Welcome to "52 Weeks to a Healthier You"....

Are you thinking about making changes in your life to become a healthier person but don't quite know how to get started? Perhaps your doctor has suggested eating healthier, exercising and losing weight, but it all seems so overwhelming. Many of us already know what we should be doing, but implementing all of those pieces of information can be quite a challenge. Too often we embark on a new diet or exercise plan only to give up after a few days or weeks because it seems too difficult. Well, worry no more. You have arrived at the ideal place to help you make those changes. We are going to develop new habits, one week at a time. Health, exercise, and nutritional goals have been broken down into small, manageable steps. Each week you will add one new habit and have seven full days to perfect it before moving on to the next one. This is not a traditional diet and exercise plan, but rather a journey towards a permanent healthy lifestyle. The steps may seem small at first, but collectively they add up to major improvements in one's overall well-being. In just 52 short weeks, you will be amazed and proud of the changes you have made. You will look back and see just how far you've come on your quest to be a healthier YOU. Now, scroll down in the archives to January 2011/Week 1 and let's get started.... Then, follow each week's tip to a healthier YOU!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Week 18 - Take advantage of technology....

With all the technological advances these days -- from cars to computers, smart phones to smart houses -- it's no surprise that technology is reshaping the exercise industry too.  Tools that were once available only to elite athletes and sports professionals are now standard fixtures in gyms and for home use. Gone are the days where one has to stop in the middle of exercise, find their pulse, and use the second-hand on their watch to determine heart rate.  Today, tools like inexpensive heart rate monitors offer a precise analysis of not only current heart rate, but also whether or not one is training within the perfect intensity "zone."  The fitness industry is literally bursting with products and gadgets that can enhance your exercise experience. This week we will examine some tools that can aid in your efforts to improve strength, physique and overall fitness level.

Heart Rate Monitor
Since we've already mentioned the heart rate monitor, let's begin there.  There are several different "zones" one can be in when exercising.  For example, 50% of your maximum heart rate* is mainly a warmup zone.  At 60-70%, this is mostly a fat burning zone. 70-80% is an aerobic fitness zone, 80-90% is an anaerobic performance training zone, and finally at 90-100% you are at maximum effort.  This is a very intense level and most people can only stay in this zone for a brief period of time.  People often exercise for a certain length of time or distance, say 30 minutes or 2 miles, but they aren't certain whether or not their heart rate is in the "correct" zone to achieve their desired results.  If your primary goal is to lose fat, then you want to stay in the 60-70% range.  While increasing your effort to the 80-90% range might increase the total number of calories burned, many more of those calories will be coming from carbohydrates rather than stored fat.  Wearing a heart rate monitor can ensure that you are training in an optimal way.  Easy to use, the monitor consists of two parts:  a chest strap that fastens around your ribcage, and a wrist monitor that also functions as a regular wristwatch.  Heart rate monitors do much more than just monitor heart rate; more advanced models allow you to enter your personal VO2 max level (this is the amount of oxygen that can be removed from the blood and used to fuel working tissue/muscle during a specified amount of time) thus making the monitor very accurate for you (if someone borrowed your heart rate monitor they would get a slightly inaccurate reading since everyone's VO2 level is different).  Heart rate monitors can also store several months worth of exercise data including length and total number of workouts, calories burned, and percentage of time spent in your target heart rate zone.  You can design customized workouts and program those into your monitor as well.

Another useful tool, especially with regards to weight management, are the relatively new wireless personal fitness trackers.  One example, the bodybugg, was propelled to fame when it was featured on The Biggest Loser television show. Worn around the arm only (no chest strap required), it is designed to track calories consumed, calories burned, and includes a built-in pedometer to track steps taken. It has four sensors which collect data from your body and provides a reasonably accurate estimation of energy expenditure. It requires a subscription to a web-based software program and can be very helpful for managing diet goals. Mobile apps are now available for both Android phones and the iPhone making the bodybugg both portable and convenient.  A similar device, the Fitbit, tracks the same types of information with the added benefit of monitoring sleep patterns. 

pedometer weight lossPedometers have been around forever, but today's models are far more sophisticated and accurate than in the past.  Easy to wear, a pedometer can be a fun tracking tool that helps one stay motivated in a walking program. Health experts recommend a goal of 10,000 steps per day for healthy adults, and research shows that those who wear pedometers increase their daily step count an average of 2,000 steps per day (about one mile). Over the course of a year, those extra steps translate into as much as a 10-pound weight loss. This is one gadget where you really do get what you pay for, so learn about the various features available and buy the best pedometer you can afford.  They range in price from around $10 up to $40 or more.  The most basic models only measure the number of steps taken while more sophisticated models measure distance walked, calories burned, time spent walking, aerobic vs. nonaerobic steps, and more.  Some even come with software that allows the information from your pedometer to be uploaded to your PC each day to track progress and goals. I have personally owned various models of pedometers with my favorite being my current Omron HC720.  This is a very accurate device and can be clipped to a waistband, shoe, or even placed in a pocket.  For those of you who like to listen to music while you exercise, newer iPod Nanos come with a pedometer feature which can be handy. 

Body fat monitors can be an especially helpful tool when measuring progress towards one's weightloss goals.  Similar to bodyfat scales, these handheld devices are less expensive, smaller, and their portability means they can easily be taken along when traveling.  While not 100% accurate, they are a reliable indicator of body fat levels once you get the hang of using them.  Body fat analyzers have galvanized electrodes that send a small, painless current of electricity through your body. With the hand-held version, this signal is sent through one hand and travels down to the waist area, back up the body and through the other hand to the other electrode. It measures the subcutaneous fat under the skin (1). Tracking your body fat percentage is extremely important when dieting because you want to be sure you are actually losing fat, not muscle and water.  Newer, even smaller models are available which can slip right into your pocket.  As always, do your research first and find the monitor that best suits your needs.

Of course, none of these gadgets are necessary for getting in shape but they can sure make it a lot more fun!  When trying to accomplish a goal, we can all benefit from feedback and these tools provide an excellent assessment of how well we are progressing. Your task this week is to examine the different technologies and see if there is one that just might aid you on your path to better health.  Additional tools you may want to investigate include the Nike Sportband, Wi-Fi Body Scale, Phillips Activa music player, the Gruve, Wii Fit, Samsung My Fit, and the Adidas miCoach.

* To easily calculate your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220.  While not completely accurate, this is a reasonable estimate of the maximum number of beats your heart is capable of.  Then, multiply this number by .5 to find 50%, .6 to find 60%, etc.


  1. Hi, Karen,
    Another good week's worth of helpful information!
    Thanks for providing this for us all.
    Hoping all's going well for you and your family.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. I completely agree with you. I can set up my new idea from this post. It gives in depth information. Thanks for this valuable information for all. And of course technologoy has no ends.

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