New Castle News

January 26, 2013

App and at ’em: Your smartphone can help you get fit

Renee Gendreau
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Fitness apps are allowing smartphone users to exercise more than their fingertips.

“Everyone has a cell phone glued to their side anymore. This is a way to use that device to make those sides a little slimmer,” noted Corry Csiky, owner of Anytime Fitness, which offers its own workout and calorie tracking app, Anytime Health, to club members.

According to a report released by the Pew Research Center, 52 percent of smartphone users gathered, monitored and tracked health and fitness information on their mobile devices. In addition, the Mobile Health 2012 report found that 19 percent of smart phone users had at least one health app.    

Lisa Lombardo, director of public relations and marketing for Jameson Health System, credits the popular My Fitness Pal app with helping her lose 30 pounds.

She first began using the app, which keeps track of users’ calorie intake as well as logging workouts, in mid-2011 as part of Jameson’s Biggest Loser contest in which health system Chief Executive Officer Doug Danko challenged employees to lose a higher percentage of weight collectively than he did.

“If you honestly log everything you put in your mouth, it can help you see where you can make changes,” Lombardo said. “At first it can be cumbersome, especially when you have to input all the ingredients for a homemade dish, but it saves that information and becomes a lot easier once you commit to it.”   

Calling the technology a “great motivator,” Csiky explained, “Studies have shown that keeping a diary of your food intake is a positive factor in weight loss, this allows you to have that log with you at all times and refer to it when you feel like you need that afternoon candy bar. With this you’ll know whether you’re able to use those calories or whether it’s not a good idea for that particular day.”   

Although Chrissy Neff prefers to use the Nike Fuel Band, a bracelet-like device that can sync with phones and computers and tracks a wearer’s movement and activity, the health and wellness director for the New Castle YMCA has recommended apps to members.

“It’s another tool to push them to be healthy,” she said. “Everyone is different. I love, love, love to exercise, but some people hate it.

“I don’t understand that,” she added with a laugh, “but this may help them with that struggle. Everyone has to find what works for them.”

Vaughn Hudspath, a personal trainer and chief executive officer of Boot Camp Bodies in Ellwood City, explained, “It’s like having a personal trainer in your back pocket.”

And, while Hudspath has used fitness apps and encourages clients to try them, he doesn’t believe technology can replace the personal touch.

“People want someone to help them and while this helps, it can’t offer individualized attention,” said Hudspath, who specializes in training clients with health issues as he himself discovered the benefits of personalized fitness training after an automobile accident in 2009.

“Nothing can replace having someone lead you and help you with your own personal situation,” noted Lori Brothers, director of the Dean Ornish program at Jameson. “While I have no problem recommending the apps and am all for anything that can help you stay organized, focused and on track, technology can create barriers culturally between those who avidly use it and those who have no clue what an app is.”

Brothers added that because most of her clients are older, they aren’t as technology friendly.

“I don’t see the technology as a threat to traditional fitness training,” added the Y’s Neff. “People still want to have a one-on-one relationship with a trainer and the camaraderie of group classes, but everyone has to find what motivates them and this gives them one more option.”

(Scripps Howard News Service contributed to this story.)