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High-tech workout tools

CHERYL TEVIS 12/06/2011 @ 2:43pm Cheryl has been an editor at Successful Farming since 1979.

Farming isn't the high-intensity, aerobic workout characterized by the daily chores of earlier generations of farmers.

If you're like the majority of farmers today, you'll have to create your own fitness regimen. But the eight high-tech tools featured on this page can help fill in as virtual personal trainers. Sure, you've still got to do the workouts. But these technologies monitor your efforts and offer you feedback.

1. Calorie monitor management system. A small band-like device worn on your upper arm contains sensors to track your steps and changes in body temperature, and calculate daily calories burned. Some devices feature a built-in pedometer and a Web-based program with personalized meal plans (www.://bodybugg.com/). Cost range: $125 to $179.

2. Heart-rate monitor. A strap worn around your chest conveys heart-rate data to a readout on a wristwatch-like device. It alerts you when you hit your target heart-rate zone. Some models incorporate GPS features and calculate mileage. “A heart-rate monitor is helpful to determine the intensity of your exercise,” says Jason Trierweiler, director of athletics and fitness services at the Spencer Hospital in Iowa. Cost range: $30 to $200.

3. Fitness phone app. You can download workout data to an iPod, iPhone, or computer. FitnessBuilder offers initial free full-body workouts, but then charges $9.99 for downloads. The Fun Run Trainer, designed to work with treadmills, ellipticals, and exercise bikes, is available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.

4. Running shoe sensor. A sensor in your tennis shoe syncs with an iPod or Nike SportBand to track time, distance, pace, and calories burned. Sensor cost: $19. Steve Hull, a Conrad, Iowa, farmer, uploads his miles and calories burned to his computer. He tracks it on FitLinxx, an online account.

5. Body fat caliper. Newer handheld models use sensors to gauge body-fat levels. A monitor indicates if your body fat is decreasing, and it's useful as a benchmark. Cost range: $6 to $40.

6. Pedometer. This tool counts your steps walking, jogging, and running. Carry one in a shirt pocket or on a belt. A more expensive model may include heart rate and calculate calories burned. Some offer a weekly history. Price range: $20 to $50.

7. Video game workouts. Systems allow players to use remote controls to simulate bowling, golf, tennis, boxing, and baseball. The Wii Fit uses a balance board to mimic strength training, flexibility, balance, and cardio exercises. “It's a cool toy with a big balance component,” says Warren Franke, professor of kinesiology and director of Iowa State University's Exercise Clinic. “The best part is it makes exercise fun. While it gets you moving, it shouldn't be your only physical activity.” Microsoft's Kinect Xbox 360 offers a more challenging routine.

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