Staying healthy with technology

Living a healthy lifestyle is easier than ever before thanks to an array of fitness apps, wearable devices, and other smart products. Here's how you can harness the power of technology to lose those extra pounds.

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Hundreds of thousands of people make resolutions to start the new year off right. Given today's society, which puts an increasingly amount of emphasis on appearance and self-image, the most popular resolutions deal with losing weight or living a healthier lifestyle. Every January the treadmills and ellipticals are filled with eager gym-goers. Like clockwork, however, after a couple of weeks the gym returns to its normal state of isolation.

Resolutions are hard to keep and living a healthy lifestyle can be even harder. With the demands of work, raising a family and other obstacles we are met with, it's just too much of a hassle for most people to count calories, make healthy food choices and get to the gym a couple of times a week.

Luckily, we are in a golden age for technology. Companies big and small are creating devices and services to help simplify our everyday lives, and that includes numerous technologies that can help you achieve your health goals.

From various apps to wearable devices, here are some of the best tools to help you lose weigh and maintain a healthy lifestyle:

Apps

We use smartphone applications to connect with friends and family, meet new people, and even order food. It would only be natural that we also use these devices to help us stay in shape. There are numerous cross-platform applications that can turn any smartphone or tablet into the perfect personal trainer and help you shed those extra pounds.

There's an old saying: perfect abs aren't made in the gym, but are cooked up in the kitchen. Lifting weights and cardio are important for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but eating right is just as, if not more, beneficial as working out.

Calorie tracking
There are hundreds of fitness apps out there, but one of my favorites for keeping track of the foods I eat is MyFitnessPal, an app that simplifies the process of counting calories. MyFitnessPal is free and available on all major mobile platforms: iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone.

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After supplying the application with information about your weight, goal weight, gender, height, birth date and daily activity level, you will be ready to go. MyFitnessPal gives users all the tools they need to lose weight and live a healthy lifestyle with features such as meal tracking and daily calorie intake recommendations.

Calorie counting has never been so easy. Food can be entered in manually, chosen from a user-generated catalog of more than 1 million items or even scanned with your smartphone's camera. You can also set reminders to ensure that you never miss logging a meal.

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MyFitnessPal is just one of the many calorie-tracking applications available for mobile devices. Similar programs you can check out include Lose It, Calorie Counter by FatSecret and Noom Coach, all of which are available for Android and iOS.

Running partners

RunKeeper
When I was in college I always had friends and coaches to train with. It's easy to lose motivation for working out, especially on cold or rainy days, but a training partner can help fix this. While a physical person is best for training with, there are also apps available to those of us with lazy friends.

Apps like RunKeeper, Runtastic, and Endomondo (to name a few) are perfect for runners with years of experience or even newcomers. All of these apps track your distance, time, pace, and calories burned, the downside being that you must run with your smartphone. They also provide you with vocal updates regarding your pace and speed after you reach a certain distance.

Each app also has unique features that may appeal to you. RunKeeper allows you to set workout reminders, Runtastic has a "Story Mode" feature to make runs more entertaining, and Endomondo hosts numerous challenges that puts you head-to-head (virtually) against other members of the app's growing community.

RunKeeper, Runtastic, and Endomondo are available in free and paid versions on Android and iOS; all three also offer monthly/yearly subscriptions for premium features. Other running apps you may want to check out include Nike+ Running and MapMyRun, both of which are available for free on Android and iOS.

Fitness games

What better way to stay in shape than to play a game? Apps like Zombies, Run! and Fitocracy offer a fun and entertaining way to stay active. The Zombies, Run! app is one of the most unique fitness apps available today. Not only are you told a story while running, you are living it.

Along with tracking your distance, time, and pace, the app includes numerous "missions" for runners to complete, such as picking up virtual supplies. The app takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, which means you will sometimes hear and be chased by zombies, and the game doesn't end once your workout does. The virtual supplies you picked up on your run can be used to help strengthen your base and community to survive the hordes of zombies.

Zombies, Run! makes running and working out more enjoyable than ever before. The is available on Android and iOS for $1.99 with additional in-app purchases.

Screenshot by Dan Graziano/CNET

Another app you may want to check out is Fitocracy, an MMORPG-inspired fitness gaming app and social network. Each time you log a workout you earn points that will help you level up. The idea is similar to a game like World of Warcraft, but rather than controlling an orc or an elf, you are the character.

The company's extensive database also explains how to do a vast amount of workouts, which makes Fitocracy more appealing to first time gym-goers. Fitocracy can be accessed on the Web and from the company's free Android and iOS apps.

Wearables

Wearable devices are slated to become the next big thing in tech, and we here at CNET have embraced the future. Numerous devices have come our way, many of which are aimed at fitness and helping you live a healthier lifestyle.

Activity trackers

Activity trackers are becoming smarter, more accurate, easier to use and (at least in some cases) more affordable. Most trackers can track things like steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned and sleep. There are also some other trackers with unique features. Fitbit's trackers can track the amount of steps you have climbed, while others (such as the Fitbit Charge HR, Microsoft Band and LifeTrak Zone C410) can track your heart rate monitor.

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These devices provide an endless supply of data that can be used to track your daily activities. You can even set goals to ensure that you are walking 10,000 steps per day. Most activity trackers tend to be compatible with iOS and Android devices, although there a few (Microsoft Band and Fitbit) that also work with Windows Phone.

These devices are perfect for the average consumer that, although they can be a bit pricey. Most activity trackers range from $100 to $200, although some can be had for as little as $50.

GPS running watches

For runners, I recommend checking out either the the Garmin Forerunner 15 or Polar M400. Both of these watches include tracking for daily activities like steps, distance and calories, in addition to a GPS chip to track time, pace and distance when running. These bands also include support for wireless heart rate monitors, although some watches, such as the Adidas MiCoach Smart Run, includes optical heart rate monitors right on the watch itself.

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Smart scales

You've heard of smartphones, smartwatches, and maybe even smart socks , but did you know there are also smart scales? That's right, a scale that is smart. What does this mean? These scales, depending on the specific product, can calculate your body mass index (BMI), body fat percentage, and weight. Two products to consider are the Withings Smart Body Analyzer and the Fitbit Aria , both of which have their own benefits.

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The Smart Body Analyzer is capable of measuring heart rate, indoor air quality, and is compatible with apps such as MyFitnessPal, RunKeeper, and Endomondo, among others. The Aria syncs wirelessly with Fitbit's Web site and mobile apps, and also integrates with the company's wearable devices like the Force and the Flex.

The Smart Body Analyzer is available for $150, while the Aria can be had for $129, both a relatively steep price to pay for a scale...no matter how smart it is.

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The Internet

The last and most effective tool that can help you lose weight is arguably the most important piece of technology from the 20th century. It's the Internet, the single greatest resource for discovering new information and connecting with others.

Message boards, social networks, and online guides are just some of the tools you can access online. These can help you stay motivated and connected with like minded individuals, while also learning new ways to stay healthy.

About the author

Dan Graziano is an associate editor for CNET How To. His work has appeared on BGR, Fox News, Fox Business, and Yahoo News, among other publications. When he isn't tinkering with the latest gadgets and gizmos, he can be found enjoying the sights and sounds of New York City.

 

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