Health apps that work, as shared by your Berkshire neighbors


In the smartphone era, healthier living can go hand-in-hand with finding the right health app.

But it can be difficult to know where to start.

There were more than 40,000 mobile health and fitness apps to choose from in 2012, according to Research2Guidance, an international marketing firm. These apps are designed to offer a helping hand on everything from quitting smoking, burning calories and lifting weights.

But some work better than others, while some will promise more than they can deliver.

Many smartphone apps -- mobile phone programs that can be opened with a click -- also are free.

Smartphone savvy Berkshire County residents responded to a Facebook post and offered some of their favorite free apps. Describing the apps as motivators, they record running patterns, identify calorie counts with the swipe of a bar code, and track burned calories.

Here's a compilation of some meritorious apps:

My Fitness Pal

Staring down a summer 2014 wedding, Pittsfield resident Matthew Coviello had his eye on wearing a trimmer suit.

In the last two years, the 31-year-old 5-foot-11 inch male has dropped his weight from 289 to 202 pounds. He's been fighting an ongoing battle trying to lose weight, and he said finding the right app helped keep him in check.

"My Fitness Pal" helped him better track lost and gained calories, which has him substituting ingredients when he cooks using his Crock-Pot. He types the ingredient into his phone and then the calorie count appears. Seeing the calorie count associated with ground beef has him using ground turkey more often.

He now tries to avoid fatty, calorie-heavy cheeses.

The app will also set a target for losing a certain desired amount of weight.

"I credit that as a big motivator, but it all snowballs from there," said Coviello, who lost the final 40 of the 80 pounds he shed after starting to use the app. "Once you feel more in control, you can go to the gym more often and develop a better routine. And it becomes a fun challenge not going over your calories for the day."

My Fitness Pal allows him to search a document the calories he eats. This includes using a food database of more than 3.5 million types of food, and an easy-to-use bar code swiping mechanism.

The app also will chronicle calories burned through different workouts and water intake to ensure the body is properly hydrated. The app includes a community forum that allows for finding and sharing healthy recipes and gaining community support.

Coviello appreciates being able to create a meal and then use the app to break the meal down into calorie portions.

Pittsfield resident Andy Poncherello, who is in his mid-40s, also said had success using the My Fitness Pal. He dropped his weight from 235 pounds to 205.

Forced to document his eating, he became more disciplined cutting 300 calories from his diet. That required him to cut soda, pastries, and doughnuts from his diet. He also said he's eating smaller portions.

Poncherello skipped the personal trainer because he said he only wanted to casually lose some weight.

"It was really just watching what I eat," Poncherello said.

Lose It

Heather Harden, a Dalton native who has since moved to Maryland, has turned to the app, "Lose It," to keep her weight in check. She started recording her calories seven years ago and she hasn't stopped. She's counting on the app to keep her weight stable through her second pregnancy, which is 14 weeks in.

"I've been so good using it why should I stop," Harden said.

The 29-year-old who is 5-feet-2 inches said she used to app to go from 125 pounds to 115 pounds. After she got pregnant in 2012, she continued to record her calories to keep her weight stable.

Harden describes the app as "super simple to use." When she went searching for an app, she wanted something that could do more than track calories.

Lose It! creates a customized daily calorie budget and tracks food and exercise. The app has a database of foods, including menus from thousands of restaurants and a bar code scanner. It allows for sharing of favorite recipes.

She can also type in forms of exercise and then it will identify how many calories she has lost.

Currently at 130 pounds, Harden said she knows how easy it can be to gain weight while pregnant. She doesn't want to lose weight, but she said she wants to monitor herself.

"It makes me way more aware of what I am eating," Harden said. "If I have a choice of food, I remember I have to enter it. I remember I have to put that in and be accountable for it. Even if I made a bad choices all day, it helps me make good choices to even the scale out."

Map My Running

In retirement, Carole and Rick Astle are avid runners and hikers. A friend introduced them to the app, "Map My Running," and they've been able to appreciate their exercise in new ways.

The app adds a new dimension by recording pace, speed, the elevation of the terrain and the calories burned using the GPS in their phone.

"It puts the fun in running," Carol said. "It's a little more fun because you can go home and see the route and progress and see the success on your computer."

They are regular hikers along Tamarack and Dan Fox Drive, along with Wild Acres. They can also see the health benefits that comes from running along more hilly terrain along Mount Greylock.

Following a run, they'll go home to review their trek on the computer.

"You can comeback to your computer and see what you accomplished and see the elevation and calories," Carol said.

To reach John Sakata:
or (413) 496-6240.
On Twitter: @jsakata


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