Getting Fit: How Far Can Technology Take You?
We all strive to be more fit and healthy. But for the most part, our busy schedules or the lack of motivation (or both) keeps us from being committed to achieving our fitness goals. Sure, going to the gym is effective. But only if you’re consistent. Then again, with all the tech at our disposal, a gym isn’t your only option.
Holding yourself accountable
Many fitness and health-related apps have inbuilt engagement mechanisms specifically to retain users. The Strava app hurls frequent challenges to entice users from around the world to participate. Workout apps like the Zen series send you regular reminders in the form of push notifications. It’s not like you’re going to win the lottery. But these nudges encourage users to utilize these apps.
One of the hardest things for anyone to get into a fitness routine is, doing so regularly. Keeping yourself accountable is one way you could combat it. This is relatively made easier with most fitness and health apps today. For example, every time I do a round of cycling I make sure to record it on Strava and share it on my channels.
Of course, that’s not to say initiating a workout regime is any easier. Teesha Wickramatunge is the founder of Workout.lk, a health and fitness focused platform based in Sri Lanka, where I live. As she puts it people in general are reluctant to step out of their comfort zones. Unless you’re already an active person, working out may be a harder task to set in motion.
Take the case of Bhanuka Harischandra — Founder of Surge Global. In his post, Bhanuka talks about the journey of how he lost nearly 100 pounds. The process essentially came down to research, accountability, and maintaining the discipline. To quote Bhanuka, “as a staunch social media advocate, I did what every narcissistic millennial does. I started posting my activities on Facebook”. Posting your fitness-related activities might not be your thing. But this goes to show how far holding yourself accountable can take you.
It’s more than “working out”
Every now and then, we tend to set ambitious fitness goals just so to end up discouraged halfway through. But often, it’s easier to begin with smaller targets and build up momentum gradually. Besides, being fit and healthy isn’t all about intense exercise. Part of it is about eating, sleeping pattern and other everyday habits.
There’s a lot that tech can do to help you too. In terms of maintaining a balanced diet, I’ve personally found apps like BodyFast helpful. It’s an app that helps you reach your desired weight goals through intermittent fasting. Launching the app for the first time, it asks you to choose one of three predefined goals — lose weight, eat healthier, or define your muscles. It lets you opt for a fasting schedule of your preference and the rest is up to you. Now, regardless of what you think of intermittent fasting, apps like BodyFast can help you discipline your eating habits.
But then again, a lot of these apps take western countries into perspective. We should also consider how things are different in countries. For example in Sri Lanka, rice is seen as the staple food and its a definite must when it comes to lunch. Some would even go for rice for all three meals of the day. This would have been fine 40–50 years ago where people lead a very active lifestyle. So all that rice gets burnt up. This isn’t the case today. Now, most of us spend 8–10 hours per day in front of the computer. So all that rice is going nowhere.
But then again, research shows how we can mitigate this by changing how we prepare food. Furthermore, educating yourself can do wonders too. It’s always advisable to seek expert opinion on these matters.
Time spent on smart devices can take a toll
There are also other aspects to consider, such as work and hours spent on smart devices. These factors directly impact one’s health. For instance, I usually work on my PC, late into midnight almost on a daily basis. One downside to that is, I expose myself to the blue screen far too long. The result is a lack of sleep and at worst, weakened eyesight in the long run.
The cross-platform program f.lux is one I’ve found useful in tackling this. It adjusts the color of your computer display according to the time of day. Simply put, your computer screen wouldn’t trick your eyes getting exposed to direct sunlight at 9.00 PM. Microsoft has a similar feature called “Microsoft Night Light” and Apple on iOS called “Night Shift”, where it flips automatically to a pre-set timer.
So it’s not merely apps and third-party software, even tech giants like Microsoft, Google and Apple are already paying close attention to overall well being. In last year’s Apple announcement, the Apple Watch Series 5 for example, has taken up health as one of its Unique Selling Points.
Google’s digital wellbeing component monitors how much time you spend on each app daily. It also allows you to set timers for certain apps. Additionally, the “Wind Down” feature on Android lets you specify a time period where your phone switches into monochrome and snoozes your alerts and notifications.
With Android 10, Google doubled down on the Wellbeing features. For example, toggling the “Focus Mode” allows you to mute apps you consider to be distracting. Another handy feature lets you set timers to restrict time spent on certain websites. All these are convenient means of introducing health and wellbeing components to users without being too intrusive.
Technology is only an enabler
An underlying concern in the modern environment is that we often take the conveniences of technology for granted. Today, you can track most of your physical activities by simply wearing a fitness band and syncing it to your phone. You can get apps to regularly remind you about your active to-do list. It’s all at the convenience of your fingertips, literally. Though admittedly, it’s a bit ironic that the very thing that gets in the way of our health and wellbeing, is also helping us detox.
At the end of the day, technology is only an enabler. Everything boils down to self-motivation. For example, activity trackers like Fitbit and other smartwatches are popular today. But as per Gayantha de Zoysa — Founder of fitness platform Strive.lk, these don’t magically turn you into a fitness freak. Rather, they help you improve what you may have been doing already. “If you were crossing 4,000 steps before, it might help you to clock in 6,000 steps now as a result of using activity trackers”. But for those who are really serious, this type of tech can help them keep an accurate record of their daily workout routine.
Countries like Sri Lanka have a tendency to follow western trends. Particularly involving health and fitness. But they may not always be practical in a local context. In the case of adopting dietary options, organic food, for instance, may not be accessible or even affordable for everyone.
Additionally, apps like BodyFast may help you maintain a proper fasting schedule. But these apps don’t always provide an end-to-end solution. As Keiffer James, Fitness Coach at Strive.lk puts it, it’s also important to pay attention to what you’re eating during the non-fasting period. He further notes that what you eat to break the fast is the most important and these factors are not always considered when it comes to apps or other tech-based solutions.
Technology will help you get fit, but it’s no magic potion
Personally, tech has definitely helped my health and wellbeing. It has also helped people like Bhanuka to lose weight effectively. Furthermore, tech is also helping so many platforms to create better awareness around health and fitness.
But it should be understood that tech isn’t some magic potion that will transform you overnight. As Gayantha points out, a lot of it drills down to self-motivation and how you carry yourself in achieving your fitness goals. What’s more is that long lasting results take time. Patience and discipline goes a long way.
Here’s to getting fit and healthy!