5 Ways to Use Your Smartphone to Lose Weight + Get Fit

5 Ways to Use Your Smartphone to Lose Weight + Get Fit

Your iPhone can be a great tool for diet and fitness, and many of the best features and apps are free! Here's how to use your smartphone to lose weight and get in shape

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Did you know that your new iPhone is more than a million times more powerful than all of NASA's computing power in 1969? You could definitely say that the smartphone is a giant leap for mankind.

You probably rely on your smartphone for dozens of things every day, but did you know your phone can be your health and fitness coach? Some modern devices come with health tools built-in, but there are hundreds of apps you can install to tailor it to your own needs. Smartphones could be the answer to the global problem of obesity and the rising level of diseases like diabetes.

The broad range of health and fitness apps available means you can use technology to achieve whatever goal you choose. For example, a running app can be used to train and prepare for a 5k or marathon. If you want to reduce your alcohol consumption or increase the amount of fruit and vegetables in your daily diet, there are apps that can help.

The following smartphone tools can improve your fitness and help you to lose weight, and most are free.

#1. Heart rate monitors

The free Health app on an iPhone offers a range of options and ways to monitor your fitness, including a heart rate monitor. For older devices and Android smartphones, there are apps available to track your heart rate and stress levels.

Heart rate apps work using the device's built-in camera and are a convenient way of taking a heart reading without the need for a fitness tracker or other equipment. Knowing your heart rate can help you to exercise at the correct level of intensity.

Best heart rate monitor app for iPhone / Android? Try Instant Heart Rate from Azumio. ($4.99 for iPhone, free for Android)

#2. Activity monitors

Monitoring your physical activity can be very helpful if you want to improve your fitness. An app like Google Fit can track the number of steps you take in a day and be used to track your progress to a goal. Most experts suggest a minimum of 10,000 steps a day. Tracking your activity levels and BMI can motivate you to find the time to exercise, and it's rewarding to see what you're achieving.

Best activity monitor app for iPhone / Android? Try Human Activity Tracker from Mapbox

#3. Exercise reminders

If you find it hard to build exercise into your daily routine, a nudge from your smartphone may be what you need. Google's (free) Calendar app can be used to set goals like 'Run 3 miles twice a week.'

The free app will suggest times of the day you can fit this in and remind you when it's time to put your shoes on. Some apps, like MapMyRun, offer the option to become part of a virtual community where you can encourage each other and share tips and ideas for sticking to your exercise plans.

Best free exercise reminder app for iPhone / Android? Try Johnson & Johnson's Official 7 Minute Workout

#4. Mindfulness apps

As well as helping to improve your physical fitness, there are smartphone apps focussing on mental well-being. Mindfulness has become very popular over the past couple of years, and an app is a great way to experiment with some of the techniques.

Your smartphone can take you through guided meditation exercises for improving well-being and aiding relaxation. Mindfulness apps can also help you to sleep better, and this, in turn, will improve your physical health and appetite for exercise.

Best mindfulness app for iPhone/ Android? Try Insight Timer for free, or Aura for a monthly ($7.99) or annual fee.

#5. Virtual personal trainers

If you lack the motivation to stick to an exercise program but can't afford a personal trainer, a virtual coach on your smartphone could be the answer. Basic versions are free, but for more advanced personal trainer apps charge a subscription fee.

They can suggest exercises to target different areas of the body, track your progress towards goals and even play music to keep you moving. Some apps also allow you to video conference with a real personal trainer and find local groups you can exercise with.

Weight Watchers now offers personal coaching that adds unlimited phone calls and text messages to your WW Digital subscription, but it will cost you more than FreeStyle (Online) only.

Best workout apps for iPhone or Android? Try MyFitnessPal, Map My Fitness, PEAR Personal Fitness Coach, or Workout Trainer from Skimble

Weight Loss & Fitness: Also Consider Wearing a Smartwatch

Smartwatches and other wearable devices like FitBit are taking fitness apps to the next level. Although I don't like watches and wearables for email or business-related use, they can be great for health and weight loss. Think about your current exercise goals and needs, and try some apps to see how they can help. (Just try not to lose them!)

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On June 22nd I Celebrated My 22nd

*Insert cliche Taylor Swift song "22"*

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It's about time I turn 22. I've been told that after your 21st birthday, the years begin to fly past you in a blur. I don't know if I agree, but I can definitely say that I don't feel 22. Sometimes I look around at all the people who are freshmen in college, or juniors in high school, and I begin to reminisce about when I was their age. One thing getting older does do is make you a skeptical, cynical person.

I've thought a lot about my birthday as another day that I get to eat cake because let's face it, I'm not really here for anything else, except maybe a shot. I remember celebrating my birthday when I was younger was much different from what it turned into after I turned 20. Back in the day, I would celebrate my birthday with a pool party. Pizza, chips, cake, and soda. A few balloons and candles and that was it. I'd only invite my closest friends and we'd have so much fun.

I miss that kind of birthday. The kind you pick out an outfit for days prior, the kind you get so excited for and can't sleep, the kind that makes you feel special. It doesn't feel like that anymore. What it feels like now is, "welp, there goes another year." This line is also applicable to New Year's Eve, but we'll cross that bridge six months from now.

My birthday is pretty uneventful. It feels like the spark is gone, the excitement is gone. I wish I could feel happy that I'm turning 22, but I also know that it's just a reality that we all get older and things like birthdays begin to feel strange. You're faced to realize that you're supposed to have gained another year of experience and intelligence in the aspects of life, but it's almost like you feel the same.

