Written by Molly Nevins – Fitness Director Oak Park and DeWitt YMCA
In some ways, fitness is more accessible now than it ever has been. There is a growing selection of wellness apps that can track your food, your exercise, and even some that provide workout plans. There are fitness trackers to wear on your wrist that will tell you your step count, heart rate, active minutes and more. So that means obtaining “fitness” should be easy, right? Having the information is one thing, knowing how to use it is another.
The first side of tracking pertains to nutrition. The Myfitnesspal app advertises having over 6 million foods in their database. Myplate.gov is sponsored by our government to help us learn healthier choices, and they also have an app to help you track your intake and stay on top of what you are consuming. Other food tracking apps include Lose It and Fat Secret. Why use these apps? For some people, merely the act of writing down each meal, snack and beverage can be a huge eye opener. They may find that if it’s something they don’t want to write down, they shouldn’t be eating it! Maybe you are someone that has a pretty good handle on your diet but you’re just not quite getting the results you want. One of the most valuable uses for these trackers is getting the breakdown of your nutrients. You may be within your caloric goal, but how much of those calories are coming from fats? Proteins? Carbohydrates? These are all very important numbers to be aware of.
If more exercise is your goal, you can track all of your movement! A lot of the food tracker apps also allow you to input your exercise. These provide a good baseline, but you’ll need a wearable fitness tracker like a Fitbit, Garmin, Nike Fuelband or Apple Watch to get accurate information such as your step count and heartrate to monitor how hard you are really working. A year ago AI in Healthcare reported that 51% of Americans were wearing a physical activity tracker. Judging just from scanning arms in the grocery store and the gym, that number has gone up, significantly. For some, it is just a great way to gauge their movement. If you sit too long, it will buzz at you and tell you to move. For that reason alone, it is great. Movement is a very large factor in your health and fitness. Some of these trackers will also record your heart rate – baseline and when you are exercising. This is valuable during your workouts to track if you are working at the intensity you are aiming for. Through information like age, gender, height, weight and heartrate, trackers can give you an estimate of calories burned while exercising. I have one word of caution when it comes to “calories burned.” Think of these as a savings account. If you burned 500 calories, you don’t necessarily need to eat that many more that day. Creating a deficit is what helps with weight loss. However, it is good to know if you are famished, you have that flexibility to eat more that day.
The combination of these measurements can be a key to obtaining the level of health and fitness you are aiming for. Use them wisely, and you could have great success!