Jonathan Takiff: Tools to help your resolution live past January

"Quit Smoking, Start Now!" features cartoony messages to reinforce good behavior.
"Quit Smoking, Start Now!" features cartoony messages to reinforce good behavior.
Posted: January 04, 2012

 THE GIZMO: Want to stick with those New Year's resolutions to lose weight, quit smoking, climb Mount Everest or stop looking at Facebook all day? We've got some cool tech tools to goad, coach and make you the biggest winner.

AN APP-TITUDE FOR IMPROVEMENT: Start with mobile-phone apps and websites that don't just monitor conduct but also motivate you to quit those lowdown ways. Both stickK.com (developed by Yale academicians) and the newly launched 21habit.com (from moonlighting Amazon and Microsoft engineers) work on the premise that a financial commitment motivates.

In both instances, you set the goal, enlist a referee to measure your success and forfeit a small amount - say $1 a day for 21 days - to a favorite charity if you mess up. StickK.com also has done well with the ploy of anti-charities, wherein that forfeited money is sent to an organization you abhor.

For the visually minded, there's beeminder.com, which graphically charts progress in anything you can put a number on - weight, push-ups, how long it takes to bike to work. And you can share the pretty, multicolored charts with social-networking friends.

Just not that often, OK?

SMOKE ENDERS: Newly launched on the Android marketplace, the mobile-phone app "Quit Smoking, Start Now!" is the brainchild of Drexel University computer-science prof (and exercise coach) Jeff Salvage, his former student Travis Himes, graphic artist Jess Ruggerio and Salvage's father-in-law/CEO Ken Derow, a retired advertising/marketing guy and former puffer.

Salvage says there are "maybe 100" anti-smoking apps at the Android store already, but his is the first that attempts to break the pattern of "social triggers" that cue a person to light up - say, when he or she is handed a drink or exits a building. "Quit" uses a "pseudo-random algorithm" to alert you at unexpected times throughout the day that you have 10 minutes to smoke a cigarette. The notifications become less frequent over the time period you've set for quitting.

The app also features cartoony messages to reinforce good behavior and a panic button that calls a friend to talk you off the ledge. More incentive: Early adopters will pay just 99 cents for this app, which will eventually cost $2.99. More at quitsmokingstartnow.com.

GAMING WITH A PURPOSE: Does the mere word "exercise" turn off your kids - or you? Yeah, sometimes it takes (pardon the expression) sugar-coating to get us off the couch.

Sneakiest of the solutions is FunGoPlay, a recently launched computer gaming platform for ages 6 to 11. While offering some online game play for free, it lets the young'uns go much deeper into the site if they get the monthly ($7) subscription plan and exercise outdoors with a companion FunGoPlay soccer ball or flying (Frisbee-like) disc. Both have a built-in smart chip that tracks minutes of use, then rewards with extra levels of game play, weapons and characters.

Not willing to brave the cold to lose weight? Make a party out of indoor exercise with movement-oriented video games like "Just Dance 3" and "Zumba Fitness 2," scored with pumped-up hits by acts like LMFAO to Pitbull. The latter title (for Xbox 360 and Wii) comes with a Zumba Fitness belt and a seven-day pass to Zumba classes.

Also primed for Xbox 360's motion-sensing Kinect peripheral is 2K Play's "Let's Cheer!" It works up a sweat with choreographed full-body routines that almost require a gym (or at least a big play room) for multiple participants.

Or get serious with Ubisoft's "Your Shape Fitness Evolved," featuring workouts (lots in the yoga style) created by Men's Health and Women's Health magazines.

GIZMOS TO GO: If a pedometer and a portable game system had a baby, they'd name it Striiv, a personal fitness device that strives to be a "personal trainer in your pocket." Always on, it counts every step toward a donation to charity (feeling guilty yet?). Striiv also powers up games with your physical activity and dreams up daily challenges for high achievers - walk the distance of the Golden Gate Bridge, or all the steps of the Eiffel Tower. $99 at Striiv.com.

Heart rate, calories burned and workout time are painlessly tracked when you strap on Oregon Scientific's new Gaiam Touch. Once programmed with your personal stats, it's a relatively easy-to-use touch-screen heart monitor disguised as a lightweight, waterproof watch.

The $110 version works with a wirelessly transmitting chest belt that tracks and sends more information than the $100 beltless model. At Target, Sports Authority and OregonScientificstore.com.

|
|
|
|
|