Fitness

Product Review: The FitBit Charge 2

(Disclaimer:  I have Amazon affiliate ads for FitBit products on this site.  If you purchase a FitBit after clicking on one of those ads, I will receive a small referral fee at no cost to you.  These ads help to support my site).

I've been wearing my FitBit Charge 2 for a little over a year now, so I've had a good opportunity to become acquainted with the features, benefits and drawbacks.

Chances are, you either currently wear a fitness tracker, or you know someone who does.  If you are still trying to determine if you want to purchase a fitness tracker, or if you are planning to replace or upgrade, then you may find this review helpful.

 

My husband decided to buy a FitBit for me when I first started walking purposefully last summer.  We went to Kohls to take a look at what they had, and I tried on the various versions.  I compared the features of each.  I liked the size and feel of the Alta, but it didn't offer all the features of the Charge 2.  The FitBit Blaze had lots of cool features but was big and heavy - a bit too manly for me and more than I wanted to spend.  The Charge 2 was, as Goldilocks says, "Just Right."  A nice fit and size, a choice of band colors (although not as many as I would like), the features were what I was looking for - steps, exercise, sleep, clock, reminders, alarm, heartrate - and the price was reasonable.  I went home with the Charge 2 and set it up.

From the minute I put it on, I have liked it.  It's not too big or heavy.  I like that it tracks my steps and keeps up with my heart rate.  I've appreciated the insights into my sleep (it reminds me when I should go to bed).  The tracker can be set to buzz on your wrist as an alarm.  The buzz seems to have lost some power since I first purchased the tracker, but it is sufficient.

The tracker syncs wirelessly with your smart phone or when you charge it.  It comes with a dongle that fits into a USB slot on your computer for charging and syncing. 

Once you have set up your tracker, you can choose other items to track on your dashboard such as food and water tracking, weight, sleep, and FitBit has recently added female health tracking and trends.  You can also participate in FitBit challenges.

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Speaking of challenges, many sites now offer syncing with your FitBit data if you so choose.  Sites like MyFitnessPal and Yes.Fit allow you to set up an interface so that they can import the data tracked by your FitBit.  Some employer wellness programs can also sync your FitBit data.  This is a nicely convenient option if you enjoy participating in challenges or programs that track your steps or your caloric intake.  (Note that you always have the option to choose whether or not you want to share your FitBit data) with these apps.  

The accessory band (sold separately, six colors available) is removable and replaceable.  I found that I had to replace my band within the first month, as the material in the original band was irritating to my skin.  I found a metallic magnetic band at WalMart for less than $20, but many options are available. 

The battery life for my FitBit is quite long - usually 5-7 days in between charges, and this number has remained steady over the past year.

Overall, I have been quite happy with my Charge 2.  The tracker has definitely helped to motivate me and to keep me aware of how much I have walked, my level of effort, and my sleep patterns.  I've enjoyed syncing it with apps like Yes.Fit for even more motivation.  It is lightweight, easy to wear, and water resistant, with a long battery life.  FitBit now has eight fitness trackers available, including a clip-type tracker for people who can't wear a wrist tracker.  Even if the Charge 2 isn't what you are looking for, one of the other styles may be.

Do you use a fitness tracker?  Has a tracker helped you to improve your fitness?  Let me know in the comments what you use, and maybe I will be able to review your tracker in the future.

 

 

How To Choose a Gym That Is Right For You

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You've made the decision to find a gym to help you with your fitness goals.  How do you choose a gym that is right for you?

This can be a confusing question when you are just starting out because you don't yet know what you need and you probably feel at least a little uncomfortable if you haven't gone to a gym in a long time, if ever.  I'm right there with you, girlfriend!  I'm in the process of choosing a gym right now because I have come to the realization that in order to move forward in my fitness journey, I need the accountability, equipment, and personal trainers that a gym provides.

So here are some criteria for choosing a gym that is right for you.

Location:

Let's start with location.  If you are in an urban area, you probably have several choices close to you.  If you are in a rural area or a small town, as I am, your choices will be much more limited.  You may have to drive a longer distance, perhaps on your way to work or school, to find a suitable gym.  How far are you willing to travel for just the right environment?  If you have to drive very far, you may decide the effort is not worth it and give up, so try to find a gym as close to your home or route to work as possible.

