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!)