Home Gym – Home fitness gets a workout with some new gear, gadgets and apps
As optimism grows with the COVID-19 vaccination rollouts and some gyms in Ontario begin to open up, many people are playing it safe and choosing to exercise at home.
After all, over the past year your home has become an office, school, restaurant, theatre and maybe even a bar. So why not a fitness studio?
Fortunately, home technology can help.
From wearable gadgets and high-tech home equipment to downloadable smartphone apps and free virtual classes, you can get into shape — regardless of your budget — and practise social distancing, too.
Here’s a look at what’s new.
GEAR: A wearable fitness tracker or smartwatch lets you choose how (and where) you want to stay fit, with whatever equipment you already have at your disposal or none at all.
Along with tracking the basics like steps taken, pace and estimated calories burned, the Fitbit Inspire 2 Fitness Tracker activity band ($129) also monitors heart rate, sleep patterns and has an integrated GPS chip to see your real-time pace and distance as you run, bike, hike, and more. It also syncs with your smartphone so you can see call and text notifications.
The new Fitbit Ace 3 ($99), on the other hand (or wrist), is ideal for kids ages six and up to help build healthy habits while they’re young. The swim-proof wearable includes new animated clock faces, customizable accessories and up to eight days of battery life.
If you’ve got a healthier budget, the top-of-the-line smartwatch is Apple Watch Series 6 (from $529), which includes an embedded ECG that can detect unusually high or low heart rates, or irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias), as well as a blood O2 monitor (pulse oximeter) to assess the amount of oxygen carried in the body by sending light into your wrist.
Especially ideal for elderly users, and/or those with a medical condition, this watch also has integrated Fall Detection which can call emergency services and select contacts if it detects a sudden drop and you don’t confirm you’re OK.
While it’s missing some health features like the blood oxygen sensor and ECG app, a less expensive Apple Watch SE (from $369) also debuted last fall.
As for home-based gear, there’s no shortage of treadmills, stationary or spinning bikes, rowing machines, ellipticals, steppers and other equipment.
For example, the Bowflex C6 Bike ($1,399; optional $169 for at-home assembly) offers a quiet ride and small footprint — ideal for tiny condos, too — and features a backlit LCD metric console, magnetic resistance (with 100 micro-adjustable resistance levels), and dual-sided pedals with toe cages.
Also included is a pair of three-pound dumbbells (which rest on cradles when not in use), and a Bluetooth-enabled heart rate armband monitor. Rest a phone or tablet above the handlebars to stream video content or position the bike in front of a television.
After enjoying success with its updated Peloton Bike+ (from $3,295, plus $49 per month for membership), Peloton last month launched its latest Peloton Tread (from $3,295, plus membership), a slightly smaller treadmill than its predecessor, and with a sharp 23.8-inch HD touchscreen that can be rotated and tilted up and down 50 degrees.
APPS: Launch the App Store (for iPhone, iPad) or Google Play store (for Android devices) and you’ll find plenty of downloads tied to fitness.
A top pick is Map My Fitness, which uses your phone’s sensors to calculate the impact of your physical activity — whether it’s a walk, jog, run, hike, or bike ride. Even your vacuuming efforts can be tracked.
Your workout is analyzed, including your time, pace and estimated calories burned, so you can see you progress and stay motivated. The app can also connect you with other users in your area to join a group. If you like, you can even share your fitness goals and results with your social network. Devices, like activity trackers and heart rate monitors, are also supported.
Also from Under Armour is the free MyFitnessPal app. Millions of foods and restaurant dishes are in the database — and you can scan the barcode food products to automatically log the info — to provide an accurate look at your caloric intake for each meal.
A similar free app is Lose It!. Simply set a goal, such as lose eight pounds in five weeks, and the program will calculate what your caloric intake should be each day.
VIRTUAL CLASSES: As for fitness and workout classes at home, the above-mentioned Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE also work with Apple Fitness+ ($12.99 per month or $99 a year). It’s a smart new video workout service that incorporates the activity metrics captured by Apple Watch, for you to visualize on an iPhone, iPad or Apple TV.
You can access studio-style workouts delivered by inspiring, world-class trainers and with motivating music from popular artists. When a workout is selected and started on an iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV, the correct workout type will automatically start on Apple Watch.
Fitness clubs, such as Planet Fitness, have also stepped up their game during the pandemic. If you’re on Facebook, or have the Planet Fitness app installed, access the company’s United We Move video workouts, for free, Monday through Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET. Trainers take you through a 20-minute (or less) workout you can do at home.
Orangetheory members (from $10 to $25 a month) also have access to Orangetheory Live, an interactive and personalized home workout. Accessed on virtually any device through a Google Chrome browser, these virtual classes have a live coach that can monitor members’ movements in real-time and provide guidance, thanks in part to the OTbeat heart-rate tracking device you can pair with the platform.
Finally, there are some fantastic — and free — YouTube workouts. They include those from Toronto-based emkfit (real name: Emily Thorne), at youtube.com/emkfit. She passionately and masterfully instructs a huge collection of HIIT (high-intensity interval training) classes, no equipment required.
Emkfit’s myriad of musical themes range from “Guitar Hero” hits from the videogame franchise and 1970s disco to the best of TikTok tracks, Latin moves, K-Pop, and even a “Rocky Horror Picture Show” class.
MENTAL HEALTH, TOO
That same smartphone used to help you stay in shape, physically, can also help you keep you remain fit, mentally.
A few worthy mindfulness and meditation apps to consider:
- If you have a few minutes to spare, the newly updated Unplug Meditation app dishes up more than 750 videos to help you hit the reset button during a hectic day. All are led by celebrated meditation teachers from around the globe.
- If you’re one of the millions who have trouble falling or staying asleep — especially these days — the free Relax Melodies from Montreal’s Ipnos Software offers a huge collection of soothing nature sounds, bedtime stories and more.
- The Calm app is loaded with guided sessions in varying lengths, ranging from three to 25 minutes, and with content designed for all meditation skill levels and that includes full seven- and 21-day programs, too.
- Other recommended calming apps include #SelfCare, Headspace, and Ten Percent Happier.
— Marc Saltzman
Home Gym – Home fitness gets a workout with some new gear, gadgets and apps]
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