When my daughters first acquired their cell phones several years ago, their thumbs got so much “exercise,” I envisioned them winning thumb-wrestling contests.
Thankfully, their activity levels even then surpassed the physical demands of texting. But as technology has evolved – and their interest in fitness has increased – they have found ways to use their phones to a healthful advantage.
While we as parents may not always embrace technology’s hold on our children, we can see the benefits, particularly when it offers a way for us to encourage good health. We’ve all heard the statistics on childhood obesity – the Center for Disease Control and Prevention says obesity in adolescents has tripled in the last 30 years. Consider, too, the social and psychological problems, such as stigmatization and low self-esteem, that have been linked to childhood obesity. It’s imperative that we find ways to motivate our children to make healthy choices that can help them avoid potential long-term, life-threatening illnesses.
There are thousands of apps available for mobile devices, and many encourage fitness and healthy eating. Here are just a few we think are pretty cool:
MapMyRun. MapMyRun is a fitness tracking application that uses the built-in GPS of your mobile device to track all of your fitness activities. You can record your workout details (duration, distance, pace, speed, elevation, calories burned and route traveled) on an interactive map. You can also save and upload your workout data to MapMyRun, where you can view data from your workout and a comprehensive workout history. It’s free and available for Android, iPhone and with limited support for Blackberry.
Nike Training Club. This free app from Nike allows you to choose from 60 custom-built workouts geared to your fitness level and fitness goals. Confused about a move? Pause the workout to access step-by-step instructions and video demonstrations of each of 90 drills. You can earn “NikeFuel” along the way, which allows you to unlock fitness tips and new workouts. After a workout, review a summary of your training, calories burned and more.
Fooducate. Looking for help making healthy choices at the grocery store? This grocery scanner allows you to scan a product’s barcode for instant, easy-to-understand information about a food’s nutritional value.
You can also compare products and find suggestions for healthier alternatives. This free app is available for Android and iPhone.
Trainer. Inspired by Pokémon, Trainer gives players the responsibility of caring for creatures who all have dietary and fitness needs. You can exercise along with one of your creatures. The purpose of Trainer is to let players discover, seek and share health information. Through experiential learning, learn how nutrition and fitness impact your daily life. Trainer won two awards in the Apps for Healthy Kids competition, promoted by Michelle Obama, including the grand prize in the games category and the GE Healthymagination award.
Through the Health Apps for Kids competition, the USDA challenged software developers, game designers, students and others to develop fun and engaging software tools and games that encourage children to eat better and be more physically active. Check out more winning apps in the Apps for Healthy Kids competition.
Got a favorite exercise/fitness app? Share it with us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Center for Disease Control’s Childhood obesity facts
Karen Nerney has been a communications specialist with the Capital Region BOCES Communications Service since 2011. Prior to that, she spent many years as a journalist in the Boston area. She is mom to two teen-age daughters who contributed suggestions to this piece, and an 8-year-old son who is happy to simply play on his mom’s iPhone.