You may not think there is much of a connection between Microsoft and fitness, but in Los Angeles, a partnership has been forged with the Partners in Care Foundation, the City of Los Angeles and the St. Barnabas Senior Services to improve the fitness levels of area seniors with the creation of “The Exergamers Wellness Club” This innovative program emphasizes mental, physical and social well-being of the seniors that participate in interactive gaming and online tracking of their health status. Microsoft plans to extend the program to many more senior centers while proving that technology has the ability to transform lives. Part of the program’s success is attributed to the use of Microsoft HealthVault, where seniors monitor their increased activity and have the option to track their personal health information, such as blood pressure and blood-glucose levels, and even share their online personal health information with family members or other caregivers. Seniors at St. Barnabas compete in virtual bowling tournaments with contemporaries across the country. They also dance to music ranging from hip-hop to disco using Kinect.
Microsoft is not the only game in town when it comes to interactive gaming experiences. Gamers of all ages appreciate the latest innovations in home gaming systems which offers a wide range of programs with action-packed virtual activities such as archery, water sports, and aerobic dance that can be accessed through your television screen.
Stay up-to-date on the latest innovations in fitness technology and smart phone apps to help you work out smarter by tracking your vitals throughout the process. Even grownups like a new toy once in a while. Why not reward your workout efforts with a state-of-the-art sensor technology gadget that’s a little bit geeky and super cool for checking your vitals and delivering your favorite tunes through tiny ear buds that also act as sensors to monitor your heart rate, respiration rate, energy expenditure, calories burned, metabolic rate, speed, steps taken, ventilatory threshold, and recovery time.
Pedometers encourage joggers and walkers to set personal goals and can help assess your results. Accuracy and ease of use are essential when tracking your progress. Some of the highest rated pedometers include fitbit, which tracks your steps, distance, and calories burned – and syncs those stats to your computer and select smartphones over time, and the Yamax-Power-Walker, which also does a good job and features a 3D accelerometer sensor.
There’s always something new emerging from the world of technology to simplify self-monitoring, such as the Larklife fitness tracker that can also sense if you’ve had a good night’s sleep, with recommendations to boost your energy level when awake. At the very least, I recommend using a personal heart rate monitor that is able to keep track of your cardiovascular health, endurance levels and vitals. Even the most basic models give you instantaneous feedback about how your cardiovascular system is responding to your exercise session.
Here are a few more favorite tech gadgets and smart phone apps:
- The Strivv pedometer not only counts your daily walking steps, it sets up challenges for your routine and lets you earn points for your achievements. The pedometer features personalized challenges tailored to your activity levels, and turn 10,000 steps a day into playing a game, donating to charity and competing with friends.
- For practical health, Fitbit’s Aria scale doesn’t just measure your weight (which isn’t the truest measure of health) – it also measures body mass index and body fat, which are more revealing. The information is transmitted wirelessly to your computer and assists in making sure you are on track to reach your goals.
- Tired? The Adidas Energy Boost running shoes claim micro cells embedded in the sole return energy to each step you take, taking the term “an extra pep in your step” quite literally.
- Creativity keeps things interesting with the Zombies, Run! Smartphone app. As you run or walk, the narrator gives instructions to dodge zombies and other threats. Novelist Naomi Alderman provides the storyline here – their website says “you will go on an epic adventure that motivates you to run further and faster than ever before.”
- For a more serene app, try Pocket Yoga, which lets you follow yoga routines from anywhere. They also have an extensive library so you can learn anything from downward dog to warrior. The nice thing about the app is that it allows you to create your own yoga routine rather than forcing you to adhere to an instructors “most liked” poses!
- Swimming is one of the best activities you can do for your body! It’s quite easy on the joints and works nearly every muscle….all the while taxing your heart and lungs. There’s also a very meditative rhythm to swimming steady laps which is very peaceful. But…no doubt – even swimming can get boring at times. Thankfully, there are the fully submersible FiNIS SwiMP3 headphones that transmit music through your cheekbones (you can also listen to audiobook and podcasts if you’re swimming long distances!).
Another advance in health-and-fitness technology is the availability of health risk assessments and screenings through a straight-to-consumer service. Beyond checking with your regular care physician prior to beginning an exercise regime, you may want to also consider a basic blood-test screening that can offer detailed information about your diet, your hormonal profile, the state of your metabolism, as well as any possible early signs of heart disease or cancer. Values measured include levels of HDL and LDL cholesterol, calcium and iron; white and red blood cell count, hemoglobin and platelets in the blood. Updated health and fitness screenings ensure that your body is up for the challenges of extra physical activity. Take advantage of innovations like these and other “patient-centric” services that encourage a pro-active approach to keep your health and well-being on your radar. By staying aware of your body’s signals and signs, you will advocate your own good health, and can help determine the best path that should be followed.
Technology carries a lot of weight in the fitness world and will continue to feature breakthrough advances that cater to our aging bodies. You won’t have to look very far into the future for advances in multi-functional fitness gizmos and interactive garments that are capable of linking wirelessly to a cloud network and provide instant analysis and feedback based on your current and historical performance data. Expect to see even more innovations and upgrades, such as daily menu suggestions to complement your current body analysis – thereby helping to carve a path that sustains long life.