While browsing the “New and Noteworthy” section of the ever-growing Apple App Store, inevitably downloading four or five programs to use and then lose within a week, I chuckled at the headliner, bright and bold, front and center: “New Year, New You: Apps to Start Off the Year Right.”
There are two things infinitely wrong here. First, just because we desire to remedy our lifestyle on Jan. 2 (let’s be honest, most people are still recovering on Jan. 1 from what I’ll call “poor nutritional choices”), it doesn’t guarantee long-term success. If we really want to improve our health, whether it’s cleaning up our diet or ramping up the exercise, we don’t have to wait for an arbitrary, socially stereotyped date on a calendar. The best time to make a change in our life is right now. A moment of weakness when that carb craving hits doesn’t mean we have to wait until the start of 2014 to get back on course.
Second, apart from the obvious psychological trap door of the New Year’s resolution, the notion that Apple applications can help us better achieve our health and fitness goals is ludicrous.
But it’s just another product intelligently marketed and attractively advertised that Americans flock to this time of year in hopes that objects will change our behavior.
As an aggregate, our country is currently spending millions of dollars on gym memberships, diet plans, workout equipment, etc. But after we go out and buy snazzy new running shoes, we still have to strap them on and use them. After we make that novel trip to the grocery store to fill our cart with the healthy stuff we never eat, there’s still a chance those veggies will rot in the fridge because, let’s face it, it’s hard to dodge the alluring aroma of Blimpy Burger and Cottage Inn (there’s a reason why Jimmy John’s offers “free smells”).
But I clicked anyway, curious about these “life-altering” digital tools. The most ridiculously overpriced and overcomplicated application offered is an activity tracker called rubiTrack3 ($39.99). For 40 bucks, you’d think the damn thing would burn calories for you. Instead, I use free websites like mapmyrun.com to measure how far I’m running outdoors, and when I’m at the gym, every workout machine practically smacks me in the face with more big, red, glowing statistics than I ever care to know.
As for keeping track, just spend a couple bucks on a notebook. Remember those? The kind with paper? There’s something special about writing my goals and results by hand. It inspires me to to jot down thoughts about my progress and the challenges I face. If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that thoughts become things, and mental fitness is just as important, if not more so, than physical perseverance.
Now, I’m not saying health and fitness apps aren’t useful. But they won’t transform your health for you; there certainly isn’t an app for that. I remember vividly my own transformation process — when I sincerely committed to improving my health and fitness, and the only way Apple contributed was by fueling my workouts with some upbeat tunes.
But if you really think that your iPhone will make an ideal accountability buddy, any Nike+ app provides a simple, user-friendly method for tracking exercise, and My Fitness Pal is an accurate tool for monitoring caloric intake and expenditure. Plus, they’re free!
But again, these little buttons still won’t jump out of the touch screen and drag us to the gym or force broccoli down our throats. If we really want to change our health and fitness habits, it takes urgency and action beyond a quick tap and drag. And if you’re looking for an “apple” you can rely on to make a difference, it’s the one on your plate.