It’s almost February already, so how’s that New Year’s resolution coming along?
If you’re human, you might’ve fallen off the bandwagon already – especially if your goal this year was to lose weight, get fit, be less stressed, or sleep more.
Why does bacon have to taste so good? Who wants to walk or run outside in this weather? Where are you going to find the time to meditate when there are credit card bills to pay down?
Fortunately, technology may help give you the kick in the pants you need.
The following are a few suggestions on how apps and devices could nudge you in the right direction.
A wearable activity tracker (or smartwatch) can help monitor and motivate. The Fitbit Alta HR ($149), for example, is a slim and stylish wristband that tracks your steps, distance, calories burned, and heart rate, and gives friendly reminders to move. As extra incentive, this Fitbit also includes automatic exercise recognition, which gives you credit for being active, while optional smartphone notifications keep you connected throughout the day.
You can also tailor your look with interchangeable metal, leather, and classic bands (sold separately).
While other companies make smart scales, too, Fitbit also has a Wi-Fi-enabled Fitbit Aria 2 ($129), which measures weight, body fat percentage, and body mass index (BMI). Why do you need Wi-Fi? When the data is wirelessly synched from the scale to the Fitbit app on your phone, you can view charts and graphs of your weight loss progress.
Music can also be motivating. Available in black or blue, the Bose SoundSport Free Headphones ($249) were created specifically for exercise, as they’re wireless in-ear buds, with secure tips, plus they’re sweat- and weather-resistant. Along with clear and well-balanced audio from your music – and the ability to play or pause tracks and access your phone’s Siri or Google Assistant – you can take calls through the right earbud.
Battery life on these Bose earbuds tops 10 hours between charges. Misplaced them? There’s also a handy “Find My Buds” feature on the companion app.
In-home equipment is going high-tech, too. The Peloton Bike ($1,995, plus $39/month subscription), for example, lets you stream 14 daily live classes from its NYC studio directly into your home, giving your real-time metrics (including cadence, resistance, output, and heart rate) and encouragement to keep you going. Alternatively, you can access more than 5,000 on-demand workouts, all viewable with the screen (with speakers) mounted on the front of the stationary bike.
As for apps, MyFitnessPal and Lose It! (iOS and Android) are two of the more popular calorie-counting tools, which lets you log the food you eat throughout the day. While features vary a bit, you can select foods you’ve consumed from the app's huge library of foods, scan barcodes to add packaged foods, and let you know how much more you can eat during the day based on your caloric intake (and yes, if you exercise, it frees up more to eat).
Another good one is Fitness Blender, a free website and app (iOS, Android) that dishes up thousands of fitness videos you can easily browse and watch, divided into areas for strengthening, weight loss, equipment, and so on. The vibrant Fitness Blender community can be equally as motivating, where you can post your goals, ask questions, and share progress and tips, with other likeminded individuals.
One of the newest self-improvement apps is MoveWith (iOS only; from $7.99/month after free trial), which takes a bit of a different spin on motivating you – using audio – to help your “body, mind, and soul,” says the company. From high-intensity cardio, strength, and running workouts, to mindful yoga and meditation, this app gives you all the benefits of a motivating and instructional coach in your ear, and with relevant music to get you in the zone. Simply choose what you want to work on, select your personal coach, and away you go. MoveWith says they add new audio workouts each week.
Most activity trackers don’t only monitor exercise, but sleep behavior, too, such as if you woke up, when, and for how long. The above mentioned Alta HR automatically goes one step further by showing your time spent in light, deep, and Random Eye Movement (REM) sleep.
Announced at CES, Philips says it has developed an even better wearable, to address the fact nearly 40% of people ages 25 through 54 get less than the recommended seven hours of sleep per night, says Philips, which could result in concentration and memory challenges.
Called SmartSleep ($399), it’s comprised of two small sensors that detect periods of important “slow wave” sleep, and then produces customized audio tones in real time that are said to enhance the depth and duration of slow wave sleep.
Philips says their studies have shown significant success among those who used SmartSleep for two weeks, resulting in being more alert and energized during the day, and with better memory. The product will be available this spring.
On a related note, research reveals cooler temperatures create an optimal environment to help induce sleep (between 65 and 72 degrees). With this in mind, Tanda’s mattresses feature a technology called ATROS, an acronym for Advanced Temperature Regulation for Optimum Sleep. When combined with Opti-Breeze foam, it not only helps you fall asleep faster, says the company, but also works to keep your core body temperature from climbing at night to help you stay asleep longer.
Prices start at $550 for the one of three mattress types, plus there are pillows, too, for $75 (or $125 for the pair).
When it comes to apps, Sleep Cycle (iOS, Android) leverages your smartphone’s built-in microphone and accelerometer, which picks up your movements as you sleep using sound and vibration analysis. The app then analyzes the data to determine if you are in light sleep, deep sleep, or a REM dream state – and then wakes you up at an optimal time (within a 30-minute window that you set). The app attempts to rouse you during your lightest phase of sleep, so that you wake up feeling rested and refreshed.
Be less stressed
A few apps can help you with meditation and mindfulness.
Built for busy people, Simple Habit (iOS, Android) is an on-demand platform that offers simple 5-minute lessons, featuring more than 1,000 meditations guided by mindfulness teachers from around the world. You can also pick a lesson by series (Drift to Sleep, Sharpen Focus, Meditate in Nature), and by Teacher of your choice (check out Australia’s Kate James, with her soothing voice and helpful instruction).
More than 50 sessions are free, with the option to upgrade to a Premium version for $11.99/month or $99.99/year. It’s also available through a desktop website, and Simple Habit will remember where you left off.
And then there’s Headspace — a “gym membership for the mind” — that wants to teach you how to meditate in just a few minutes a day.
This app (iOS, Android) features a clean and easy-to-use interface, and offers a free beginner series called “Take10” – 10 sessions, 10 minutes apiece, over 10 days – using proven meditation and mindfulness techniques that could help clear your head, reduce stress, sleep better, and enjoy greater overall happiness. The lessons include stat tracking, rewards, and an optional buddy system (for friends to motivate each other).
For additional sessions, Headspace offers two auto-renewing subscription options: $12.99 per month, or $94.99 per year.
Need a boost to help you be happier in 2018? The free Happify app (iOS and Android) offers various games and activities to perk you up, on demand, wherever life takes you. You simply need to fill out a short questionnaire to start, to instruct the app on your specific stressors, and it will select a relevant program for you.
Crafted from ceramic and wood, in a basket-weave design, Ellia’s Gather Ultrasonic Essential Oil Diffuser ($99) can fill your space with the natural scent of essential oils (three samples included, and start at $9.99 after that). Whether you set it and forget it — with 10 hours of continuous runtime – or you use the bundled remote to turn it on and off, this aromatherapy gadget also features a color-changing light, and a library of relaxing and uplifting sounds.
As for your pet’s well-being, technology doesn’t leave them out.
According to Calmz, nearly 75 million dogs owned by American families suffer from anxiety at some point in their lives. The Calmz Anxiety Relief System ($99) for dogs is a non-invasive and drug-free treatment that soothes common anxieties, such as loud noises (like thunder and fireworks), strangers in the home, travel, and more.
It’s a wearable vest, of sorts, that uses “NeuroSync” technology: your dog will hear and feel a therapeutic blend of classical music with a specific tone that results in a calming vibration. This combination of therapies stops the production of adrenaline and increases blood flow to the brain to help reduce anxiety in dogs.
Follow Marc on Twitter: @marc_saltzman. E-mail him at email@example.com.