Free or cheap aids for fitness training and weight loss – If you own the iPod, iPod Touch or iPad, download the free Walk N’ Play app and track your fitness efforts throughout the day. Keep a constant record of how many calories you’ve burned in your daily activities. Compete against friends or choose virtual opponents to help you meet your fitness goals.
Developed by the Computational Physiology Lab of the University of Houston, this app has been around since May of 2009, so bugs are mostly worked out now. Battery drain is the major problem with the program since for accurate monitoring the supporting device must be always on. You’ll have to pay attention to recharging opportunities as well as walking.
If you’re naturally competitive you’ll like this one. Join or create a network of users and keep a running watch on your own exercise rankings. Updates of your competition indicate whether your nemesis is walking or resting and gives you a total calorie burn to match. From what I see at the sample page, you shouldn’t have a problem beating the best in the world — at least on Sunday afternoon.
Walking is actually one of the best ways to burn calories and work towards better cardiovascular health. Half an hour of moderate walking (3.5 mph) a day, five days a week, provides the recommended minimum the National Institutes of Health set. That half an hour should include a warm-up period of five minutes before and a cool-down for five minutes after, mandatory with every session for best and safest results. You’ll get results from even shorter workouts, but for the equivalent of a half hour workout you need at least ten minutes of moderate walking at a stretch, plus the warm-up and cool-down to reduce short-term stress. Three ten minute workouts add up to one hour, using that method. Shorter sessions just burn calories.
If you’d prefer a low tech fitness monitor, try one of the cheapest — the pedometer. This tiny belt-clip device allows custom settings for the length of your average stride and if properly set records every step you take during the entire day. Ordinary activities burn a lot of calories. Either taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or parking at the far side of the lot, inject quite a lot of fitness training into the day. Shifting to accurate monitoring of running requires resetting the stride length, so keep the instruction book handy.
The pedometer doesn’t discriminate between walking, running or climbing stairs but does give a good overall view of the daily activity you perform and the calories you normally burn. The problem I’ve had is that the gizmo depends on a pendulum weight to record the stride, and unless positioned exactly right doesn’t record steps reliably. I spend too much of my time tinkering with the darned things. If you’re less obsessive about accuracy the pedometer works fine. The Walk N’ Play iPhone app does spot the differences in speed and changes in elevation, and gives a more detailed view of your real-world exertion.
Need some expert advice on fitness training and cardio health? Try the free manual from the National Institutes of Health at Your Guide to Physical Activity and Your Heart. This free download covers health concerns, beginning training programs, minimum and optimum training sessions, and gives detailed instructions on how to determine the optimum training heart rate.
If you’re having problems figuring out how much energy you’re actually burning, and why you’re trying to lose weight but can’t, try the free calorie calculator at CaloriesPerHour.com. You’ll find free calculators for many common types of physical activity, adjusted for body weight and speed. The website also provides free calculation and advice about calorie count, calorie consumption, and weight loss plans and goals.
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