You want to get fit, but it’s so hard to make exercise a habit. Every year, exercise is top of your list of New Year’s Resolutions.
But somehow it doesn’t happen.
Have you thought about using your phone to help you out?
Oh – you thought your phone was only bad for your health? Yes, well it can be, what with EMFs, too much screen time and bad habits of spending too much time on social media.
But here’s the trick: phones are really good at building your habits. Smartphones are a bit addictive, aren’t they?
So how about harnessing the power of your phone to develop good habits? Habits that end up with great big positive results?
What about using your phone to help you live well into a happy old age?
Do I hear you asking how on earth you can build an exercise habit with your smartphone? Well, here are 9 ways your smartphone can help you make exercise a habit.
1 Stepping up to Make Exercise a Habit
Did you know that the very act of measuring what you do, helps you to improve your results?
You carry your phone around every day, don’t you? And I bet you’re in the habit of looking at it loads of times a day. So why not every now and then during the day take notice of how many steps you’re taking?
Most phones already have an app loaded on to them which will count your steps as you take them. You can see at a glance how many steps you’ve done. (If yours hasn’t, take a look at the infographics below to find one to download.)
Once you find out how many steps you do normally, you could think of how to add in a few more each day. Increase them in small steps. (Oh yes, pun intended!) How about tomorrow you do 10 more steps than today? Anyone could do that – just 10 more steps. Then you could make it 20 more.
Set yourself a goal. Can you add on 500 steps and build up to the recommended 7- 10,000 steps a day – say by the end of the month?
Keep moving until your phone tells you that you’ve reached your goal.
Quick tip: I find that when I put my phone in my handbag, it doesn’t record the steps as well as if it’s in my pocket or a bumbag (fanny pack for our American friends).
2 Stand up to your Smartphone
Since sitting is so bad for us, try these small habits. Whenever you get a phone call, stand up and answer it. With hands-free or a mobile, you can even walk around while you’re talking on the phone. It’s a really easy little habit to incorporate into your daily life.
A further little trick is to think about your posture as you’re standing talking on the phone.
Try pulling in your chin so that your head is better aligned with your spine. Think of pushing your chin back with your hand.
Or as you stand, slide your shoulder blades down your back. You’ll find that helps to pull in your chin and straighten your posture. Then try pulling your shoulder blades together, just by using the muscles in your back. It’s a very small movement and nobody will see you doing it.
Exercises like that help stop you developing a dowager’s hump and that ageing, stooped-over look.
If you make it a habit, you won’t even think about it – you’ll just stand up to answer the phone and adopt a great posture.
3 Set your Alarm to Move
We’ve all heard that sitting is the new smoking. But all you need to do is to get up from your chair, have a wriggle, walk into the kitchen, or up and downstairs to the bathroom.
Another great use of your phone is set the alarm to go off every 40 minutes or so. That’s the signal for you to get up off your chair and MOVE!
Moving protects you against all sorts of evils of ageing. It:
- stops your muscles getting stiff;
- gives your spine a chance to realign;
- reminds you to think of your posture;
- gets your heart going and delivering oxygen around your body, moving the stale blood back up to your heart and lungs for reoxygenation;
- gets your lymph system moving out all the waste products.
You only need to move for a little while to reap benefits. Try 1 minute to begin with and build up to 5. But make it really regular during the day. (It’s a great way to get your steps in too.)
Quick tips: If you don’t want an alarm to go off then try http://www.memotome.com. It will send you a reminder instead of the alarm ringing.
4 Timing your Way to Fitness
As well as an alarm, most phones have a stop-watch feature. Timing yourself is a good way to encourage yourself to do a little bit more: a few seconds each time.
I use this feature on my phone for timing doing planks. I’m working up to 2 minutes but so far, I’m at about 1minute 20 – 30 seconds.
You can time yourself on standing on one leg, walking, dancing, cycling, riding, skiing, surfing, paddleboarding, kayaking. In fact, you can time yourself doing any kind of exercise.
You feel great when you’ve beaten your previous best time.
And you can see your improvement since you began doing that exercise.
Quick tip: while you’re out there doing the exercise, don’t keep checking on the phone to see how you’re doing. I find I hold my plank longer if I listen to a song or read an article at the same time.
5 Putting Your Heart into making Exercise a Habit
It’s important to exercise your heart as it has to last you the rest of your life. It can be hard to know if you’re getting your heart rate up to the right rate for your age. But you can link your smartphone to a heart rate app.
Then you’ll know when your heart rate is in the right zone to maximise the benefit of your exercise without overdoing it. To calculate the right zone for your heart rate:
- Subtract your age from 220 – that’s your MAXIMUM heart rate
- For beginners at exercising, target at a heart rate of between 50% – 75% of your Maximum Heart Rate
- If you’re already moderately fit, work your heart rate up gradually over time to a heart rate of between 70% to 85% of your Maximum Heart Rate.
