Track your fitness online

Fitness websites offer great information on diet and nutrition – and a free or inexpensive way to monitor your progress.

If you’ve resolved to get fit or lose weight this year, you’re not alone – both rank among the most popular New Year’s resolutions as measured by a Harris interactive survey in the U.S. But it’s all too easy to let these goals fall by the wayside.

Enter the fitness tracking website. Although it’s a little counterintuitive to track fitness online – after all you are sitting at the computer while you’re doing it – these sites can provide individuals with a free or inexpensive way to monitor their progress. And tracking steps to meet a goal is an essential component of meeting them. Here are some sites to explore.
This site claims to host the “world’s largest healthy living community” – and there are good reasons for it. Not only does the site have a lot of great information on diet and nutrition, recipes, and regular email newsletters – it also has a community feel with a lot of online support. I particularly like that it’s possible to join the “healthy living” plan that doesn’t focus on weight loss so much as good nutrition. I also like the way the site presents information in different areas – nutrition and diet, motivation, exercise, and wellness.

Getting started is quick and easy. It’s similar to getting set up on other sites we mention below. First you select a user name and enter a bit of personal information; once you have created an account you can begin to set up more specific plans and goals. One feature of this particular site is that you can track specific nutrients in your diet (the site offers 75 to select from), so if you are particularly interested in something like calcium, the site will manage that for you.

If you like, the site will develop specific meal plans for you. It also creates a page for you where you can track your progress (and invite others to view it). The sidebar along the right hand side of the page shows a recipe and exercise of the day as well as other motivational components. Online videos show how to do new exercises safely.

Message boards are available for those who want to support and be supported by other users of the site. The site also awards “trophies” for logging in and using the features, which can encourage users to keep tracking their progress.

FitDay is another one of the large free tracking sites. FitDay is great for individuals who don’t feel the desire to connect with others, and just want a powerful tracking tool. The free online version can also be upgraded by paying for the desktop software.

One very useful tool in this tracking site is the calorie counter, which has a database of 40,000 foods. The interface is pretty easy to use – without a lot of the graphics and pictures that other sites contain – and the charts make it clear whether the user is meeting his or her goals or not. Like a ledger book this is the kind of tracking software that seems bare bones but gets you right to the bottom-line information about your goals.