Heart-rate monitor specialists Polar now offer an accompanying software package that records performance results and tracks your fitness progress. Again, though, the onus here is on personal performance – you need to motivate yourself.
But personal fitness and general well-being doesn't have to be arduous; Nintendo's Wii Fit phenomenon put pay to that. The Wii Fit system has been a resounding success, and while it's nowhere near as complete as a fully bespoke exercise program, it has proved that fitness can be fun.
Where its motion-sensitive controller and Balance Board stop, peripheral manufacturers have – as ever – jumped to ill the void, and the fitness phenomenon is spilling over from the Wii to other game consoles that are more traditionally used solely for serious gaming.
Enter the Logic 3 Dance Mat for the Playstation 3, which certainly raises the pulse by demanding that you follow intricate steps on screen upon the pressure-sensitive mat underneath your feet.
Similarly, the PCGamerBike by 3D Innovations allows you to play your favourite games via the bike's pedals and controls. So rather than using a control pad and keyboard to run around Grand Theft Auto or World of Warcraft, the PCGamerBike allows you to independently assign any key on the keyboard to your forward and reverse pedal motion – meaning that driving games are a great workout as well as terrific fun. It's certainly more of a laugh than a trip to the gym.
Managing your health
For diabetics the world over, the daily ritual of blood testing, insulin injections and careful eating is the accepted norm for handling the condition.
Within the last decade, the proliferation of self-testing kits and self-injections have made the condition – both Type 1 and Type 2 – more manageable for sufferers. Even Great Britain's legendary Olympian Sir Steve Redgrave rowed into the record books with an oar in one hand and an insulin-packed hypodermic needle in the other.
But a select few diabetics in the United States are managing their condition from home with greater effectiveness than ever before. A dual trial is in its second stage of testing in coordination with the United States' Diabetic Society. Each of the 200 participants has been given a PC preloaded with specialist software together with a digitised version of the standard self-testing kit.
Rather than continually monitor their blood-sugar levels, the participants need only prick their fingers twice a day and feed the machine their blood sample to have a daily recommended calorie intake, injection programme and even meal suggestions returned by their PC.
Similarly serious conditions are benefiting from PC-based technology too. The One Laptop per Child foundation is a celebrated education project providing the famous XO laptop to children the world over. In sub-Saharan Africa, though, the project has quite literally proved a lifesaver. For the 25.5 million people in that region infected with HIV, survival depends on a complex combination of drugs that must be taken at specific times of the day.
The lack of wrist watches and other time pieces within these communities has always proved a stumbling block for successful HIV treatment, but with an automated satellite-based calendar system being specially developed for the XO laptop, it's hoped that treatment can be more successfully regulated.
Our increasingly digital outlook on life can help to keep us it, healthy and active. Of course, there are pitfalls to watch out for and traps to avoid, but in some cases – like the treatment of HIV in poor nations and the management of a diabetic condition – your PC really could prove to be a lifesaver.
First published in PC Plus, Issue 277
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