Example for a 60-year-old:
- Maximum Heart Rate is 220 – 60 = 160
- Beginner target Heart Rate is 50% of 160 = 80 (50/100 x160 = 80) working up to 75% of 160 = 120
- For fitter people, target heart rate is 70% of 160 = 112 (70/100 x160 = 112) working up to 85% of 160 = 136
Don’t jump in and exercise to your maximum heart rate. Start at a low level and increase your activity and its intensity GRADUALLY over time
Take a look at the infographic for some phone apps that can help you.
Don’t forget, phone apps can be useful, but they are not medical equipment.
If you feel any pain or unduly breathless as you exercise, get advice from a doctor.
DO NOT RELY ON AN APP OR YOUR SMARTPHONE FOR MEDICAL ANALYSIS AS IT MAY BE INACCURATE.
6 Sleep Your Way Fit
It sounds so counter-intuitive, but getting the right quality and amount of sleep is one of the best ways to get yourself fit. Many phones have apps that you can use to make sure you’re getting the right amount of sleep. Try an app like the Sleep Cycle: smart alarm clock (which is free).
Good deep sleep allows your body and brain the time to heal, to rest and recuperate. Your smartphone can show you whether you really getting the right length and quality of sleep.
Quick tip: it’s better to keep phones and other devices away from yourself as you sleep. So just use it now and then to check. Or use it until you’ve got yourself into a great sleeping habit.
7 Lifelong Learning and Distraction make Great Exercise Companions
Life-long learning is really important to keep your brain active and keep up your cognitive reserves. Your brain and your body work better if you exercise them both.
Why not combine lifelong learning and making exercise a habit by listening to something new and interesting on your phone as you exercise?
Brain cells not feeling up to that?
How about listening to music? Make it loud and noisy to get you going or soft and soothing to distract you from the exercise you loathe.
Quick tip: You might like to know that your memory and your creativity is stimulated by exercise. It works even better if you go outside but even if you just walk around inside it helps.
8 Phone a Friend to Win the Exercise Jackpot
Another great way to keep yourself dedicated to getting fitter, is to get a buddy who keeps you accountable for getting out there and doing your exercise.
You can use the phone to call up to confirm where and when you’re meeting or to report on what you’ve done today.
If you don’t have a buddy, try an app on your phone, like Strava or Map my Fitness which records all different kinds of exercise you may do, such as cycling or yoga.
Compare your results on the apps with others who do similar exercises in your area.
Use the app to develop on-line rivalries and use that as a buddy system. (My son does that!) You might even make new friends!
You don’t have to publish your results to the world if you don’t want to. You can keep them for your own satisfaction.
But crowing with glee at a great result can be really good for keeping up your motivation and spurring you on to better results next time.
On the other hand, if you’re having a bad day, phone up a friend for some encouragement and moral support.
(Warning: you might have to put up with them crowing if they did better than you did.)
9 Tracking your Habit is Incredibly Rewarding (in 4 different ways)
Let’s say you’ve made a goal to get up and walk around for 3 minutes at least 3 times a day.
It can really help you if track the habit on your phone. An easy way is to put a smiley into your phone each time you get up and move. Or you can use one of the tracking apps listed in the infographic above.
So where are the rewards?
The additional bit of exercise releases endorphins, one of our brain’s pleasure machines. That’s your first reward!
The second reward comes from ticking off that you actually achieved your goal. That simple act makes our brains release the rewarding chemical dopamine (another of our brain’s happy chemicals). So simple and SO satisfying.
Your third reward is a nice dollop of serotonin by reflecting on your terrific achievements. Think of gazing at a month’s worth of ticks or smileys.
The fourth reward is the one you promise yourself if you keep up your streak, say every day for a week for a small reward, or a month for a bigger reward. Crow with pleasure, tell your friends and enjoy your rewards!
Quick Tip: Keep it simple, to begin with. You’re more likely to keep up your exercise habit if you track it and you’re more likely to track it, if it’s quick and easy to track.
You’ve Made Your Exercise a Habit and Now You Reap the Rewards
Think of how you’ll feel when you’ve made exercise into a habit.
Yes, it was hard at times, but it helped you so much to make exercise a habit with the tricks from your smartphone. You set your alarm, recorded your results, ticked off your goals, distracted yourself and learned a lot. Your small habits mounted up: more steps (well, nearly every day), more standing up, And you feel so much better for it.
Your friends are noticing your glow of health and saying how well you look. And it isn’t just because you phoned them all and told them!
That little bit of help from your friendly smartphone taught you how to make exercise a habit.
Now you’ve got the habit, you’re looking forward to your long life with more energy. You know what to do. Get those prompts into your smartphone so that it can remind you of how you are making exercise a habit, every single day and get to work on your new goals.
You can do it!
For more about exercising, you might like two more of my posts