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4 Types of Gadgets and Apps For Tracking Your Health

4 Types of Gadgets and Apps For Tracking Your Health

Let’s face it, It doesn’t take much more than a pair of eyes to notice that life in the modern world is having a negative impact on our health. Many of us sit behind a desk for 40 hours a week, eat nutritionally bankrupt convenience foods in outrageous quantities and spend our free time watching TV and browsing the web for adorable pictures of cats, yet we cannot comprehend why good health seems to be alluding us. Here are some technological tools that we can use to get a handle on our health and combat the obesity epidemic.

Wearable Activity Trackers

The best activity trackers are those that work passively, without any interaction on the user’s part, and for this reason, we recommend bracelet style trackers above those that clip to your clothing. Case in point, one of my friends owns a footstep counter that he has to manually put on every morning, and while he and I live similarly active lives, I consistently beat his weekly step count because he inevitably forgets to wear his at least a couple of times per week, whereas my bracelet style tracker never leaves my wrist, I sleep with it and wear it in the pool and shower.

While there are several options available that fit the bill, two of the most widely used devices are the Fitbit Flex and the Jawbone UP24. Both devices are fairly similar, they track footsteps, calories burned and sleep quality and they both break down that information into useful metrics and graphs. Here’s a breakdown of what sets each device apart:

Fitbit Flex – $99.99 (from Fitbit)

fitbit-flex-xl

    Pros

    *Syncs automatically in the background (via a Bluetooth dongle on your computer and/or built in Bluetooth functionality on the iPhone and select Android devices)

    *Larger userbase, better chance that some of your friends use a Fitbit (which opens up the door for some friendly step-count competition)

    *Display allows you to see approximately how far through your selected goal you currently are

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    *Comfortable bracelet design with several swapable band colors available

    *Waterproof (I wear mine while swimming 3x a week)

    Cons

    *The band has a tendency to crack from removing and reinserting the actual fitbit unit

    *Only syncs with a handful of Android devices (Compatibility list here)

    *The mobile app is fairly simple and lacks a few features that are available online.

    Jawbone UP24 – $149.00 (from Jawbone)

    JawboneUP24

      Pros

      *Mobile app is excellent, undoubtedly better than the current iteration of the Fitbit mobile app

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      *Wireless Background syncing (with recently added Android support) and manual syncing via your phone’s headphone jack

      *Subjectively, many feel that the UP is a more stylish device that looks more like a bracelet and is slimmer than the Fitbit Flex

      Cons

      *Expensive

      *There have been some anecdotal reports of syncing issues

      *Band color is not changeable

      *Somewhat limited Android support (Compatibility list here)

      Bottom Line: Buy the device that fits your fashion sense and budget. Other trackers to keep an eye on are the Nike+ FuelBand and the Withings Pulse O2. Personally, I own the Flex and have been very happy with it, especially since it syncs with my Fitbit Aria smart scale. Speaking of that…

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      Smart Scales

      While it is true that weight is just a number, taking regular measurements are a great way to gauge progress and stay motivated.

      Aria Smart Scale – $129.95 (from Fitbit)

      Fitbit Aria

        When my wife bought me the Fitbit Aria smart scale for our last anniversary, I received a plethora of comments to the effect of, “That’s awesome…. but I bet she wouldn’t have been too happy if you bought her a scale, lol.” Outdated gender stereotypes aside, this scale is fantastic and any gift that helps your loved one to improve their health is a sign of true affection.

        So, what makes this scale so smart? The Aria syncs to your WiFi network and updates your weight and body fat percentage to the Fitbit dashboard, which, if you have another Fitbit product, you are already using. It can also sync to popular food tracking apps like MyFitnessPal. The Aria can automatically recognize up to 8 different users and track their weights, uploading the measurements to the correct accounts, the user needs to do nothing more than step on the scale with barefeet (necessary to measure body fat). Visually, the Aria is gorgeous, with a sleek minimalist design that looks great in any bathroom.

        If the Aria isn’t for you, check out the Withing Smart Body Analyzer.

        Diet Tracker

        Diet is arguably the most critical single factor contributing to a person’s overall health and well-being. Much as carefully tracking your spending can, in and of itself, help to avoid making unnecessary, high cost purchases, the careful tracking of your caloric intake can help to avoid binging on high calorie, low nutrition foods.

        MyFitnessPal – Free (Available on most mobile platforms)

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        MyFitnessPal

          Having tried most food trackers currently available, I can say with a fair degree of confidence that MyFitnessPal is the most complete and comprehensive option available. MFP has a very large database of foods, making it possible to quickly input your meals with a high level of accuracy. You can quickly scan in premade foods via their barcodes, create and save your own frequently eaten meals and even manually set your macro nutrient goals (Protein, Fat and Carbs). In addition, MFP syncs with a ton of other fitness apps, including most of the popular activity trackers and smart scales.

