5 tips for using your Apple gear to stay fit and healthy in 2012

Losing weight is on a lot of people’s minds post-New Year, so this is a perfect time to revisit tips and tricks about how to use Apple (s aapl) technologies to help you get healthier in 2012. Music, food and activity monitoring all contribute to a healthier you, and can be tracked on your Mac or iPhone.

1. Get the right tunes

Whatever music source you use, get in the groove during your workouts. My favorite right now is Pandora radio, since I find variety an excellent motivator when working out.
A good set of Bluetooth headphones is also probably a wise investment, since they prevent cords from getting caught during activity. My favorite right now is the Jabra Sport. Not only does it do audio and voice, but it also does FM so I can tune into the TV audio at the gym.
I also recommend Yurbuds. You send Yurbuds a picture of your ear and they match a product for a near perfect fit. The plastic molding is grippy and stays in your ears even while sweating. They also channel the sound directly into your ear and block out some of the background noise.

2. Track what you eat

Start with small steps tracking what you eat simply by taking a picture. Mealsnap is great for this. Being aware of what you eat and making it a habit is a great place to start.
When you’ve got that habit and want to start counting calories, the Lose It! app is a good choice. While I’m still a big fan of Livestrong’s calorie tracker, the excessive ads and upsells on their website became a turn off. Lose It! is free and has a clean, simple interface. It also can give you reminders if you don’t log meals.

Another key feature of Lose It! is that it can interact with other devices, such as the Withings WiFi Body scale and the Fitbit (more about that later).

3. Track what you do

Eating is only one side of the weight loss equation. How much you burn (or don’t burn) in a given day is the reason why the person next to you eats so much and stays slim, while you just even look at a bagel and gain three pounds. Both Lose It! and Livestrong Calorie Tracker will allow you to enter exercises, but don’t take into account more passive daily activities. While a pedometer will help, why use analog when digital is more fun?
The FitBit tracker ($99) is at heart a pedometer, but with added features. It tracks how many steps you take and uses your basal metabolic rate to determine how many calories you’re burning. The FitBit also uses gamification techniques, such as badge rewards you can tweet and share on Facebook, to keep you motivated. It can also be used as a clock and a stopwatch to track your workout routines.
I also like the fact you can get instant readouts to check your goals with the Fitbit; when you see you’re a few steps short of your daily goal you might decide to take that far away parking spot, or take the stairs instead of the elevator. Best of all, FitBit integrates with Lose It! so that way your activities and food log are shared between the two programs, giving you much more accurate results.

4. Break through the plateau with monitoring

Often, people attempting weight loss will hit a plateau. I faced that simply because my body adapted to the changes in my routine. The way to break through is not to look simply at your level of activity, but also at how hard your body is working.
The new Garmin ANT+ adapter for the iPhone along with the Garmin Fit App is a great way to do that. ANT+ is a widely adopted standard for monitoring devices, and in particular heart monitors. Some trainers have them, or you can purchase them independently. With a heart monitor you can determine exactly how hard your exercises are, and set accurate goals regarding heart rate and calories burned. That digital readout on the treadmill or elliptical is only an estimate, while a heart monitor combined with data you provide it can give you a much more accurate accounting of how hard you’re working.
The Garmin iPhone app keeps data for each session so you can compare. Some days I focus on distance, or pace on others, and always try to keep my heart rate in the zone. As I became more physically fit, I had to push myself harder to keep the same results. Gamification of weight loss through statistics helped me quickly punch through the plateau by changing my workouts.

5. Get a good night’s sleep

Let’s face it, if you don’t get a good night’s sleep, you don’t feel like tracking your food and you don’t feel like working out. Your Mac can help with that.
The free program F.Lux will dim your Mac’s monitor to match sundown and sunrise, thereby giving you visual clues it’s evening. Bright light says “wake up” while gentle reduction in brightness says “it’s time for bed.” I also wrote about how to use parental controls to keep you on task, and force you to stop working at a specified period of time. If you really want to focus yourself, turn off the Internet on your Mac at a scheduled hour.
For tracking your sleep, you can see my round-up of hardware devices here. The FitBit also tracks sleep. You can then use the sleep data to help you focus on why you had a “good” or a “bad” day.You can then modify your eating habits and workout schedule to achieve better sleep results.
You can also use apps like Pzizz to help you feel mor restful. The software generates unique “sound journeys” to help you transition from hectic day to gentle night.

If your sleeping partner doesn’t want to hear these sounds, there’s a solution. First you need some SleepPhones. This soft headband includes a set of integrated speakers and can plug directly into a headphone jack. Then attach a BlueBridge mini-jack RX to the SleepPhones. Now you’ve got an effective wireless solution for nighttime audio that won’t endanger your partner’s rest or your Apple gear.
Got any tips of your own for using your Apple devices to meet your fitness goals? Let us know in the comments.
Disclaimer: This isn’t medical advice, just one Apple enthusiast’s perspective and vendors mentioned provided items for review. Always check with your medical professional before starting an exercise program.