As we age we are constantly reminded that we must “use it or lose it.” In this case, I’m talking about physical exercise and mental acumen. Who would have thought there would be apps to help keep both intact? Let me rephrase that. The mere fact of downloading the app and getting it to work without having to ask your children or grandchildren is mental gymnastics at its finest, but downloading apps to improve brain function and track physical activity is more than I hoped for.
Learn Something New to Keep the Brain Young
The recent app I downloaded to help keep my brain in working order is DuoLingo. Actually, Duolingo is a website that happens to have an accompanying app (it’s not a standalone app). As the name implies, Duolingo helps people of any age learn a new language. In my case, I decided to learn Spanish, but you can choose to learn any of the following languages:
- Czech (estimated availability – December 2015)
- Esperanto (Beta)
- Hebrew (estimated availability – March 2016)
- Hindi (estimated availability – February 2016)
- Hungarian (estimated availability – December 2015)
- Klingon (estimated availability – June 2018) – Yes, Klingon as is Star Trek
- Norwegian (Bokmal)
- Polish (estimated availability – December 2015)
- Romanian (estimated availability – November 2016)
- Russian (Beta)
- Swahili (estimated availability – January 2016)
- Ukrainian (Beta)
- Vietnamese (estimated availability – January 2016)
- Welsh (estimated availability – December 2015)
For those courses not currently available, you have the option of visiting the website to sign up for email notification of when the course becomes available.
The courses listed above are for English speakers wishing to learn another language. DuoLingo also offers courses for non-English speaking students wishing to learn other languages, but the majority of their courses are for English speaking individuals wishing to learn a second or third language.
The best part about this service is it’s free. To start learning just go to their website and create a free account. To make things easier for the on-the-go language learner, download the DuoLingo app. Apps are available for both Android and iPhone. With an app, you have no excuse for skipping lessons.
Learn at Your Own Pace
You can choose just how intense your study sessions will be. It’s been a while since I’ve done the school thing so I decided to go for the regular XP (experience points) of 20 per day. That’s the equivalent of 2 lessons that are about 5 minutes each. The lessons are quick and painless (at least in the beginning for my skill level).
The team at DuoLingo encourages you to access your account daily. Learning a new language requires repetition and frequency. Therefore, DuoLingo will send an email reminder for you to complete the lesson(s) for the day. Daily access keeps the learning streak intact. If you skip a day, your streak is over unless you purchase a virtual streak freeze for the price of 10 lingots. Lingots are the virtual currency you earn by completing lessons or learning new skills.
DuoLingo has a discussion forum if you wish to share your experience or learning tips with fellow students. I’m still learning the lay of the land, but so far so good. My Spanish fluency level is 6%. Hey, you think I’m ready for a trip to Spain? Nah, I didn’t think so either. Anyway, I’ll check back in a month or two to share how my Spanish lessons are going.
Keeping Active with Pedometer
The second app I downloaded was the Pedometer app after my hubby sustained a leg injury. As you get older you are subject to non-activity injuries caused by too much sitting. Injuries such as lower back pain, stiff joints, reduced energy and other symptoms of inactivity increase in direct proportion to the amount of sitting you do.
Since it’s not wise to go from a couch potato to a triathlete in 7 days, I decided we needed to measure our current activity (or lack thereof) so we can make small improvements. As Peter Drucker says, “What gets measured gets managed.” In order to measure and manage our current activity level, I downloaded Pedometer. Pedometer is simple and easy to use. The only problem I have with it is I’ve got to remember to have the cell phone with me at all times (not something I enjoy). After a few days when I get an indication of my average daily number of footsteps, I’ll drop the app and make the necessary life changes. For hubby, I’ll get a Fitbit because he tends to be more sedentary and I think he needs the additional long-term encouragement.
Setting up Pedometer for Accuracy
If you’re interested in getting a more accurate step count and tracking the calories burned, go into “Settings” and insert information such as gender, age, weight and stride length. This will help the app to calculate stats better. Once you set it up, all you have to do is press “Start” and begin walking. At the end of the day click “Stop” to end your session. The next day click “Start” and begin all over again. Pedometer does have an auto-start feature that automatically turns the app on at a pre-set time of your choosing.
I’ve found the step count to be pretty accurate. I counted my steps from my front walkway to the mailbox while holding the cell phone. My count and the app count were pretty much in sync. I don’t need 100% accuracy; I just wanted to get an idea of the number of steps taken on a given day. The Pedometer app fits the bill.
As mentioned earlier, this app is nice for a wake-up call. Personally, I don’t recommend it for long-term use. Carrying a cell phone that close to the body day in and day out isn’t a good thing (just read the book Radiation by Derva Davis). But, if you want to quickly get an idea of how many steps you take in a day, I think this app does the trick.
Imagine that! With two little apps, I can learn a language for free and take strides to get in shape. Sometimes I love technology!