-minded strangers on the same mission. Getting going can be the hardest part, but using technology to track your inactivity from the start can be one of the biggest motivators to mind and body for getting things moving and bringing health and fitness back on track! Article written by Alex Murray