It's safe to say that this has been a bit of an existential-crisis-themed birthday, but I'm just a little scared of getting older. I think we all reach a point where you realize you aren't invincible anymore. It's time to see what's in store for the future, what your career goals are, where you plan to move to after graduation, how to eat better, and how to feel like you've reached your full potential. It's a bittersweet moment in my life, but I'm ready to see what's next.

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12 Big Tax Changes for 2018

If you've watched any news this year, you'll know that sweeping tax law changes are coming. But, how will they affect you and your family?

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Big tax changes to consider for 2018: If you watch the news and keep up with current events, you will know that in recent months, the House and Senate have renegotiated and revamped many of the tax laws. After many months of back and forth, the changes are here and there are some things that you need to know. Here are the changes you can expect to see this coming tax season.

1. Tax Bracket Changes

Tax exemptions and rates are primarily based upon income and there are still 7 major tax brackets to consider. Take the time to view the below information to first see where you fall in line with these 7 income levels. Note that there is now a new lower top tax of 37%. This is, in fact, lower than previous rates proposed by the senate and house majority.

Ok, let's meet the tax brackets:

• 10% Tax $9,525 individuals; $19,050 for married couples and those filing jointly
• 12% Tax between $9,525 and $38,700, individuals; $19,050 to $77,400 filing jointly
• 22% Tax between $38,700 and $82,500, individuals; $77,400 to $165,000 jointly
• 24% Tax between $82,500 and $157,500, individuals; $165,000 to $315,000 jointly
• 32% Tax between $157,500 and $200,000, individuals; $315,000 to $400,000 jointly
• 35% Tax between $200,000 and $500,000, individuals; $400,000 to $600,000 jointly
• 37% Tax over $500,000 individuals; over $600,000 jointly





2. Deductions

This year, filers have the ability to deduct lower than their taxable income. This is due to the double standard deduction policy. Single filers can utilize between $6,350 to $12,000 and those filing jointly can file between $12,700 and $24,000 deductions. These higher figures are the result of eliminating many of the traditional deductions allowed to tax payers. It is likely that more tax payers will choose this avenue as opposed to itemizing deductions. If your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) is below $66k, you might even be able to file simple taxes for free.

3. Personal Exemptions Scrapped

This year, filers have the ability to deduct lower than their taxable income. This is due to the double standard deduction policy. Single filers can utilize between $6,350 to $12,000 and those filing jointly can file between $12,700 and $24,000 deductions. These higher figures are the result of eliminating many of the traditional deductions allowed to tax payers. It is likely that more tax payers will choose this avenue as opposed to itemizing deductions.

4. Higher Medical Expense Deductions

Medical expenses could previously be deducted for up to 10% of your gross adjusted income. The figure has been lowered to 7.5% for this season and beginning in 2019, there is no longer a penalty in place for not having medical insurance.

5. Fewer Taxpayers Hit AMT

The Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) is placed on those claiming higher income as a separate tax. The new exemption amount for the AMT is up to $109,400 for those married and filing jointly and to $70,300 for those filing as single. Exemptions phase out at $1 million for married filers and $500,000 for single filers. This means that fewer people will reach the AMT threshold.

6. What About Family Exemptions?

As stated above, the $4,050 that was the standard for filing dependents has been eliminated. Those will larger families will be affected most as they will no longer be able to take advantage of that sometimes large tax break.

7. Higher Child Tax Credit

The above deduction being taken away might seem like a let down to some families, but luckily, the government has made up for it. They have chosen to increase the child tax credit from $1,000 per child to $2,000. This tax credit is for single parents with a reflective income of up to $200,000 and married couples and those filing jointly for up to $400,000. There is also a new $500 credit for adult dependents.

8. 529 Plans Used Outside of College Expenses

Private school kids are getting a bit of an upgrade with 529 plans coming available for use in grades K-12. Up to $10,000 per year can be used from the college savings program for primary private school education. These funds, however, do not cover homeschooling expenses. The top tax software actually offers special codes just for students.

9. Lower Mortgage Interest

Homeowners get a break with the ability to deduct interest on their current home up to $1 million, but those looking to purchase a home will have to contend with a cap of $750,000 for deducted interest.

10. State, Local, and Property Tax

The debate lingers as to which states allow for state and local tax deductions, but it is still available for taxpayers to deduct their property tax, and either sales tax or income, but only up to $10,000. So, can you get out of that state tax bill? Um, no. Haven't you heard that quote about death and taxes?

11. Corporate Tax Rate Drop

Corporate taxes were on the table this year and those taxes have been reduced drastically from 35% to 21%. This is currently the largest drop in history and as of 2026, the change will become permanent. This tax cut has certainly given a short-term boost to Wall Street, but the jury is out on the long-term benefit to Main Street.

12. Pass Through Business Lower Tax Rates

Partnerships, S Corporations, and Sole Proprietorships are known as pass through businesses. These businesses have historically been saddled with high self employment taxes while larger businesses benefit, but these companies are now allowed a bit of a break. Pass through business owners are now allowed to deduct up to 20% of their total annual income instead of resorting to itemization as in years past.

In conclusion: Taxes evolve with time and this year has certainly been a doozy of change for the 2018 tax season. If you have yet to brush up on the new laws and see where you stand, it is time to take advantage of the space between now and filing day and find out which laws you are subject to following and which ones you may be exempt from. As always, file your taxes responsibly to ensure that you never have to hear the most frightening word of all, "AUDIT." Happy (almost!) Tax Season!

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