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How can technology encourage you to exercise?

It’s that dreaded time—your yearly checkup with your doctor. Your pants have grown a little snug, so you know your doctor will probably comment on your weight. But, between sitting at your work desk day in and day out, and then going straight to bed out of sheer exhaustion, it’s no wonder you’ve been skipping your workouts. There are only so many hours in the day.

Well, don’t give up on getting fit just yet! If your doctor scolds you for the holiday weight gain (or if your best friend makes a passing comment about your “form fitting outfit”), technology can help you get back in shape and feeling good without sacrificing too much of your time.

Sound too good to be true? Here are some ways fitness technologies can help encourage you to get started, and stick with a plan for real results.

Gamification makes exercise fun
Do you remember the days of the arcade game, Dance Dance Revolution, or the Wii console? Since the evolution of these fitness-oriented technologies, there’s been a growing trend in fitness called “gamification.” Fitness games (sometimes called “excergames”) typically set micro goals for you to meet, like earning points for a certain number of mile run, getting bonuses for iproving your time, or unlocking new levels for increasing the intensity of your workout. Meeting these micro goals encourages users to keep going, even if they feel discouraged by a lack of desired results like weight loss or muscle mass,which may cause them to give up in normal circumstances. In addition to the advantages of micro goals, the gamification of fitness means it’s no longer a chore to work out—it’s just plain fun.

Even better, instead of the bulky, clunky systems of yesteryear, technology now seamlessly allows users to feel like they’re actually part of the game world. For instance, Pokémon Go encourages users to get up and moving in their very own environment in order to catch coveted Pokémon characters.

Similarly, Xbox Kinect motion sensing games allow users to make physical movements in place of controller commands in order to direct their in-game characters’ movements. Imagine how much more empowering it would feel to defeat a horde of zombies with your fitness moves as opposed to boxing a stationary punching bag at the gym.

If you’re a sucker for a good cliffhanger, smartphone apps like Move and The Walk are the perfect ways to meet your daily number of steps or miles. Each chapter unfolds as you meet your goals, so if you don’t get moving, you’ll never see how the story ends. But a cautionary note: Don’t binge the whole story like you would a season of Netflix, or you’ll be sore and discouraged in the morning. Pace yourself, and let the story unfold over a few workout sessions.

See real-time results with data tracking
If that sounds great, but the thought of manually tracking your activity makes you cringe, don’t worry. These technologies can help. Instead of manually adding up calorie counts, guessing how many steps you’ve taken in a day, religiously tracking heart rate and weight, and periodically going back into old logs to see how far you’ve come, wearable fitness trackers do this automatically.

The Fitbit, Apple Watch (and the upcoming Apple Watch Nike+), and countless others have sensors that constantly track these statistics. If you can’t afford these devices, but would like a way to make tracking progress easier, a more cost effective option is to download an app like MyFitnessPal or Couch to 5K, which make it easy to import and track the data yourself.

Most of these devices and apps even output handy charts to help users easily visualize their progress. Some go so far as to provide workout suggestions based on your individual level of fitness and the progress you’ve made, taking virtually all guesswork out of exercise. And, it does all this while allowing users to listen to their favorite music or podcasts while they work out.

Fitness has never been easier
It’s incredible how a tiny device like your smartphone or digital watch can make a thing like fitness so easy. Now, you can see how many calories you burn by taking the steps up to your office, or by walking to the coffee shop on your break. These built-in mini exercises mean you may not have to sacrifice too much of your free time to get fit.

It’s no longer a chore to stay fit because wearable technology makes it fun and effortless. There’s no need to wait for your doctor or friend to say something about your weight – just grab your smartphone, download an app, and get moving, proactively. With the help of technology, you can get in shape, even if you have a busy schedule or haven’t ever stepped foot in a gym.

Have you used any of these technologies to get in shape? Share you story with others in the comments.