Technology: Try the digital route to fitness, says Jamie Riddell

I HAVE to admit I don’t like exercise. I’d rather do something else than go to the gym. But, with the coming Olympics, and the Torch passing through Suffolk, I thought I really should make an effort to exercise more, if not get fit.

Motivation for exercise and time are two issues I struggle with, so I looked for some apps that will help with motivation and to guide my exercise.

There are a growing number of apps available on iPhone and Android to help me. 100 Pushups is a great example. This simple app creates a pushup plan that will ultimately get me to 100 pushups every day. The app records my height and weight then sets me a target for the day. The first day maybe eight pushups, the second 12, growing your strength and confidence every day.

Other apps will help me log and share my exercise regime. Cyclemeter and RunKeeper do similar jobs, tracking my cycling or running and keeping a log of my exercise. Using the GPS function of your smartphone, these apps can map your route, measuring distance travelled, duration, speed and height climbed. If you cycle or run the same route every day, these apps will benchmark the key measurements allowing you to compare performance.

The cool thing about apps like Runkeeper is that they are now being integrated into other apps, so my exercise data on Runkeeper can now be used by other apps helping me sleep better, or giving me more games to encourage exercise. Game apps like Nexercise turn exercise into an interactive game, adding another incentive or at least removing the boredom [for me] of exercise.

Social networking is a key part of these apps. I can share my run or cycle with my friends on Facebook or Twitter which can be a great motivation or as an excuse to brag! Some of these apps allow you to create routes on which you can challenge your friends or social connections to compete.

This motivation doesn’t have to be just for doing the exercises. The location checkin app, FourSquare awards you a special badge for visiting the gym regularly. The Gym Rat badge is awarded for multiple trips, and checkins to the gym.

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There also external gadgets that can help track my exercise regime measuring both my activity, rest and sleep patterns for a healthier life. My current favourite is a gadget called FitBit. The FitBit is shaped like a large plastic paperclip that you attach to your clothing on the hip. The FitBit is like a fancy pedometer, it measures your stride and number of steps taken every day as well as measuring the number of floors climbed and how much time each day was spent active or inactive. All of this data is fed through your computer to a website that will display graphs of your day, measuring periods of activity and rest, awarding you badges for achieving 10,000 steps a day or climbing a defined number of floors. Again, this has some social functions so I can connect with others using the FitBit and the app.

In essence the Nike+ app is similar. The special sensor around your wrist tracks speed, distance, pace and calories burnt. A wireless transmitter sends this data to an iPod/iPhone and the associated app translates that from data to insight and tips for better excretes or lifestyle. The more times it is used, the more data can be created and the more valuable the band can be.

Again, the Nike The Nike+ Fuel Band is socially connected. Working with a relatively new social network called Path, the band will share data with your close friends on the Path social network.

One of the downsides to these gadgets is the cost. The Fitbit is �75, which gets expensive if you keep losing them (I’m on my third!)

If all this talk of exercise and expense puts you off you can always enjoy the Olympics from your desk or seat. There are official London 2012 apps for the iPhone and Android, giving you the latest official results straight to your phone. You can watch TV coverage of the games on your iPlayer or SkyGo apps or read the latest news on the EADT iPad app.

And finally, if you want to join in spirit, if not exercise, watch out for Daley Thompson’s Decathlon. The original computer game, fondly remembered by those of us a certain age will be released as an app later this year!

: : Jamie Riddell is an expert on digital trends and a director of Suffolk-based V4 Technical, one of the UK’s leading developers of websites and mobile apps.

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