Hurry Up, I’m Bored! Overcoming Fitness Challenges with Apps

We all have challenges when it comes to fitness. Although it is hard to admit, one of my biggest fitness hurdles is that I find it difficult to stick with a workout beyond the first few times because I get bored very quickly. As a full-time working mom, it can also be challenging finding time to exercise. To overcome these obstacles, I am always on the lookout for a new, quick and easy way to work out!

Fitness apps are a great solution. The options available online seem endless, but one of my favorites is the C25K app by Zen Labs. This “Couch to 5K” free app takes you on an eight-week journey towards completing a 5K race. It starts out very slowly in the first week with 60 seconds of jogging, alternating with 90 seconds of walking, for a total of 20 minutes. Gradually, the app takes you up to three minutes of jogging in Week 3, ten minutes in Week 6 and 30 minutes and three miles by the end of the eight-week program.

The beauty of the C25K program is you don’t have to keep track of the time intervals since the app does all that for you! You simply start walking and jogging when it tells you to. This means you can just focus on your music, podcast, TV show, or whatever you like to watch or listen to while you work out, keeping your mind occupied.

Because the program builds up the jogging time slowly, you don’t feel like you are stressed or overdoing it at any time. Also, you can do the C25K plan indoors on a treadmill or outside—it’s up to you.

The program is designed to have you work out three times a week, allowing time for other kinds of exercise, like strength training, and those all important days of rest. If you miss a workout or two, the app sends gentle and encouraging reminders to help you get back on track. You can also join the C25K community on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to get inspiration from others and share stories from your own journey!

If I find myself really pressed for time, I squeeze in a quick workout using the 7 Minute Workout app by Perigee. This app takes you through a series of quick, yet effective exercises combined with short rests for a full body workout in just seven minutes. If you like, you can set up to five repeating circuits on the app for a longer workout.

The exercises illustrated on the screen are easy to follow. A voice guides you through each exercise and a whistle tells you when to stop and start, so no tracking is required on your part. The workout gets your heart rate up, but is not too strenuous for beginners. Also, the app incorporates tracking, achievement rewards and levels to unlock as you progress to keep you motivated.

The MedStar Health iBars in Bel Air and Lafayette Centre serve as places where patients can get assistance and education on wearables and apps that help them to proactively manage their health. Helping patients download and navigate apps like C25K and 7 Minute Workout, the iBar ensures our patients have tools at their fingertips to manage a stress-free exercise regimen.

As we get older, exercise and fitness become more important, not just in terms of how we look, but as a way to help prevent serious chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease. For those of us struggling with workout boredom and busy schedules, finding something quick and easy can be the key to sticking to your fitness routine for a lifetime.

Visit the MedStar iBar

Get in-person support with health and wellness apps, monitoring devices and wearables at the iBar.

The Weight Loss App that Changed my Life

Growing up, I had a very complicated relationship with food. I think that many women can relate. Many of us were taught that food is something that should be curbed in order to avoid unsightly weight gain. For me, food was always less about nourishment, and more about limitations.

Throughout my childhood, my father warned me about the outcome of overeating and overindulgence by using his family members as an example. “They are obese and now they’re suffering,” he would say. “They have diabetes and other health complications because they don’t take care of themselves. You don’t want to turn out like that.”

On the flip side, my mother and her two sisters were always trying to lose weight and be thin—not by nutritional means or exercise, but through deprivation. They would belittle my oldest sister for becoming overweight, shaming her for her lack of self-control.

As a child, I internalized everything I was told and heard. Through this, I developed a fear of fat and an incessant, consuming struggle with binge eating. Weight gain would sneak up on me, as if I didn’t have control over my body.

I hate feeling out of control. I like to prepare and plan. I like to know what’s going to happen. That’s why I made the decision to take control. On my 30th birthday, I didn’t wake up feeling depressed. I woke up feeling empowered. I had been steadily gaining weight for years, but that morning I made the decision to do something about it. I didn’t want to feel afraid of fat anymore.

I downloaded my first calorie-counting app, MyFitnessPal. It made calorie counting, food tracking and losing weight easy. After downloading the app, I put in my current weight, my activity level and my weight loss goals. After selecting that I wanted to lose one pound per week, MyFitnessPal automatically calculated what my daily calorie intake should be. Throughout the day, I was able to quickly add and log everything I ate, from store-bought food to fast food to food from my favorite restaurants. I was even able to add my own homemade recipes and track my calorie intake by portion size. The best part? Not only is MyFitnessPal completely free—it works! The pounds came off gradually and I was able to keep the weight off.

MyFitnessPal not only changed my life, it saved my life. Once I started monitoring my calorie intake, I was shocked by how much I had been overeating. But that only encouraged me to make healthier choices and control my portions. Over the course of two years, I lost close to 65 pounds.

I give MyFitnessPal full credit. I never believed in gimmicky fad diets. Sure, you’ll see instant results but those results are not sustainable. I wanted to lose weight the healthy way and MyFitnessPal enabled me to do that. It changed my entire outlook on eating and gave me the insight to form better eating habits. I continue using it to this day, four years after I first discovered it in the App Store. This year I even bought my first fitness tracker, the Jawbone UP2, which seamlessly syncs with MyFitnessPal. I use both to help me keep track of my food, sleep and physical activity.