          If MyFitnessPal is not for you, check out Noom.

          Exercise Tracker

          While a wearable tracker like the Fitbit Flex or the Jawbone UP24 are fantastic for tracking general activity, they are not ideal for keeping track of your progress while engaging in exercise activities like running, biking, hiking and the like.

          Runtastic – Free for basic version, $4.99 for Pro (Available on all major mobile platforms)

          runtastic-app

            Runtastic is capable of tracking a host of physical activities and providing useful feedback. Runtastic maps your activity, provides a breakdown of your pace, allows you to easily challenge yourself or others using the app. Runtastic can also sync with your music library, so that you can listen to your workout playlist while still receiving informative and encouraging prompts from the app in the form of a coach that speaks to you through your headphones based on your personal preferences. You can even set a Powersong that the app will play when you need a boost. Overall the free version of the app provides some excellent features, but I think the Pro version is well worth the money.

            Don’t love Runtastic as much as we do, check out Runkeeper or Endomondo.

            While buying a couple of products and downloading some apps is not going to automatically transform you from Chris Farley to Channing Tatum, accurately tracking your activity level and progress might be just what you need to get off the couch and start improving your life. Check out this awesome article for 7 ways to sneak exercise into your busy schedule.

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            Last Updated on January 15, 2019

            8 Simple Mindfulness Exercises to Bring Peace and Happiness to Your Life

            8 Simple Mindfulness Exercises to Bring Peace and Happiness to Your Life

            In life, we all need to be conscientious of what we are doing. You don’t need to live a life of stress if you don’t want to. You can achieve peace and happiness in life by carefully building mindfulness exercises into your life’s routine.

            Exercising mindfulness isn’t rocket science and as importantly, you can do it. It will, however, take a few tries to get into the groove of things but once you get it, it is like riding a bike, you will never lose it.

            Trust me. It’s in your best interest to learn and put these mindfulness exercises into practice. In this article, I will share with you 8 mindfulness exercises that will help you to boost your energy, vitality and live a more peaceful and happier life.

            Why Is It Hard to Live A Peaceful And Happy Life?

            Our Habitat Has Become Too Technological

            The world has accepted the idea that technology is often the cure for all evil. We have accepted, as a society, that everything technological will make us live a better life without fully investigating the many side effects that modernity brings.

            There are a number of technological side effects that have a tremendous impact on your life that the media rarely tells you about.[1] Some of them include self-harm, economic inequality, having less sex, and even suicide. The global community is becoming less happy because of technology.

            How can anybody live a peaceful and happy life when they are depressed? Technology advancements, ladies and gents, is a major reason for why we are living a poor life because it has infiltrated our lives too much.

            According to my research, Americans spend an average of 8 hours a day looking at the computer screen — The average screen time spent on smartphones alone is about 20 hours per week. That’s a lot! No wonder why living a happy and peaceful life is so difficult these days.

            Too Many People Don’t Want to Unplug

            Americans check their phones an average of 80 times during vacation.[2] Some admit to checking their smartphones 300 times every single day. In countries like Brazil, India and China, the situation is no different.

            The reality is that people are constantly plugged into technological devices and this behavior is literally making people all over the globe fight an inner war with themselves, which consequently makes them very sad. As we know, war is the enemy of peace which won’t make anybody happy.

            Listen carefully:

            We have a global anxiety epidemic because people don’t want to unplug from their smartphones and most people aren’t doing anything to fix it. It is a sad state of affairs but very real. This obsession with technology is turning us into perishable robots who live terrible lives.

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            The era of anxiety is here to stay. There is little doubt about it. We can, however, fight back with the best remedy of all — We call it mindfulness!

            Thank God there is an antidote to this whole technological madness. Without further ado, let’s go straight to the mindful exercises.

            8 Mindfulness Exercises to Start Practicing

            There are tons of mindfulness exercises available for you to engage with out there.[3] In the paragraphs below, I will include the best ones I’ve personally tried or have seen my close friends and family members try.

            Are you ready for it? Let’s go!

            1. Pray Daily

            You should pray on a daily basis. Why is that you may ask — Well, because science has told us to do so.

            When people pray, they feel peaceful, almost eliminating anxiety. Worries become secondary, and often gives people energy and hope to cope with the difficulties of life.

            Prayer can make you more confident and focused. Prayer also helps you with self-control, helps to control pain, and can protect you against illnesses and disorders like cancer and high blood pressure. At least, this is what researchers from Harvard Medical School have said.[4]

            Pray. You won’t regret it.[5]

            2. Pay Attention to Your Inner Thoughts

            A lot of people allow themselves to be influenced by their negative thoughts. Be different and resist believing in them. It is a bad habit that can lead to unhappiness.

