The Freshman 15: Apps and fitness gadgets to keep you healthy at college

Whether you need to grab a workout in just 7 minutes to make a meal out of ramen, these apps deserve a spot on every health-conscious student's phone.

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Take charge of your health

One of the hardest things to learn when you get to college is how to really take care of yourself. I had to make a conscious effort to eat healthier food than just cereal and corner-store burritos, to get enough sleep (read: any sleep), and to find time to exercise. I didn’t do such a great job—in fact, I worked my way right into an ulcer my first year away from home, because, as it turns out, coffee is not food. Luckily, today’s students can get some help from the technology they’re carrying around anyway. These 15 health-aware gadgets and apps can make it easier to eat right, exercise enough (or… at all), and get high-quality ZZZ’s.

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Misfit Shine

“But wearable fitness trackers are ugly,” you say. Wrong! Meet the Misfit Shine, the prettiest of the fitness wearables. This $100 gadget can track steps, cycling, swimming, and sleep and can be worn anywhere on the wrist, shoes, waist, pocket, or neck. At 9.4 grams, you’ll hardly feel the weight. It doesn’t require any charging, instead relying on a watch battery that should last about six months. And it’s long on style, coming in several colors, with great-looking accessories like the Bloom Necklace (shown here) and the Pebbled Leather Band.

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Jawbone UP24

“But I hate having to sync trackers,” you say. Well, the Jawbone UP24 is a crowd favorite for a number of reasons: It’s tiny, discrete, and uses Bluetooth to stay connected to your smartphone so you can track steps, distance, calories, active time, idle time and sleep without having to stop and sync.

Available in six colors, the $150 UP24 can also sync with other health-conscious apps like RunKeeper, MyFitnessPal, Strava, and MapMyFitness. More integrations focus on healthy eating—if you use Prep Pad, the smart food scale from Orange Chef, for example, the meals you create can be automatically logged in the UP app, and Prep Pad can factor in your fitness activity from UP when giving calorie and nutrition recommendations.

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“But I’m terrible at running and I’ll probably just hurt myself,” you say. Preorder Moov, which gives you real-time audio feedback as you run or exercise in order to correct your form and prevent strain. Moov can measure your landing impact, for example, and will tell you to shorten your stride and land softer. It will also motivate you via cues, telling you when it’s time to work on more strength training instead of say, cardio. The $80 Moov is even waterproof—a bonus for swimmers looking to track their laps.

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Mio Link

Mio Link : If you don’t have a lot of time to work out, using a heart rate monitor can help you exercise at peak efficiency—after all, pushing yourself hard for 20 minutes is better than walking on the treadmill for an hour reading US Weekly and barely breaking a sweat. Heart rate chest straps are the worst, sweaty and uncomfortable, but luckily you don’t need one. Instead, strap the $99 Mio Link around your wrist to get a continuous display of your heart rate via colored dots on the front of the band. It offers both Bluetooth Smart and ANT+ connectivity so it’s easy to pair it to your favorite app or fitness device. And if you’d rather see your heart rate in easy-to-read numbers rather than colored dots, the $199 Mio Alpha does the same thing with a real-time heart rate display.

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Zombies, Run!

Hate running but love zombies? Who doesn’t! And have we ever got an app for you! Zombies, Run! for iOS and Android provides you with a story-line to help motivate those miles. Once you start your mission, you must run faster to escape the zombie noises in the plot and you can pick up useful items as you run to build your base. (Pro Tip: Let people know where and when you’re running with React Mobile, a clever safety app every college student should have on his or her phone.)

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7 Minute Workout

But I don’t have time to workout, you say. And so I share with you my favorite exercise cheat: the 7 Minute Workout app. Get the most workout out of the least amount of time by letting the app lead you through a quick series of squats, sit-ups, and jumping jacks, all based on the popular 7-Minute Workout featured in the New York Times. The app stores are all stuffed with similar apps, but we like this one for its countdown timers, video examples of the exercises, and it’s only $2 to upgrade to the pro version, which lets you randomize the exercises and keep a log. It’s also in the Amazon Appstore, and coming soon to Google Play.



