The new year is just around the corner, and for many of us that means a list of resolutions for a healthier, happier, better-than-ever year. But keeping these 2011 promises can be tough.
Smartphone apps are here to help. While they won't do the work for you, they can simplify (and add a little fun to) New Year's resolutions.
For example, New Year’s Buzzer, an app made by Iconosys for Android OS smartphones, tracks a user’s resolutions and sends positive feedback when that person follows through. Each day the user will receive a tracking prompt, which asks him or her to confirm (or deny) the completion of a healthy promise.
NYB also has a social component. For example, users can send out Happy New Year text messages to everyone on their contact list.
For specific resolutions — losing weight, starting an exercise program, managing finances — there are plenty of targeted apps out there.
Popular apps for losing weight include Lose It! and Calorie Counter for the iPhone, and Hungry and Weight Watchers WWDiary for Android phones.
“Behaviors, especially food behaviors, are some of the most difficult to change,” said Talia Hauser, a registered dietitian at Gottlieb Memorial Hospitalin Illinois.“Food is such a dominating presence in our lives that it takes a very concentrated and very deliberate effort.”
Hauser’s favorite app for losing weight is Calorie Counter, which gives you calorie numbers for a wide range of food choices, from fast foods to generic and brand names, andshe says it is easy to use.
Here’s how it works: Enter you current weight, target weight, and how much you want to lose per week. Calorie Counter “crunches” the numbers and comes up with a daily calorie intake. After that, it’s simply a matter of entering your meals from the list of foods.
However, an app is only as good as the information the user gives it. “You have to be honest and accountable with the data you input,” Hauser told TechNewsDaily.
While taking off extra pounds may be high on the resolution list, a fitness regime is probably not far behind. Some popular apps for getting in shape includeMyFitnessPal, My24, deftFitness and RunKeeper for the iPhone; and CardioTrainer and DroidFit for Android phones.
DeftFitness boasts that it can help users get in shape without a costly gym membership. To operate this app, the user simply chooses a muscle group and then shakes the iPhone or other smartphone. The result: exercises that target the specified muscle group, plus real-life pictures of how to do the e-cises, which require minimal equipment.
“Save, save, save” will be on many resolution lists. Popular apps for saving money and keeping a budget includeAce Budget, HomeBudget and MoneyBook for the iPhone; and Mintand PayPal for the iPhone and Android phone.
MoneyBook lets the user track daily expenses by category. You simply select a date and category, then enter the expense amount. The app will create charts of the amount spent for each category. You can also specify a budget — how much you want to spend in a month — and the app will let you know each day how much money is left to spend.
Just keeping a budget is a good start, said Sherry Jarrell, associate professor of business at Wake Forest University. “So any tool that helps with that is a good thing, without any doubt,” Jarrell said.
While these tools can be helpful, some are better than others.
“There are bad apps out there, so just being an app is not enough, it has to be a good one,” Jarrell said.
And just like the other health-promoting apps, they’re only as good as the information they’re given.
With an app for just about everything, this list of resolutions should be a snap. But remember, you still need to do the work.