By Melanie Carvell

We all know the downside to spending too much time on our phones, iPads, and computers, but what about capitalizing on the benefits technology can have for our health?

There has been an explosion of fitness technology options in the last decade. Twenty-one percent of Americans use fitness trackers—tracking metrics such as steps, sleep habits, heart rate, and nutrition. Some scientific studies show that these trackers are not particularly effective at helping users lose weight; but other studies show that users are much more likely to accumulate at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily, leading to a long list of health benefits. Many people find that tracking activity is helpful in boosting motivation, and anything that helps us get up and moving is a good thing!

The options for health and wellness technology are endless, but some of my favorites include:

Who doesn’t love getting immersed in a television series without commercial interruption? My non-negotiable rule: I can’t watch the next episode of “Call the Midwife” or “Doc Martin” unless I am in motion—doing some sort of strength or cardio at the same time.

This impressive online workout company was developed by a registered dietician and her personal trainer husband. Together, they coach participants through over 500 challenging—but easy to follow—free workout videos, most requiring very little fitness equipment. I appreciate their down-to-earth style, the modifications that provide for all fitness levels, and the fact that they don’t sell any nutritional supplements.

Join this online fitness challenge anytime for about $5 a month. This group is ultra-supportive and positive with tons of resources to improve your running, swimming, and cycling. Health focuses also include strength training, nutrition, and mindfulness. One of my pals was able to dump added sugars from her diet (including her Dr. Pepper habit) as a result of this nurturing, supportive, and educational group.

In our busy, stressed-out, divisive world, we could likely all benefit from a personal meditation practice more than ever. Taking some quiet time—even just five minutes—to take some deep breaths can do wonders for our physical and mental health. Easy-to-use apps can demystify meditation techniques and help guide us on the way to making it a part of our day. Insight Timer, Breathe2Relax, and Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics are helpful meditation apps that have a wealth of free guided meditations and they are easy to follow. The Gratitude Journal app is an easy way to take note daily of the many things you are thankful for—a proven technique to add more peace and joy into your day.

Working together in either virtual or face-to-face fitness challenges can make our workouts fly by while we are having fun chasing our goals. Research shows that we are likely to work 50 percent harder when we workout with others rather than when we exercise alone. New technology has made its way to our local indoor cycling classes, helping us to collectively work harder to meet group goals and individual goals that are visible and energizing, while improving our fitness level in measurable—and fun—ways.

And of course, don’t forget to take technology breaks as well. Head out on your own without your headphones or grab a pal or a furry friend to enjoy the fresh air and the many health benefits to just spending some time in nature, no matter the season. Hopefully we will be able hear the meadowlarks sing on a hike or run soon!   

Melanie lives in Bismarck with her husband, Charles, and her dog, Case. She is an author, health and wellness speaker, and grandmother of six. She loves sharing her fitness enthusiasm with others and hopes to see you in one of her cycling classes soon.