Hours:

You will want to try to find a gym that offers very flexible hours.  Many gyms now offer 24/7 hours, but is there a qualified, trained person on site at all times?  If you need very early or very late hours, this may be a requirement for you, but if you are more flexible in your time available, you will have more choices.  Gyms may only offer certain classes at certain hours as well, so if you really want to do a pilates class, make sure the gym you choose has the classes at a time you can attend.

Personal Trainers:

If it has been a long time since you have been to a gym or used exercise equipment, having a personal trainer to help you out the first few times at the gym will be immensely helpful to you for many reasons.  A trainer can help you assess your fitness level, what types of exercise will be most beneficial to you, how to properly use the equipment, how to use good form so that you don't injure yourself, and can provide you with a solid boost of confidence.  If you continue to use the services of a personal trainer, you will also have someone to hold you accountable and kick your butt to the next level when you are ready, which is tremendously important in helping to reach your goals.

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Trainers should be certified, courteous, and ready to help you learn.  

Equipment:

A gym should have a good assortment of cardio and strength training equipment, and should have personnel available who can help you to properly use the equipment and answer your questions.  

Environment

Are you comfortable training in a co-ed environment, or would you prefer to train in a women's only environment.  Some gyms offer times that are female only, so ask if this is important to you. 

What kind of vibe do you get from the members?  Are the members primarily buff younger people who laugh at anyone who isn't at their level of fitness, or does the gym offer a judgment free zone where all people at all levels of fitness, especially beginners, can feel comfortable?  

The environment should be clean and neat, trash should be kept emptied and equipment should be in good working order.  Check the bathrooms for cleanliness, especially around toilets and showers.  Towels should be fresh, and hand cleanser should be available.

Also be aware of the music and lighting, the space available, and whether the gym is too hot, too cool, or just right.

Classes

Are you only interested in using solo equipment, or do you want to participate in classes?  Are you classes you want offered at times that are convenient for you?  Does the gym offer the types of classes you are interested in, and do the instructors encourage beginners?  Are the instructors knowledgeable and enthusiastic?  Does the gym charge extra for group classes, and if so, how much?

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Amenities:

Most gyms provide showers.  Some provide saunas, hot tubs, swimming pools, massage chairs, sports drink bars, masseuses, and spa services.  It is up to you how many additional services you are willing to pay for.

Membership Fees

Some gyms will require you to sign up for a contract, while others will let you go month to month.  Make sure you know what you are signing up for!  Read the contract or terms of service carefully so you will fully understand your obligations, particularly if you decide to cancel your membership.  Life happens, or you may just decide that another gym would be a better fit for you.  Gyms may also require you to pay a one-time or an annual fee, as well as a fee for an access pass.  Get a list of all the fees upfront and know what you will be charged monthly.  Ask for any discounts that might be available.

Before you join a gym, schedule a tour.  Many gyms will allow a free day pass or a low cost month pass to try out the gym.  If you sign up for a low-cost month pass, find out if you will be obligated to pay a monthly membership at the end of the month or how to cancel if the gym doesn't suit you.  Go prepared with a list of questions, and spend time talking with the staff and other customers.  If you don't feel comfortable on your tour, or if you feel pressured by the staff, wait to sign on the dotted line until you've had time to consider your decision.  After all, joining a gym can be a large financial commitment.

Check reviews as well.  You will want to see what other people have to say about the gym before making your choice.

Book Review: Women Fit at Fifty: A Guide for Living Long by Mary Kathryn Macklin, MSN

Mary Kathryn Macklin, MSN, is a cardiac nurse practitioner who works daily with people who are at high risk for heart disease.  Many of her patients have been inactive and sedentary for years, are overweight, short of breath, and deconditioned.  Many have been told they need to do more to stay healthy, but they don't know where to start.  Ms. Macklin wrote this book to  help women in their fifties or nearing their fifties take simple steps to remain, or to become, healthier.

