New year, new you

Be your best self with a boost from wellness tech

It’s a new year, a fresh start, and perhaps you’re looking to improve something about yourself in 2023. Maybe your goal is to slim down (post-pandemic), exercise more, or even take more Zen moments during your busy day.

Whether it’s to strengthen your body or your mind, or perhaps a bit of both, you can get as much help as you need from the latest smart apps and at-home equipment—after all, there’s no shortage of software and hardware to point you in the right direction.

Fit as a fiddle
Even with a slowdown in sales following the pandemic, the home fitness equipment industry is expected to continue growing in the coming years—from $14 billion in 2021 to almost $22 billion by 2028—according to data published by Research and Markets.

After enjoying success with its updated Peloton Bike+ ($3,295), Peloton’s latest is Tread ($4,495 + $55/month All Access Subscription), a premium treadmill for walking, jogging and running. It offers instructor-led classes on its nearly 24-inch HD touchscreen, which can be rotated and tilted up and down by 50 degrees. 

Slightly smaller than its predecessor, Tread is ideal for both casual users and those training for a marathon (and anyone in between), as video content selection is vast—including a Tread Bootcamp, Road to 5K program. There’s also a new feature dubbed ‘Just with Goals’ which allows you to set a goal for distance and time. See and compare your metrics, workout history, and athletes can opt in for social network integration.

While home fitness behemoths like Peloton fuse video instructors with its exercise equipment, its popular Peloton App ($16.99/month after 30-day free trial) can be used with or without at-home hardware, and can be accessed on several devices: iPhone, iPad, Android phones, Android tablets, Fire tablets, Android TV, Fire TV, Apple TV, Roku, or the web.

The Peloton App membership offers access to thousands of live and on-demand classes, covering several workout types, including indoor cycling, running, walking, bootcamp, strength, yoga, outdoor (audio-only) classes, and curated music.

You can see metrics and performance tracking to keep you motivated, plus you can see other members taking the same class as you. (Note: Peloton’s All-Access membership gives you access to the Peloton App, at no extra charge, but not the other way around.)

Vancouver’s Lululemon has also kicked its way into home fitness. When it’s off, it’s a mirror. When it’s on, lululemon Studio ($995, plus $49/month for membership fee) is an interactive home gym that streams live and on-demand classes from top trainers. 

Designed to fit any room and transform two feet of wall space into your personal fitness studio, exercise categories include kickboxing, strength, yoga, cardio, and Pilates.

For up to six household members, the service gives you access to more than 10,000 workouts, says lululemon, including content from partners like Pure Barre, DOGPOUND, Y7 Studio, AARMY, Rumble, and others. What’s more, get 10 percent off (almost) all lululemon purchases.

Wearables, too
A wearable fitness tracker or smartwatch lets you choose how (and where) you want to stay fit—with whatever equipment you already have at your disposal, or none at all.

Along with tracking the basics like steps taken, pace, and estimated calories burned, activity bands like the Fitbit Sense 2 ($259) offers all-day health tracking—such as blood oxygen (SpO2) levels, ECG tracking and heart rate variability, and an EDA scan for stress management (which includes sensors that measure electrodermal responses on your skin). 

The smartwatch also helps you understand your sleep quality with a personalized Sleep Score. Fitbit Sense 2 includes six months of Fitbit Premium Membership ($79/year), for deeper, highly personalized health insights.

Another popular option is Apple Watch Series 8 (from $529), packed with health and fitness features, including auto-tracking of all kinds of workouts, an embedded ECG that can detect unusually high or low heart rates, or irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias), as well as a blood oxygen monitor (pulse oximeter) to assess the amount of oxygen carried in the body by sending light into your wrist. 

Apple Watch also has integrated Fall Detection, which can call emergency services and select contacts if it detects a sudden drop, and you don’t confirm you’re okay. New to this model is Crash Detection, which can detect if you’ve been in a car accident and call 9-1-1, your emergency
contacts, and share your location info.

As you might expect from a smartwatch, Apple Watch Series 8 also features customizable watch faces and colours (to match your ensemble), delivers push notifications to your wrist (like text messages), and can stream music to wireless earbuds when out for a walk. You can wave your wrist at the checkout counter to buy something, find your parked car, and use your voice to control your smart home. 

Apple Watch works with Apple Fitness+
($99/year, after 3 free months), an exclusive service designed for those on iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, and Apple Watch (with personalized metrics captured on your wrist). Supporting up to five family members per subscription, Apple Fitness+ provides access to thousands of 4K video and audio workouts, led by expert trainers, from 5 to 45 minutes piece. 

Exercises include walking, running, HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), strength training, yoga, Pilates, cycling, dance, rowing, and more—even guided meditation—and each with music playlists. New workouts and meditations are added every week, says Apple. While most classes don’t require any equipment, for some you may need items like a yoga mat, dumbbells, an indoor cycling bike, a rowing machine, or a treadmill. You can use any brand of equipment.

Ideal for Android phone owners, Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 5 (from $389) is also a water-resistant smartwatch that features a sapphire crystal face, advanced sleep coaching, and a Samsung body analyzer that can track body composition based on weight, body fat, body mass index (BMI), skeletal muscle, and more.

Be mindful
When it comes to your mental health, a handful of apps and devices can also be leveraged. 

Calm, a popular app, is loaded with guided sessions in varying lengths, ranging from 3 to 25 minutes, and with content designed for all meditation skill levels and that includes full seven- and 21-day programs, too.

Simply choose a topic that matters most to you, such as Deep Sleep, Happiness, Managing Stress, Focus, Calming Anxiety, or Breaking Habits—and the desired length of the session. Track your progress, including daily streaks.

There’s also Calm for VR headsets and for smart speakers: simply say its “wake” word, like “OK Google” for Google Nest devices or “Hey Siri” for Apple HomePod, followed by “Open Calm” to get going.

Billed as an “app for busy people,” Simple Habit is a similar on-demand platform that offers simple 5- to 20-minute lessons, featuring more than 1,000 meditations guided by mindfulness teachers from around the world. You can also pick a lesson by Series (Drift to Sleep, Sharpen Focus, Meditate in Nature), and by Teacher of your choice (with dozens of Simple Habit coaches to choose from).

BetterSleep (formerly Relax Melodies), on the other hand, helps you fall asleep by letting you choose from a myriad of soothing nature sounds—like a crackling fire, crashing waves, or thunderstorms in a forest—and the option to create your own soundscape on your phone or tablet. It also includes white noise options, meditation sessions, bedtime stories, and a section on SleepMoves, a series of body-mind exercises and relaxation techniques.

Finally, from Toronto’s InteraXon comes the Muse 2 ($309), a lightweight brain-sensing headband, embedded with sensors, that provide real-time feedback on brain activity, heart rate, breath, and body movements—and communicates it all wirelessly to a nearby smartphone or tablet (iOS or Android). 

When using the Muse app and select what kind of meditation session you’d like, and you’ll be guided through various sessions that train you to find calm in your otherwise hectic life. 

For the past 25 years, Marc Saltzman has been a recognized expert in consumer electronics, business tech, social media, and automotive trends. You can see him on CTV, Global TV, and as a keynote speaker across North America. Follow him on Twitter @ marc_saltzman.

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