Apps, gadgets and websites promote workplace wellness

Veronica Daehn Harvey

Staying healthy is a smart move. We all know this. But making it happen can be more of a challenge.

Health is important to individuals, of course, but also to employers. Why? Because healthy employees are often happier and more productive. Healthier employees miss fewer days because of illness and tend to be more engaged and productive at the office. 

But how does a job that involves for many workers hours spent sitting at a desk translate into health?

Some experts suggest turning to technology. A slew of mobile applications, gadgets and Internet websites make it easier to chart fitness goals and track steps toward those goals. Consider these:

Hotseat: This app encourages employees to take two-minute activity breaks throughout the day. Hotseat lets employees sync their calendars with the app on their smartphones and also allows them to choose their preferred activities. When an activity is scheduled, the app sends them an appointment reminder, nudging them to get up and go. The app also allows friendly competition among co-workers and tracks the activity each participant logs, so they can see when their physical activity has slipped from one week to the next. For more information, visit Price: free.

Fitbit: This wireless device comes in three options – a flexible wristband, USB-flash drive lookalike or clip-on that resembles an athletic watch. Fitbit tracks activities, calories and sleep. The Fitbit tracker offers real-time feedback on calories burned, steps taken, distance traveled, stairs climbed, hours slept and quality of sleep. It can even wake you up in the morning. Now, that’s a handy gadget to keep around. Once you get the device, you can download the free app to sync data to your iPhone or Android mobile device. For more information, visit Price: $59.95 to $99.95.

 Digifit: With such apps as Digifit iCardio, iRunner and iBiker, users can rely on their iPhones, iPads, Androids or iPod Touches to track workouts. Digifit helps users find personal heart rate zones and track cardiovascular exercise, daily activity, blood pressure, weight and sleep patterns. For more information, visit Price: free. Paid app upgrades include a heart rate monitor, custom workouts and fitness assessments.

My Fitness Pal: This website focuses on weight loss and syncs with Facebook for easy registration. My Fitness Pal allows users to record and track their food intake and exercise. The website also offers free mobile apps for iPhone and Android as well as discussion forums to make it easier to learn from others and share tips. For more information, visit Price: free.

Endomondo: This website also allows users to track fitness and goals on their smart phones — and see what their friends are doing. Endomondo encourages users to find and follow “friends” as they would on Facebook. The social aspect is designed to increase motivation to work out. Also included are personal training plans and challenges. For more information, visit Price: free to sign up. Premium accounts are available for $20 a year.

SparkPeople: This website aims to inspire people to get fit and healthy. SparkPeople offers tons of information about fitness and nutrition and includes food and exercise logs, articles, recipes, message boards and personalized fitness and meal plans. For more information,visit Price: free. Noom’s products include Noom Weight, Noom Cardio and Noom Walk for Android. Only Noon Weight is also available for the iPhone. The apps offer GPS-based workout tracking. For more information, visit Price: free. Think Facebook for fitness. This website has users create a homepage and participate in fitness challenges. The website’s tagline reads, “Social goal setting for big groups and brave individuals — it takes a village or a trash-talking co-worker.” This could be a useful tool for employers trying to encourage team fitness. For more information, visit Price: free.

These suggestions constitute just the tip of the iceberg. Many more fitness apps, gadgets and websites exist that can help employees improve their health. Which ones do you use? Tell us at