February is Heart Health Month and like many people resolved to do for the New Year, your plan was to get healthier in 2013. According to the American Heart Association, a lack of exercise is a major risk factor for developing coronary artery disease. We all know sticking to a regular exercise program is good for your health, but finding the motivation every day to go for a walk or get off the couch may be difficult. A study done in the United Kingdom in 2007 suggests that there are ways to improve your chances of success, and technology can be a major help.
British professor Richard Wiseman holds the chair in the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He studies what he has termed “Quirkology,” or “the quirky side of human behavior.” In 2007, his team tracked over 3,000 people who had resolved to achieve a range of resolutions and found that while only 12 percent actually achieved their goal there were several factors that improved chances of success.
Not surprisingly, the Quirkology study found that men and women are wired differently when it comes to sticking to a resolution. While your goal may be lofty, such as lose 30 pounds or participate in a triathlon, Wiseman’s study found it’s better to focus on creating goals that are “Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time based (SMART).”
Here are three easy tech solutions to creating those SMART goals, staying fit, and keeping a healthy heart.
1. Get in touch with the competitor within
Fitocracy seems custom-made to help you keep your goals to get fit. Designed to treat getting fit like a video game, you earn points for every activity you log. Points are scaled based on difficulty and as you fill your progress bar you can “level up,” allowing you to easily translate your larger objective into smaller, achievable steps that you can visually track. You can elect to participate in quests – optional goals that let you earn bonus points. You can also compete with others in the Fitocracy community and get support or guidance from fitness experts and others that have faced similar challenges.
2. Get social support
On the other hand, women were 10 percent more likely to stick to their goals when they gained social support. While many women may be inclined to stay mum about goals, likely for fear of embarrassment should they fail, this social accountability may give a needed push to not fall off the wagon.
Use social media like Facebook or Twitter to your advantage by committing to your goals and reporting on your success. If you’re concerned that your friends may not be exactly motivational or encouraging, consider joining MyFitnessPal, a community of people eager to help each other reach their diet, fitness, and health goals. While the site offers online food and exercise journals, its strength is in its community blogs and message boards. Make your diet and fitness logs public to hold yourself accountable and improve your chances of sticking to your goal.
Another site, SparkPeople, is also a great resource for finding a social support network. Explore the “Community” tab for groups created by members based on goals and interests, discussion forums, challenges, and “SparkPages”: a member profile area where you can connect with like-minded users.
3. Reward yourself with something extra
A great tool to use technology to stick to your get fit resolution is the FitBit (the FitBit Zip starts at $59.95), a tiny wireless motion tracker that, when worn consistently, translates your motion into a fitness score. Your activity is monitored, factoring in exertion (not just distance), and the FitBit then wirelessly syncs its data with your computer or smartphone. Graphs allow you to quickly see your progress toward your goal.
Your up-to-the-minute score is also viewable on the device itself, motivating you to take the stairs, park farther from the entrance, or log a quick jog on the treadmill to keep up your stats. The FitBit lets you to easily set achievable goals such as, “score higher on average this week than last week,” and you can compete with other FitBit users or post your scores have others in the community help you stay on track.
Coming soon to the family of FitBit is the FitBit Flex, due to release this spring in a sporty bracelet for $99. The FitBit Flex has all the functionality of the clip version but also adds in the ability to monitor your quality of sleep and can also be synced to your Smartphone.
Get heart smart
Finally, learn all you can about your heart health. As British Professor Richard Wiseman pointed out, “men and women are wired differently,” and that includes heart related issues.
Did you know: “The symptoms of heart disease can be different in women and men, and are often misunderstood,” according to studies by the American Heart Association, so check out their Go Red for Women website for tips and tools to educate YOU on your risks, inspirational stories by women for women and even yummy and heart healthy recipes.