10 apps and gadgets to help you keep fit and count those calories

Gadgets that can help you keep fit and keep track of your calories: (clockwise, from top left) Samsung Gear Fit, Withings Pulse O2, Jawbone Up24 and Nike+ FuelBand SE. -- PHOTOS: SAMSUNG/WITHINGS/JAWBONE/NIKE INC
Gadgets that can help you keep fit and keep track of your calories: (clockwise, from top left) Samsung Gear Fit, Withings Pulse O2, Jawbone Up24 and Nike+ FuelBand SE. -- PHOTOS: SAMSUNG/WITHINGS/JAWBONE/NIKE INC

SINGAPORE -The Health Promotion Board (HPB) launched its second season of the Million Kg Challenge on Oct 25, to help more Singaporeans shed the extra flab.

The first phase of the challenge, which began in March, saw over 80,000 sign ups and some 42,000 participants pledging to lose weight. It has helped at least 6,000 people lose a total of 20,000kg in the last six months.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who was at the Oct 25 launch, revealed in a Facebook post after the event that he is keeping fit with a little help from technology.

"There are many ways to keep fit. We recently launched ActiveSG to make it easier for you to get into the habit," he wrote.

"Technology helps (I wear a Jawbone myself!). But simple changes in habits - like climbing the stairs instead of taking the lift - can make a difference. A healthy lifestyle is possible if we put our minds to it."

We look at 10 nifty mobile apps and wearable technology that can help you win the battle of the bulge.

1. iDAT

Launched in October 2011 by HPB during its annual National Healthy Lifestyle Campaign, iDAT stands for interactive Diet and Activity Tracker. It aims to help users count their calories and better manage their health.

The free app takes into account local fare and beverages, such as bandung, egg fuyong, chilli crab, and chendol. Since the app knows the calories of these dishes and beverages, this helps users to input what they have consumed for the day in an accurate manner.

2. MyFitnessPal

Another free app, this serves as a calorie counter and diet planner that charts your daily and weekly calorie intake. It has a huge database listing more than one million types of food, and provides nutritional information on the food items apart from calorific details.

In a poll conducted late last year by weblog Lifehacker on the best food and nutrition tracking tools, MyFitnessPal took the top spot by a significant margin, with over 62 per cent of the votes cast in its favour. According to the weblog, users were impressed by its “massive food database, easy-to-use mobile apps and web interface, and the encouraging, informative community behind it”.

3. RunKeeper

This free app turns your phone into a GPS (Global Positioning System) device that tracks your location and runs. It can also track activities like hiking, swimming and cycling, and displays statistics such as pace and distance covered. While it does not count your calories, it will tell you how many calories you have burned at the end of your run.

After you set the activity, the app offers audio cues to mark your progress. All activities are tracked and stored, so you can get an overview of your exercise (or lack thereof) regimen.

The app also links up with social networks to let you share your accomplishments.

4. LoseIt

According to the LoseIt website, this app helps you to “set a daily calorie budget, track your food and exercise, and stay motivated to make smarter choices and achieve your goal”.

Apart from calorie tracking, the app also allows users to come up with their own weight loss plan. The app also has functions that broadcast activity reports to Twitter and Facebook.

5. Jawbone Up24

The Jawbone Up fitness tracker has been seen on Hollywood actress Gwyneth Paltrow, Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and, closer to home, Prime Minister Lee.

The Up24 is a newer version, but visually - with its thin and bendy wristband form factor - it looks like the original. Like the original, it is also made using medical-grade hypoallergenic rubber.

To view the activity, diet and sleep data that the Up24 tracks, users have to download the Up app to their smartphones. The displays are colourful and easy to understand, and the app also works with other fitness apps such as RunKeeper and MyFitnessPal.

6. Withings Pulse O2

This fitness tracker may be small - it is only slightly larger than an SD card minus the strap - but has a multitude of features. It not only tracks calories burned and steps taken, but elevation as well, which is great for stair-climbing buffs. In addition, it comes with a built-in heart-rate sensor and can measure a user’s blood oxygen level. 

The Pulse O2 can be set up through a mobile device via the Withings Health Mate app.

7. Samsung Gear Fit

The Gear Fit is said to be Samsung’s attempt at creating a fitness tracker that does it all. It logs movements, displays calorie intake, distance achieved and time, and also comes with a built-in accelerometer, gyroscope and heart-rate sensor. It is also dust-resistant and waterproof.

8. Nike+ FuelBand SE

The FuelBand SE is the successor of the FuelBand, which won The Straits Times Digital Life Editor’s Choice last year for its attractive design, gorgeous LED lights and ease of use.

The FuelBand and FuelBand SE, however, are not retailed here although interested buyers can purchase them online from the United States. It uses LED lights to show the time, calories burned, steps taken, and also has a feature that challenges users to move for five minutes every hour.

9. Garmin Forerunner 15

The Forerunner 15 is a combination of its Vivofit fitness tracker and its entry-level GP watch, the Forerunner 10. The result? A GPS runner’s watch which also monitors users’ calories burned, steps taken and other daily activities.

For outdoor runs, the Forerunner 15 uses GPS to record your time, pace, and distance. You can also set up a virtual pacer option, if you have a target. If you are lagging behind, the watch will inform you to speed up. The Forerunner 15 will also alert you if you are motionless for too long, with a gentle beep and the message “Move!” that will show up on its display.

10. Apple Watch (available in 2015)

The Apple Watch is not only a smartwatch that displays notifications and messages, but is also a fitness tracker, heart-rate monitor, music player and payment device.

It will come with an accelerometer to measure total body movement, and will also have a custom-built sensor that can measure intensity. The watch can also be synced to an iPhone’s GPS and wi-fi to track how much movement the user has chalked up.

Furthermore, the watch will have an Activity app on it, with three rings showing how much the user has stood up, moved (calories burned), and exercised for the day.

Sources: Lifehacker, LoseIt.com, Apple.com

brynasim@sph.com.sg