Health & Fitness

Move or die: Apps that motivate you to exercise

The MotionX-24/7 app displays a straightforward message, and it has many functions, such as tracking steps taken and hours slept.
The MotionX-24/7 app displays a straightforward message, and it has many functions, such as tracking steps taken and hours slept. The Washington Post

As many fellow desk jockeys know, sitting is killing us. Countless articles have detailed how it harms our cardiovascular system and makes us gain weight. And as someone who has packed on the pounds since I went from part-time to full-time work, I can ruefully attest to the latter.

So I’ve been scared into trying to work while standing at my desk. My goal, given a bad back and the fact that I sometimes find it easier to concentrate when sitting, is to stand at least two hours each morning and a little while in the afternoon. That leaves a lot of sitting time, so I try to remember to get up for a few minutes every hour. But editing is an immersive task, and a newsroom can be noisy. I often shut out the rest of the world as I focus on what’s on the screen – and forget to move.

Two apps promised to nudge me out of that zone. Both send alerts by text and sound when a user has been idle too long. The user decides how long that is by inputting a start and end time for the reminders, the frequency and the days of the week.

This is fine, though I wish these apps had something akin to a snooze button, so I could ask them to remind me again in a few minutes if I’m in the middle of something I can’t drop. Without that reminder option, I often just keep plugging away, glued to my chair.

Move Your App doesn’t do anything other than remind you to get up. Much as I appreciate that simplicity, I found the messages it displays a little irritating: e.g. “ ‘I’m so proud to be the best sitter ever!’ Said no one ever . . . Move Your App!”

Platform: iOS.Cost: Free.


MotionX-24/7 displays a more straightforward message, and it has many more functions, such as tracking steps taken and hours slept. It even lets you measure your resting heart rate. I don’t need all those options, but some of them appeal to me.

For example, I appreciate being able to track my steps. It has been a real wake-up call to see how few steps I manage on the days I don’t walk my dogs for a mile or two. Plus, the app can differentiate between regular steps and aerobic steps (the kind that count toward the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended 2 ½ hours weekly of brisk walking). The only problem is, you must have the iPhone on your person at all times, and tracking steps drains the battery.

I tried the sleep tracker just for fun on a couple of nights. But as it said my sleep was 99 percent efficient and I still awoke feeling tired, I have my doubts about its efficacy. Not to mention, I don’t want to sleep that close to my iPhone. I also measured my resting heart rate (because who can resist using your phone’s flash to take your pulse?) and Googled the results to find out whether my rate is good for my age – but I doubt I’ll do it often.

Still, unless and until I get one of those wristband activity trackers, I plan to keep MotionX-24/7 on my phone. I just hope developers will add a snooze button.

Platform: iOS (considering an Android version). Cost: 99 cents.