You’ve probably heard of the “Freshman 15,” a silly expression that refers to the amount of weight you may gain, in pounds, during your first year away at college.
Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, pop culture in 2020 has morphed that into the “Quarantine 15” and the “COVID 19,” given many of us have been in lockdown at home, and perhaps eating more – and baking more –while also exercising less, in part because of gyms remaining closed for many.
Fortunately, a few apps and gadgets may be able to help whip you into shape this summer – even while practicing social distancing. The following are a few fun and fit (and in some cases, free) ideas.
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Apps to monitor food and fitness
Weight loss experts say slimming down is tied to what goes in (your mouth) and what goes out (the calories you burn from exercise).
With the former, you can log your food intake with the free MyFitnessPal app (iOS, Android). More than 11 million foods and restaurant dishes are in the database – and you can scan the barcode of millions of food products to automatically log the info – to provide an accurate look at your caloric intake for each meal.
Owned by Under Armour, MyFitnessPal securely synchronizes the app with the web version, too, should you want to log in on a computer. It’s free to start, but MyFitnessPal Premium adds several features for $9.99/month.
A similar free app is Lose It!. Simply set a goal – such as lose eight pounds in four weeks – and then the program will calculate what your caloric intake should be each day. Tap in what you’ve been eating (by food, such as “one large banana”) or even by brand (like “one bowl of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese”) and it will calculate the calories for you – as well as fat, sodium, and so on, if you like.
Exercise is also factored into your daily routine. Your info can be also synched to the LoseIt.com website.
Noom has also become a popular platform for weight loss and fitness activity, with more of a psychological approach to achieving your goals. It’s not about strict diets, but rather, a healthy balance of food intake – both in quality of food and portion size – and with virtual coaches to help you conquer food triggers and shopping decisions, and helping you master several “#PsychTricks” to building good eating habits.
According to the company, users (called “Noomers”) have lost an average weight loss of 18 pounds in 16 weeks, plus more than 86% maintain that weight loss beyond one year. After the two-week trial, the Noom Program costs $25 monthly and up.
Also part of the Under Armour family of apps is Map My Fitness, which lets you easily calculate the impact of your physical activity – whether it’s a walk, jog, run, hike, or bike ride. Heck, even vacuuming can be tracked.
Your workout is analyzed – including your time, pace, and estimated calories burned – so you can see you progress and stay motivated. The app can also connect you with other users in your area to join a group. If you like, you can even share your fitness goals and results with your social network. Devices, like activity trackers and heart rate monitors, are also supported.
For some frightening fun fused with your fitness, the free Zombies, Run! lets you hear a chilling tale in your headphones about a zombie-infested future, and you’ll need to run faster to get away from the flesh-eating undead as they get closer.
You’ll automatically collect supplies to build up your base, such as ammo and medicine for other human survivors. This app features include more than 100 missions, a “Zombie Chase” interval training mode, the ability to run with your own music, and more.
Track your way to fitness with these wearables
You don’t have to blow your budget on a Peloton stationary bike and video class subscription – which could set you back as much as $3,000 the first year and about $500 every year after that – to get fit, stay motivated, and be part of a community of like-minded individuals. Instead, you can opt for the much more affordable Fitbit Charge 4 ($189) and set a daily activity goal – such as a desired number of steps or calories burned – and the lightweight and water-resistant wristband keeps track of your daily progress.
Fitbit Charge 4 shows you time, steps, and 24/7 heart rate monitoring on its backlit OLED touchscreen. The wearable device has a built-in GPS chip so it can map outdoor walks, jogs, and runs, and supports contactless payments for buying things at retail terminals (if your smartphone is nearby). The Fitbit Charge 4, which has battery life up to seven days, comes with both a reflective woven band and extra classic black band.
Glance at your wrist to see real-time info or open the app for a deeper dive. A sleep tracking mode monitors sleep stages and a vibrating wake-up alarm won’t bother your partner. You can also see call, text, calendar and app notifications, control Spotify music playlists and personalize the clock faces.
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If you’ve got a healthier budget, Apple Watch Series 5 (from $399) is still the gold standard for wearable devices. Along with features you likely know about – like the ability to take calls and texts, read emails, play music, show maps, and track fitness and health info – Series 5 is the first Apple Watch with a display that’s always on. Now you can glance at the time and personalized “complications,” such as activity levels, weather, UV index, and more – without the watch waking up first.
You can get the Series 5 made from a wider range of materials including aluminum, stainless steel, ceramic and titanium. This model also introduces a built-in compass, so you can see which way you’re facing when looking at maps, and additional information via the Compass app.
The watch also has an integrated ECG (electrocardiogram) and fall-detection alert, which might be ideal for seniors who live alone.
Also a fantastic device for staying fit – but without some features such as an always-on screen – the slightly older Apple Watch Series 3 now starts at $199.
Follow Marc on Twitter: @marc_saltzman. Email him or subscribe to his Tech It Out podcast at https://marcsaltzman.com/podcasts.