“But I don’t even like to work out,” you say. And to that I’m going to say: Get your heart rate up in other ways, like dancing along to Jamo. This iPhone app requires you to use a bigger screen—either a TV with a Chromecast or an Apple TV, or a computer. On that big screen, a dancer will lead you through aerobic dance routines set to popular songs, and you just hold your phone and shimmy along as best you can. Your phone’s motion sensors track your moves to score you points, and you can challenge your friends to beat your high scores. It’s just as fun as dancing games for the Nintendo Wii and Xbox Kinect, but you don’t need a console, or enough room for a camera to see you—great for tight dorm spaces.



“But I already have several apps and trackers and doo-dads,” you say. And I say, doo-dads? Okay Flanders, just get the Nudge app for iOS and Android to collate all the data from a healthy selection of apps, including Moves, Fitbit, RunKeeper, Strava, and MapMyFitness. (It even works with that spiffy Jawbone UP24 we mentioned earlier.) Get one score in the Nudge app, and get an overall view of your hydration, nutrition, exercise, and sleep. If there’s something you need to add to Nudge, it only takes a few taps to add it manually.



“But I can’t motivate myself, you say.” That’s easy: Just get someone else to kick your butt into gear. DailyBurn gives you access to a video library of workouts by pro trainers, so it’s great for college students on weird schedules. Still not enough one-on-one help? Try Wello, which offers group or solo classes from personal trainer via live video feed—the trainer can see you over your webcam, so you get real-time feedback.

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Fitlist and Sworkit

Sticking with a workout routine is easier when you can see that you’re actually making progress. Fitlist lets you input your exercises and routines, and will track you as you do them to provide you with charts tracking your progress over time. Sworkit takes it a step further by giving you workouts to choose from (or building your own), and most of the workouts can be done anywhere.



“But I can’t find a gym I like,” you say. Not with that attitude! If your school’s fitness center doesn’t have what you’re looking for, Gymsurfing for iOS and Android will find a list of gyms near you, and you can book discount passes for as low as $5 a session. If you find one you like, some gyms also offer discount weekly and monthly passes. No membership talks or contracts involved! This one is also an excellent tool to use when traveling.

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“But I’m lousy at eating right,” you say. Well, I just had a Toaster Strudel for dinner so we could probably both use MealBoard to plan meals, store recipes, and create groceries lists of, you know: actual food. The app combines the best parts of other apps to provide plenty of features, from importing recipes, to making meals from leftover ingredients, to keeping track of what’s in your pantry. If you just want suggestions for healthier versions of the foods you already like, be sure to check out Nutrino before you shop. Once you move off-campus and you’re in charge of feeding yourself, a little planning goes a long way toward maximizing your food budget with minimal time and effort.

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Rockin Ramen

“But I am broke and subsist on ramen,” you say. And ramen is awesome, say I. Just take a tip from the ramen houses in my neighborhood and jazz up your sad packet of salty noodles to include enough vegetables and proteins to make it an actual meal. Rockin Ramen provides you 16 absolutely free recipes to elevate your ramen to the next level—think Vegetable Primavera and Shrimp Pasta. Maybe you’ll be able to eat a whole case of ramen without getting too sick of it.

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“But… alcohol?” you say. While beer probably shouldn’t be a major part of your food pyramid, if you’re going to imbibe, it’s fun to know if mixing Diet Coke with your Malibu instead of regular Coke really makes a difference. Keep track of nutrition facts and calorie counts using DrinkFit for iOS or Android, which lists data for more than 1,600 drinks, mixers, and ready-made beverages. It also lets you track evenings out, in case you need help remembering how long you were drinking and how many calories you chugged. (And please stay safe out there.)

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Sleep Cycle

If after all this, you still don’t manage to get your exercise and diet under control, at least try to get some good-quality sleep. Launch Sleep Cycle on iOS or Android and set your phone on your mattress, and the app will use your phone’s motion sensors to monitor your movements while you sleep. Use this data to see if you sleep better after exercising, or if you take 20 minutes to meditate, or if you manage to abstain from coffee after 8pm. Sleep Cycle can also find the best time in your REM cycle to wake you up, within a 30 minute window. It’s nicer than jolting awake to a beeping alarm every morning, but if you’re gonna be late for class, an alarm will still sound at the end of your wakeup window.

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