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Fitness gadgets, apps, and social media are all serving up tools to keep you motivated to reach your goals.

Social Media & Apps

“Social media and apps can keep athletes and non-athletes motivated and on track,” says Douglas Rosa, a certified personal trainer at the University of Toronto in Ontario, Canada. Theresa D., a part-time student at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, New York, explains, “Sites such as SparkPeople help me stay motivated. I’m able to track food, fitness, and goals that I set for myself.”

More about fitness on Youtube and other social media

Make Fitness Social

Instagram & Twitter
These media can be used to find exercise information. One efficient way to do this is with the “hashtag,” which is essentially a word or phrase prefixed with the “#” symbol. For example, if you’d like to find cardio workout ideas, you just need to search for the hashtag #cardioworkout.

On this site, users “pin” information they like or want to remember later. You can create your own personalized online boards, including links to recipes, fitness routines, or other health information. Pinterest users may share their pins with other followers or make them private.

This is one of the most popular sources of exercise tutorials for students, based on a recent Student Health 101 survey. There are a wide variety of free workout videos here, ranging from Zumba® and kickboxing to abdominal strengthening, weight training, and yoga. All you need to do is search for the type of workout you’d like to try. Make sure the video that interests you is free, and that the instructor is cuing for proper form and alignment.

Note: With all online media, be mindful of the source of any information you find. Not everyone who posts and shares fitness information is actually qualified to give advice about physical activity.

Apps offer structured workouts and instruction on proper exercise form, and many are free or low-cost. They’re highly informative and convenient, and you can quickly develop a personalized plan. Dana S., a graduate student at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, says, “I track both bicycling and running on the Strava app. It keeps me in touch with others in my fitness network.”

Wearable Fitness Trackers

Over 40 percent of respondents to a recent Student Health 101 survey said they don’t currently use any gadgets but would like to.

Traditional Fitness Technology

Some fitness technology is tried-and-true and may be less costly than the newest options. Consider incorporating fitness tools such as a heart-rate monitor, stopwatch, and MP3 player into your routine to boost your motivation and track your progress.

Heart-Rate Monitor
A heart-rate monitor will help you determine your target heart-rate range and measure your resting, peak, average, and recovery heart rate.

Monitors range in price from 60–300 dollars. The more pricey ones can be worth the money since they’re able to provide you with more detailed, accurate information.

According to Danielle Monteiro, a certified athletic trainer at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, the most accurate type of heart-rate monitor is one that comes with a chest strap (instead of the kind that measures your pulse from a wristband). However, she notes that wrist-band monitors are cheaper and easier to use.

Stopwatches are affordable, and many are waterproof, making them convenient to use while swimming or exercising outdoors. They can also help you time periods of higher-intensity exercise with periods of rest, which can be beneficial for runners looking to improve their speed or beginners that are alternating walking with jogging.

If you’re not sold on buying a gadget just yet, talk to friends or family members about their experiences or ask them if you can borrow one for a few days.

Musical Motivation
Don’t underestimate the power of energetic tunes. You can set a goal of trying to maintain intensity through a certain number or songs or use the beat of the music to determine your effort level. You and your friends or teammates can also put together a pumped-up playlist!

One of the most popular types of personal fitness trackers, an accelerometer, is a wearable device that notes your activity. Gizmos like this provide instant data on anything from number of steps to estimated calories burned. Many send data wirelessly to a Web site or app, allowing you to track your progress over time, set goals, share results through social media, and get support from an online community.

Numerous studies have found that using these technologies can increase physical activity and lead to health improvements. Theresa explains, “My pedometer counts steps, mileage, and calories burned. Being able to see the numbers lets me know I’m making progress.”

Prices vary based on the brand and capabilities of the device, so do your research and read reviews before making a decision.

Wristband fitness trackers are easy to wear and are visible, offering instant feedback. Some of the newest options have these innovative features:

  • Alerts if you’ve been inactive for a while
  • Trackers for the quality and quantity of your sleep
  • Notifications when you reach your daily goals

Attachable Devices
Trackers that attach directly to your clothing are another way to monitor your activity and analyze your movement patterns. If you don’t have time for traditional exercise due to a jam-packed schedule, a wearable fitness tracker may be the motivation you need to fit in more movement. Squeezing in a walk at lunch or parking farther away can really add up!

Comparison of wearable fitness trackers

Popular Devices

There are many new fitness trackers available. Here are a few examples:

Fitbit offers a variety of wearable fitness trackers, from a basic, clip-on model to a wristband that also tracks sleep habits. The basic Fitbit, called the Zip™, tracks steps taken in a 24-hour period, distance covered, calories burned, and total time of activity. It also wirelessly connects to a Web site that provides daily and weekly graphs of movement to track patterns over time. The site automatically sends you a progress report with a summary of your activity each week. Other features include access to an online nutritional tracker that can sync with online food journals.

$59.99 for the Zip
Up to $129.99 for the wristband models

Nike+ FuelBand
The Nike+ FuelBand is a wristband that tracks daily activity, whether traditional exercise or a night out dancing. The band’s LED screen displays your calories burned, prompts you to move for at least five minutes each hour, and lights up when you meet activity goals. It syncs to an app that connects users with a community, food journal, and additional data on their activity level.

$129.99 for the Nike+ FuelBand SE

Jawbone® UP™
The UP and UP24 are fitness-tracking wristbands that analyze your sleep patterns, movement, and eating habits. UP plugs directly into your smartphone to transmit data, while UP24 uses wireless technology to sync your devices. Both options include access to an app that helps you set and achieve daily goals and celebrate milestones, such as distance traveled. Along with the ability to log food, workouts, and sleep, users can also chart their moods to see how these factors are intertwined.

UP is available for iOS and Android. UP24 is only available for iOS.

$129.99 for UP or $149.99 for UP24

Fitness and technology pair well. Check out the many options available to find the combo of gadgets and media that’s right for you.

Ever heard of “Exergaming”?

There are many ways to make exercise fun, and one of the most innovative is with “exergames”. Most video-game consoles and online gaming apps offer interactive fitness programs. These are great to do with friends or family, especially children.

More information about exergaming

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Jenna Volpe is a registered dietitian and certified group exercise instructor in Massachusetts, with a specialty in weight management and eating disorders.