            By the way, if you do feel this way, chances are high that somebody other than you put these thoughts into your head.

            Here is my secret to combat this cancer — look at things objectively. I bet that if you look at things as they are, you will realize that most if not all of your negative thoughts are only inside of your head.

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            If you pay close attention, you will quickly realize that these voices aren’t worth your time. Believe me — Ignoring them and looking at things with objectivity is often the best course of action.

            This article can guide you to beat negative thoughts:

            How to Stop Automatic Negative Thoughts When You’re Overwhelmed

            3. Smile Often

            Smiling will slow down your heart. It will also relax your body because when you smile, your body releases endorphins which in itself has a number of positive benefits for you as a person.

            Smile often! You may want to smile early in the morning, during the day, and late in the evening. It is amazing what happens to you when you decide to smile instead of being grumpy.

            Surrender your problems to a nice smile. You will notice two things. First, most people just don’t which makes them live a miserable life. Second, if you decide to smile often, you will eventually smile unconsciously which is the ideal.

            The moment that you smile unconsciously, you then know that you are truly happy.

            4. Organize Your Working Desk

            A messy desk will make you less productive and can agitate and overstimulate you. You don’t want that.

            When you clear your desk, you engage in deep inner-thinking and your systematic decision making ends up becoming therapeutic.

            Most people realize that they are most creative when their creative space is clean and organized. The former often makes people more aware of what they are doing which lends to less stress and more productivity.

            Organizing your desk will also make you more energetic and focused because order often decreases chaos which is a condition that often slows down daily progress.

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            5. Celebrate Your Friend’s Victories

            I love this mindful exercise. One of the best ways to live a happy and peaceful life is to celebrate the victories of others. When you do that, you automatically make your friends in a better mood which makes you in a better mood, as well.

            Happiness is contagious! We might as well celebrate others as much as we can. If you find out that your peer has won an award, celebrate with him! If your friend is the recipient of a local charity award, celebrate with her!

            What is also awesome is that when you celebrate with others, they often celebrate with you in return. This, ladies and gentleman, will make you feel fantastic. You can’t go wrong with this one, period.

            6. Listen to Your Spouse/Partner

            God put someone in your life for a reason. You might as well listen to him or her.

            I listen to my wife everyday. In fact, I often ask the following question to her, “Amanda, what are your thoughts about…” or “What am I missing about…” It is shocking what I hear back from her. Without her having much context and perspective, by the art of observation in my own nonverbal behavior and the behavior of others, she accurately gives me incredible insights which helps me out with living my life to the fullest.

            I’m a firm believer that spouses are supposed to engage in interpersonal communication every day. I most definitely do and will continue doing it. You should do the same.

            7. Give Yourself a Break from Technology

            You can’t be in total equilibrium if your computerized devices control your life. You must get away from technology on a daily basis.[6]

            How do you do that? This is my formula:

            First, go to my website (find my website here in my profile) and take the smartphone control test. It is only ten questions but this test will place you somewhere in the human robot cycle continuum.

            If your score is between 25-30, take a break from the computer (or smartphone, pad, laptop/desktop) every twenty minutes and stop being on a computerized device after 8:00pm.

            If you score between 30-35, still take a break every 20 minutes but stop being on these devices at 5:00pm.

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            If you score more than 35, you need to take action immediately.

            Limit computer use as much as possible throughout the day. Give yourself as many breaks from the computer as possible. Are you ready for the challenge?

            8. Go Exercise

            Go exercise at least three times a week. I don’t care if you need to workout early in the morning, late in the evening, on the weekends or during work days. Working out is absolutely imperative for you to live happy and peaceful life.

            The stresses of the modern world are too much for you to neglect this important mindfulness exercise. When you go to the gym, you burn calories, focus on activities one step at a time, your mind relaxes, anxiety decreases, you sweat and often think about topics unrelated to your work place among many other benefits.

            You must exercise at least three hours each week for optimum results. Why? Just take a look at all the benefits of regular exercising:

            12 Benefits of Regular Exercise You Should Know

            The Bottom Line

            It’s in your best interest to learn and put these mindfulness exercises into practice. Now that our habitat has become too technological and many people just don’t want to unplug, engaging in daily prayer, celebrate your friends’ victories, and listening to your spouse are among the best ways to be mindful about what you are doing and how you are living.

            It is possible to live a happy and peaceful life. It only depends on you.

            Go exercise! Take a break from technology and invest in you! Life is too short for distractions.

            More Resources About Mindfulness

            Featured photo credit: Lesly Juarez via unsplash.com

            Reference

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