Find your waistline, your iPhone can help

By TaylorGleason

Telephones have evolved from party lines at home to individualized mobile centers that enable people to talk, text, e-mail, find their GPS location—and now log hours spent at the gym and calories consumed.

As the use of iPhone applications continues to rise, one genre of applications has recently moved up the rank in popularity. Research firm Gartner placed health-oriented applications No. 5 on its list of the top ten mobile applications that will define the mobile world in 2012.

“I think having the mobile devices enables people to keep all the information,” said Jean Louis Gareau, creator of VidaOne, a workout-tracking application that began as computer software.

“The industry itself has really evolved over the last 10 years,” said Aaron Morrison, an independent personal trainer who works at HiFi Fitness in Lincoln Park. “One of the successes is that tracking information [on applications] creates accountability.”

Morrison said he has seen many health-conscious people use applications in order to track their workouts. He said the benefit of a tracking mechanism with objective information is the bigger picture, which helps people see where they have an opportunity to improve their training.

“I think there definitely has to be a report,” Morrison said. “A created report with goals, data and someone’s body composition. I learned ten years ago that you have to apply an objective report … that is more important than teaching someone to bench press.”

VidaOne was released as a computer software program 10 years ago, Gareau said.

Today, he said, 100,000 people use it to track their workouts.

“It allows you to enter data when you work out,” Gareau said. “You can enter all the weights and exercises.”

Morrison’s mantra is that a log of workouts offers accountability to people who are training.

Other features that supplement the workout log on VidaOne, Gareau said, include a GPS program that allows runners to record their route.

Gareau added that his application is not only for athletes, but any person who is interested in fitness and keeping a tab on their general well-being.

It should be noted, however, that Gareau maintains that VidaOne, nor any other application, can replace the role of a true fitness instructor.

“One thing we really don’t do is we don’t tell people what to do,” Gareau said. “No software can take the place of a nutritionist and their advice.”

A health log can, however, help an instructor fully understand and advise a client, Morrison said.

“I could look at somebody’s intake and output,” Morrision said, which would give him information on which to base the workout he prepares for his clients.

The intake—food and calories—is also an area of concentration for most people interested in their health. GoodGuide is an iPhone application that aids consumers in making healthful food choices.

“GoodGuide is like a database or encyclopedia,” said GoodGuide co-founder Dara O’Rourke. “We want to help personalize the information specifically for child and adult consumers.”

GoodGuide began with the idea to create an application that could scan barcodes for a person while they were grocery shopping.

O’Rourke said the phone carriers were not supportive of the endeavor at the time, and instead of a phone application, was created.

“We get millions of people coming to, but we see the vast majority of purchasing decisions are made right at the moment [away from the computer] in the grocery store or restaurant,” O’Rourke said. “We see the move toward everything going mobile.”

While O’Rourke recognizes the vast market there is for an application that focuses on weight loss, he said that is not the focus of GoodGuide. He said the program is based on a team of scientists who rate food choices based on nutrition, environmental and social impact.

“This is a push for greater transparency with food labels,” O’Rourke said. He added that nutrition labels are often confusing and serving suggestions change so frequently that consumers need help with making nutrition choices.

Goals for GoodGuide in the next six months to a year, O’Rourke said, are to add consumer ratings on top of the scientific evaluations to add the level of validity for other consumers.

He said he also envisions incorporating recipes and shopping lists according to a person’s interests in the application.

Although these applications meet many needs, Morrison was clear to say that they will not guarantee a person’s success in health training.

He said oftentimes people are aware of where they can improve, but it is just a matter of actually following through.

But the options are out there and according to O’Rourke, it is majorly due to Apple’s support to anyone and everyone who builds an application.

“Apple has really revolutionized the mobile phone world,” O’Rourke said.