Good lord! (you think to yourself as you step on the scale). Is this thing broken? It’s amazing how many pounds a couple servings of Christmas ham and a few glasses of eggnog can add over the all-too-short holiday period. Luckily, a slew of software developers out there have created apps to help you get back to your pre-holiday body.
Using your smartphone to help you get or stay in shape is all the rage these days. Serious fitness buffs are even investing in wearable devices that track calories and workout performance, reporting progress through an accompanying app. But you don’t have to shell out on a new gadget: your iPhone or Android can do a lot of what many of these devices can. We tested apps to help you eat better, sleep better, run, train and stretch better. Thank us when you’re back in swimsuit shape in time for spring break.
It’s time to start thinking about what you’re putting in your body. As you can probably surmise from the name of this free app and its tagline (“eat a bit better”), Fooducate is all about educating yourself about what you’re consuming. It allows you to scan the barcode of any food product, which is great for when you’re out grocery shopping, then assigns it a grade of A through D. The information pulled gives you a rundown of the item’s nutritional value, as well as healthier alternatives. You can also opt to be alerted to GMOs. The database of products is pretty extensive – for example, it included Sriracha and Centine red wine, but not something as artisanal as, say, Phat Beets pickles.
2. Yoga STRETCH
It’s astounding how many people take up yoga in January. Just count the number of people in your class now and again a month or two from now. Keeping up a yoga practice can be difficult, if only for getting yourself to it. Enter the pocket yoga instructor. Perfect for when you’re traveling or simply can’t make it to the studio, this $0.99 app leads you through an hour-long sequence of 35 postures, from siddhasana to savasana. The optional instructor’s soothing voice reminds you to breathe. You can also customize your own sequence.
Whether you’re training for a marathon or trying to lose a couple extra pounds, this app can help. Simply launch it at the beginning of your run — it also works for several other activities, from cycling to swimming — and it will track your pace and distance using the GPS functionality of your phone. (It also plays music from your iTunes.) Options include following a set workout with slower and faster tempos or setting up a training schedule to reach a specific goal like, say, running a 10K or losing 10 lbs. At the end of your run, see a map of your route, calories burned and your average pace.
4. Nike Training Club
Ask any fitness buff what the latest exercise craze is and chances are he’ll say good ol’ fashioned back-to-basics strength training. Get out your grandfather’s medicine ball and your dad’s dumbbells and go nuts. This free app comprises several dozen workouts based on your fitness level and goals. If you can get past the fact that it looks and sounds like it’s designed for women — well, ok, it is — you’ll get just as much out of the app as your lady friend. Each workout is narrated by a tough-but-sweet female voice, who gently pushes you, while reminding you of proper alignment. You can pause the workout anytime to watch a video depicting how to do an exercise properly.
5. Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock
Sleep is integral to physical and mental health, yet is often overlooked. Not only do we burn calories when we sleep, but getting a good night’s worth is crucial to brain function and overall mood. This $0.99 app uses the built-in accelerometer in your iPhone to monitor your body’s movements so that it can wake you up at your body’s most optimal time (as in, not smack in the middle of an REM cycle) and lets you track your sleep cycles. Select a soft, pleasant sound like, “Morning Mist,” then set the alarm for a 30-minute window. Place the phone near your head and let yourself be gently roused. If you’re really out, instead of a snooze button, there’s a soft vibration.
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