The New Age of Digital Fitness | Body | Hudson Valley | Hudson Valley; Chronogram
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The New Age of Digital Fitness 

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Olsen's initial, predigital attempts to change his diet and lifestyle resulted in slow progress. "I would drop 10 or 20 pounds, but then I'd get stuck and have to change something at the gym or in my diet," he says. It took him four years to shed the first 50 pounds—but he dropped the last 50 pounds in just the past two years. In the end, it came down to food choices. "I was really able to lose a lot of weight and get healthy because of what entered through my lips. I'd been eating foods that were very unhealthy; as a new dad, it had been easier to go through the fast food drive-thru. Gradually, I changed that. When I made the commitment to eating real, whole foods, it was like taking Earth medicine. I feel like a brand-new person."

Something else happened in the last two years that helped Olsen transform: He tapped into the power of social media. "Instagram is where I do most of my fitness and health posting," he says. "I put my journey on there." Olsen, who goes by the handle EatRightTrainRight, has about 1,000 followers on Instagram and posts about once a day; he also uses Twitter. "I'll put up a recipe, a workout, or whatever I'm doing—whether it's walking the bridge, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or taking the dog for a walk. I like to remind people that getting fit doesn't have to mean going to the gym." Social media keeps him accountable, and it also gives him a chance to see what like-minded individuals are doing. Such information-sharing has been invaluable. "People that I follow would post links on the negative aspects of wheat or sugar or alcohol. I was able to see, wow, this is why I'm not as healthy as I want to be—because I have this or that in my diet. I used to think I could eat a three- or four-dollar bag of pretzels after school, but that wasn't a good choice. Now I'll have almonds or bananas or Greek yogurt, something with real nutrition. Instagram brought all that to the surface."

Motivation, Yes—Accuracy, No

Not everyone is waving their pompoms about the digital health and fitness craze. Keith Laug—a personal trainer and the owner of Hudson Valley Fitness in Beacon—views the new trend with cautious skepticism. He doesn't use apps or gadgets himself, but quite a few of his clients come into his boot-camp classes or one-on-one sessions wearing activity trackers like the Fitbit or NikeFuel. "They have varying results, because the accuracy of these devices is not that great," says Laug. One client used two different activity trackers when she went out for a run and got two totally different results. Another client's wristband signaled that he reached his goal at eight in the morning, before he'd even started his workout. Laug has also seen gadgets get lost or broken, especially during activities that involve sweating or water. "A lot of clients will use one for a while and get something out of it, but then they'll see the inaccuracies and it just turns into a fancy watch," he says.

"Every month, there's another technology coming out, another app or wearable; they're trying to tackle the inaccuracies, but it's going to be hard to do," adds Laug. "Especially when it comes to measuring your fitness levels. With that, you're better off working with a trainer or fitness professional to get an accurate reading of where you're at." Offering the tech-expert point of view, Stone agrees that step-tracking technologies still have a good deal of kinks: "Your body has a lot of motions to it, so figuring that out through a gadget on your wrist isn't easy." But he ensures that other device features, like blood pressure monitoring and GPS, are trustworthy. And despite his grain-of-salt talk, Laug concedes that apps, gadgets, and social media can be great motivational tools. "If it's going to get you up off the couch and moving, I'm all for it," says Laug. "But you shouldn't be relying on it."

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