Ms. Macklin starts with a chapter on mindset, excuses and procrastination.  I think that perhaps the most common limiting belief that we have is that we are "too old" to start now, that it's too late to reverse years of unhealthy habits.  In this first chapter, Ms. Macklin encourages us to think about what our excuses are, confront the fears and excuses that cause us to procrastinate taking steps to improve our health, and develop strategies for overcoming our excuses and fears.  With this chapter, she helps us set the stage for success in developing new healthy habits.  

Ms. Macklin goes on to provide an overview of the scientific research supporting the health benefits of exercise in older adults, and in the next few chapters, she talks about heart health and blood pressure, weight, diabetes, arthritis, diet, and fibromyalgia.  Throughout these chapters, she weaves the stories of patients she has worked with over the years.  

This book does not actually lay out a step by step strategy for diet or exercise, but it does provide a good foundation for understanding why diet and exercise is so important for women in midlife, and how diet and exercise impacts our overall health and wellbeing.  She helps us to understand the reasons we need to take steps to better health, and how we can get started.  She lays our excuses out in front of us, and knocks them down, one by one.  

The book is short at 120 pages and easily readable in an afternoon.  Ms. Macklin writes with the knowledgeable warmth of many years of experience caring for patients in midlife who need both a supportive, empathetic coach and a gentle kick in the butt to get started.  If you are just starting your journey toward health in midlife, or if you are struggling with excuses and procrastination, this book will ease you into believing that it is not too late for you to develop healthy habits.  

Get Started On Your Spring Walking Routine

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The cold winds of winter have passed and spring is in the air.  Flowers are blooming, gentle breezes touch your skin, and the sun is warming up the earth.  You feel the urge to get out, get moving, and enjoy the beautiful weather.  You've been wanting to start exercising, and you've heard that walking is a great way to start (it is!)  

Here are five steps to help you get started with a daily walking routine this spring:

1.  Check with your doctor.  If it has been a long time since you have walked, or if you have a chronic health condition, check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.  The chances are that she will be thrilled that you are planning to exercise, and will be able to offer advice on how much you should try to do starting out, as well as any precautions you should take. 

2.  Get the right shoes.  Many athletic shoe companies now make shoes specifically designed for walking.  You will need shoes with a flexible sole and a low, supportive heel, because your heel will strike the ground first and then role to the ball of the foot as you walk.  Your shoes should be lightweight, breathable, and fit properly.  And if you tend to roll your foot to one side or the other as you walk, you may need special shoes or orthotic inserts.  Stores that sell running shoes often have sales people who are trained to evaluate your gait and help you choose just the right shoe.  If you haven't purchased walking shoes in a while, this can be a great resource to make sure you get shoes that will help you be comfortable and safe while walking.

3.  Learn to walk properly.  What do you mean?  I've been walking since I was a baby!  But as we age, and our joints get stiffer, we tend to lose some of the mobility we had when we were younger.  If you walk using bad posture or incorrect technique, you will end up with aches and pains you don't want (and that could derail your exercise plans - been there, done that!)  Stand tall, tuck your bottom under your hips as you walk, and maintain a loose, comfortable stride.  Look forward, not down, and relax your shoulders and arms.  

4.  Stretch.  Before and after your walk, take a few minutes to gently stretch your muscles in your legs, back, arms, and shoulders.

5.  Start slowly.  Walk for short distances to begin with and focus on enjoying yourself and taking in the surroundings.  Gradually increase the distance and time you spend walking each day, as well as your speed, as you build your endurance.  And change up your route to maintain your interest and motivation.  

Do you need support to build your walking routine?  Join us in our Facebook group!

21 Ways To Make Time For Fitness In Your Daily Routine

You know you need to be more active, but how can you fit exercise into your day when there is never enough time?

_I hear people say, 'I don't have time for fitness,' which is true. You don't have time for it. You make time for it._ --Richard Branson.png

Between work and family responsibilities, many of us feel like we are running frantically from one task to another with little time to focus on taking care of ourselves.  Here are twenty-one ways to get in some intentional exercise, no matter how busy you are.

1.  Extra steps. 

Park far away from the door at work and at stores so that you have to walk farther to reach your destination.

2.  Get up earlier. 

Rising 30 minutes earlier would let you get in a brisk 30 minute walk or jog.  Be sure to go to bed 30 minutes earlier, too, so you don't miss out on important sleep.

