Shaping Up With iPod and iPhone
Jan 1, 2009 4:00 AM PT
This story was originally published on Oct. 21, 2008, and is brought to you today as part of our Best of ECT News series.
The iPod is clearly the ultimate exercise accessory. Not only does it play music, but it also plays podcasts, videos and audio books. So if Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" won't get your heart rate up while jogging, certainly most any audio book by master of horror Stephen King will.
A study from Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, as reported in fitness magazine Men's Health, has confirmed that those who listened to music while going hard on an exercise bike for 10 minutes pedaled 11 percent farther than those who listened to silence or static for the same amount of time. It seems obvious to those who exercise to tunes, but this scientific study confirms the assumption.
Aside from the basic benefits of listening, what other products for the Apple enthusiast can help with living the healthy life? There's quite a handful, it turns out.
The Nike Connection
One key exercise accessory is the Nike + iPod system. It works with compatible video iPods like the iPod nano and iPod touch. Nike + iPod consists of software that runs on the iPod, a sensor that slips into a compatible Nike shoe, and a receiver unit that attaches to the base of the iPod (unless yours has a built-in receiver, like the latest iPod touch).
The solution helps users track distance, pace, calories burned, the elapsed time of the workout, all of which can be synced via your Mac to nikeplus.com. In addition, it lets users choose workouts based on goals -- time, distance, or calories to burn -- and it even lets users program a "PowerSong" to kick in when they need instant motivation.
In the gym, some cardio machines connect with Nike + iPod, giving users similar tracking and motivation features lit up on the cardio machine's consoles. Not all equipment requires Nike + iPod, though -- some newer machines connect and charge video iPods, letting users listen and view content on larger, built-in console screens.
Downloading Your Workout
Both Men's Health and Women's Health offer workouts you can download to run on an iPod, and they include programs for rock solid abs, stronger arms, glutes, and the like. Many are free, though some cost US$9.99 -- like so-called 300 Workout, which apparently turned Gerard Butler into the chiseled-abs Spartan king he portrayed in the movie "300."
The workouts feature audio that tells you what to do, as well as screens that show the exercises.
Other organizations, like Podfitness.com and iTrain, take the iPod workouts even farther with fitness profiles, goals and online customization that creates custom or recommended fitness workout downloads.
The App Store
For iPod touch and iPhone owners, the real bonanza comes courtesy of Apple's App Store. At last count, the Healthcare & Fitness section boasts 225 third-party applications that you can download to your iPod touch or iPhone. Some of the apps are geared for doctors or healthcare professionals, but many focus on healthy eating, exercise, Body Mass Index (BMI) calculators, and the like, some of which are free.
Trailguru, for example, even uses the iPhone 3G's built-in GPS system to track distance traveled, speed, elevation, and pace for runners or walkers. By posting activities to trailguru.com, users can view their outings on Google Earth or via Google Maps and keep track of how far they've gone with Web-based reporting.
Another popular free app is Restaurant Nutrition, which lets users view nutritional information about restaurant menus, including those of chains like Arby's, Burger King, Chili's, Denny's, and many more. Users can turn on a diet feature that tracks calories, carbs, protein and fat to help track dieting progress. Meal tracking can even be synced with ThePHRNetwork.com for Web-based access. Oh, one more thing: Need to find a restaurant close by? Simply click on a Map button that will show all of the restaurant's locations.
The $2.99 iPump Total Body app has 80 male and female exercise videos that show proper form, plus it includes audio coaching, multi-week progressive workout plans, and intensity features that cover reps, sets, and rest intervals during each workout. It's like having a personal trainer jammed into an iPod.
Other applications, like Weight Tracker, do exactly what they sound like they do: in this case, make it easy to keep a running log of weight loss or gain. MyNetDiary -- Online Diet Log helps health nuts keep track of meals and total calories consumed, exercises and total calories burned, and matches it with a person's weight to calculate their current rate of loss or gain per day, week and month.
There's even an app for those who realize that ample sleep may provide some of the most helpful restorative benefits to the human body and mind -- aSleep, which provides a programmable timer that plays soothing sounds like ocean waves, rain, instruments, scuba breathing and keyboard typing, to name a few.
Yet another app turns the iPhone or iPod touch accelerometer into a virtual jump rope. Simply begin jumping as if the iPhone or iPod touch were a jump rope handle, and the Jump Rope app tracks the number of jumps during a session, as well as the time spent jumping. It logs the number of jumps, time, and date, plus estimates jumps per minute and calories burned.
As you might imagine, there are dozens of other exercise-focused apps. Browsing through them is a workout in and of itself.
More Than the Store
While the App Store has sheer numbers and esoteric titles going for it, old-fashioned software packages that run on Mac OS X can deliver superior detail and robust feature sets. Consider CalorieKing, which helps you track sodium, saturated fat, cholesterol, calcium and sugar, in addition to calories, total fat, carbs, protein and fiber. It includes a customizable diary, boasts a food database of more than 50,000 items, and helps you set goals and targets for achieving optimal intake of nutrients.
On the accessory front, there are dozens of cases geared to protect iPods and iPhones from spills to the ground or sweat, including belt clips. The versatile arm band style of case, however, is targeted directly at exercisers. There are lots on the market to choose from. One innovative new design, however, forgoes the arm altogether. Called "nekFIT," the accessory fastens to an iPod and holds it on a person's shoulders at the base of their neck. Shaped like a pair of sunglasses, the nekFIT keeps the iPod and ear bud cord out of the way for exercising.