This past summer, I was excited to see MedStar Health open their iBar in Bel Air and Lafayette Centre. The MedStar iBar serves as a place where patients can get assistance and education on wearables and health apps that help them to make better decisions. Offering training on apps like MyFitnessPal and wearables like the Jawbone, patients with struggles like mine will have the support and resources to better engage with their health and manage their weight.

My Jawbone health coach encourages me every day to live my best life. But now, that life isn’t just about me. I am embracing a healthy lifestyle because I want to set a positive example for my daughters. I don’t want them to grow up feeling the same pressure I did. I want them to always feel secure in their appearance and always see how beautiful they really are. And if they gain weight or lose weight, I want them to learn to love themselves at every size.

Visit the MedStar iBar

Get in-person support with health and wellness apps, monitoring devices and wearables at the iBar.

3 Reasons for “Genius Bars” in Health Care

As health care continues to move into the digital age of convenient access and connected data, health systems across the country are repurposing ideas leveraged in other industries to better engage both patients and providers. Take Oschner Health System’s “O Bar,” for example. Modeled after Apple’s Genius Bar, the New Orleans-based health system’s “O Bar” was launched in 2014 in order to provide in-person support for health and wellness apps, monitoring devices and other wearable technology. Other health systems are following suit, including Morristown Medical Center’s HealtheConnect, MedStar Health’s iBar at multi-specialty care centers in Bel Air and Lafayette Centre, and Sibley Memorial Hospital’s technology concierge center in their new patient tower.

Recognizing that customer service is a key differentiator between competitors, MedStar launched the iBar pilot over the past summer in an effort to deliver personalized assistance for patients wanting to learn more about digital health tools. The iBar is a mechanism for fostering more meaningful interaction between providers and patients. It's really about helping our patients actively participate in their health and wellness. It’s intended to create a new pattern of interaction between the health system and the patients they care for.

Digital specialists staff the iBar, assisting patients with apps and technology that can help improve their health and wellness, including a monitor that tracks blood pressure through a wireless cuff and weight loss mobile apps.

While there is not yet proof of improved longevity as a result of mobile apps and devices, 85 percent of providers believe that the use of wearables helps patients engage with their health1. And as the use of health apps and wearables has doubled over the past two years1, there is a resounding need for patient support in filtering through the hundreds of thousands of health apps available. Not convinced yet? Here are three reasons for implementing “Genius bars” in health care.

Digital Ambulatory Strategist Megan Doty stationed at MedStar Health at Bel Air's iBar
Digital Ambulatory Strategist Megan Doty stationed at MedStar Health at Bel Air's iBar

  1. Increased Patient Engagement: Digital health technology empowers patients to proactively manage their health and wellness. Supporting utilization of these tools ensures patients are using the most effective tools to help them make impactful health and wellness decisions.
    • Example: Maria wants a digital tool to help her be accountable for losing weight. A MedStar iBar specialist assists Maria with downloading myFitnessPal, a weight loss application. Maria sets a realistic weight loss goal under the direction of her primary care provider and learns how to track her food intake. Maria begins tracking her food and weight and is able to make food decisions based on the progress and recommendations reflected in the app.
  2. Enhanced Patient Experience: Patients have come to expect the same seamless interaction with their healthcare providers as they do with other products and services. Providing a single point of service for assistance with digital health tools enables health systems to match the level of personalized customer service experienced across other industries.
    • Example: Steven wants to log in to his myMedStar patient portal account in order to review a summary of his visit from a week ago. He’s having trouble remembering his password, so he stops by MedStar’s iBar to receive assistance. The iBar specialist helps Steven reset his password. While reviewing his medical records, Steven realizes he needs to schedule a visit with a specialist. The iBar specialist helps Steven access MedStar’s Find A Doctor, where Steven can view provider profiles and schedule an appointment online. Steven is now able to log in to his myMedStar account on his own, and he has an appointment scheduled with a specialist at a time that is convenient for him.
  3. Better Outcomes: Providers believe that patients actively involved in managing their health tend to have better outcomes while also costing the system less. Educating patients on how this digital health data can support their discussions with their healthcare providers enables them to take action. Digital health tools enable providers to make more informed clinical decisions and patients to more easily change their behavior, particularly as it relates to managing chronic diseases.
    • Example: Amy’s doctor wrote a mock prescription for her to visit the MedStar iBar and learn how to monitor her sleeping, blood pressure and exercise. The iBar specialist demonstrates relevant mobile apps for Amy and shows her to view all of the data collected in her iPhone Health app. The next time Amy visits her doctor, she reviews her data in the app dashboard, which helps inform the doctor’s recommendations.

What’s Next?

In order to move the needle on patient engagement outcomes through the utilization of digital tools, health systems need to provide incentives for consumers — and clinicians. Financial incentives among payers and members of health plans will result in increased adoption of digital health tools.

In addition to incentives, health systems need to establish platforms and processes for flowing consumer data seamlessly to medical records. Today much of the data generated by health apps and devices is isolated outside of the Electronic Health Record. For high-risk chronic  disease patients, providing mobile apps and wearable lifestyle tracking devices that sync with a medical record—particularly for high-risk chronic disease patients—is more effective for intervention in real-time, rather than relying on self-reporting. "Doing so facilitates a truly balanced partnership between the patient and the clinical care team, which is really the goal for improving outcomes," notes Ruiz.

1Accenture 2016 Consumer Survey on Patient Engagement



Visit the MedStar iBar

Get in-person support with health and wellness apps, monitoring devices and wearables at the iBar.