Photo by  Adrien Robert  on  Unsplash

Photo by Adrien Robert on Unsplash

3.  YouTube exercise videos. 

Seriously, there are a ton of free workouts available on YouTube, some of them just 7 minutes long.  And 7 minutes is better than 0 minutes.  

4.  Recover lost time. 

Do a time study on yourself.  Write down everything that you do during a day, and the time each activity takes.  Is there time in your day that you could substitute exercise for something else?  I found I was spending an hour drinking coffee and reading the news first thing in the morning to "wake up."  That's a time suck that could be better filled with exercise and a healthy green smoothie.

5.  Take the stairs. 

Stairs are great for building large muscle strength in your thighs and glutes.  Take the stairs at every opportunity!

Photo by  Anna Sullivan  on  Unsplash

Photo by Anna Sullivan on Unsplash

6.  Walking/Standing desk. 

Sitting is the new smoking, so if your workplace allows you to use a walking or standing desk, take advantage.  

7.  Office routine. 

If you work at a desk job, every hour or two, get up and walk around the office.  Set an alarm to remind you if you tend to get absorbed in your work.  A quick walkabout will allow you to return to your work refreshed and re-focused.

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8.  Desk Exercise. 

That sedentary desk job is not helping your physical fitness.  Take a few minutes every hour to work in some stretching, lunges or squats, calf raises, glute squeezes, or wall pushups.  

9.  Desk weights. 

Keep a pair of small hand weights at your desk, and do a few reps of curls, shoulder presses and  throughout the day.

10.  TV Exercise. 

Instead of kicking back to watch your favorite show, use that time to get in some exercise time.  Treadmill, stationary cycle, marching in place, squats, weights, leg lefts.  

11.  Bedtime stretching. 

As part of your before bedtime routine, engage in slow stretching exercises or yoga.  You'll maintain your flexibility and the relaxing stretches will help you sleep better.

Photo by  Lena Bell  on  Unsplash

Photo by Lena Bell on Unsplash

12.  Dance your way to a cleaner house. 

When you are cleaning, turn on the party music and bust out the dance moves.  You'll be more physically active and house cleaning will be way more fun.

13.  Multi-Tasking. 

Cooking in the kitchen, washing dishes, and folding laundry can be physical exercise time, too.  Add some squats and wall push ups as you go through your tasks.

14.  Shared time. 

Get in some quality time with your spouse, children, or BFF by going for a walk after work.  It's a great way to catch up with focused, undistracted conversation while improving physical fitness.

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15.  Team sports. 

If you are used to waiting in the car while your children are at team sports practices, get out of the car and walk around the building, field, or parking lot.  Get your exercise while they get theirs.

16.  Playtime. 

Are you taking the kids or grand kids to the park or playground?  Instead of sitting on the bench, get up and play with them,  Run around, climb on the equipment, slide down the slides, jump in puddles, play ball.  You might start to feel like a kid again.

Photo by  Justin Young  on  Unsplash

Photo by Justin Young on Unsplash

17.  Join a class. 

If you pay for it and there are other people there, you will feel more obligated and committed to go.  Better yet, join with a friend or your spouse.

Photo by  bruce mars  on  Unsplash

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

18.  Running errands and getting to work. 

For errands close to home, walk or ride your bike. If your job is local, ride your bike or walk to work.  If you take public transportation, get off at an earlier stop and walk the rest of the way.

Photo by  Anna Sullivan  on  Unsplash

Photo by Anna Sullivan on Unsplash

19.  Change your friend activities. 

Instead of getting together for lunch, coffee, or a movie, meet up for a physical activity - golf, tennis, or bowling.  Planning a get-together with work mates or friends?  Suggest a fun and physical team activity like paintball or a charity walk.

20.  Reading exercise.  

Do you love to read?  Get your books on audio and walk while you listen.

21.  Yard Work. 

You can burn a lot of calories working in your yard or garden.  Using a push mower, raking, digging, turning compost, and carrying bags of soil, rocks, bricks, will all build muscle and stamina.  And you'll have a beautiful yard as well!

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Do you have more ideas for fitting exercise into your busy day?  Share them in the comments!