By Tracy Hampton, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Correspondent

Technology can help improve many activities, even something as simple as walking. Adding a walking routine may be the easiest positive change you can make to improve your health, and a variety of technologies can help make it interesting, fun, and rewarding. And even if you don’t have a walking partner, various apps can make your walks “social”.

Photo: BIDMC

Photo: BIDMC

“Some of the tips I give to patients in terms of walking, and exercise in general, include setting a goal and letting people know about it, asking for help and feedback, exercising with friends or in a social group, tracking progress, and recognizing progress.

All of these can be achieved or enhanced with technology,” says Kathleen Shillue, PT, DPT, OCS, who is a rehabilitation manager and physical therapist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Shillue gives several examples, including the Nike sport kit that has a sensor you put in your sneakers to track your progress. Also, the free BIDMC Walking Club Pedometer app tallies your steps as you walk and gives you feedback about not only steps, but also speed, miles traveled, calories spent, and other stats. It can even follow you on a map.

“There are also free phone apps that let you set goals and track your progress, and they also can give you feedback and motivation to continue,” she says.

Some of the apps-such as Fitocracy and Endomondo-are linked to social networks so your information is reported and friends can give you feedback and support.

“One of the things to think about is how much interaction you want to have with friends: do you want info to post automatically to Facebook or do you want to keep it private?” advises Shillue.

Also, consider how much information you’d like to collect: some people like tracking all of their data, while others may want an app or sensor to provide information as daily or weekly totals. “For the free apps anyway, it’s not too hard to try them and if you don’t like them, delete them off the phone,” says Shillue.

You can also go online to find walking partners who may not be in your current social circle The BIDMC Walking Club is a great way to get started.

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

Posted May 2014