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Use the web to help improve your health

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Sandra Vogel Sandra Vogel | 15:07 UK time, Thursday, 5 January 2012

The turn of the year is the time many people think about their general wellbeing. 'Getting more healthy' is a very popular new year's resolution.

But having an idea and actually making it happen are two very different things. After the turkey and tinsel splurge, good intentions can pile up. But as the January and February winter months kick in with their dark evenings and cold and rain, and we all get back to work, commitment can be difficult to maintain.

There are ways of using the internet to help keep the fire in your belly, though, and if getting healthier is a goal you have for 2012 it might be worth taking advantage.

It's often said that sharing our aims and ambitions with other people makes it more likely we will achieve them. One of the reasons that works is because once other people know we are doing something it is difficult to back out. We don't want other people to think we can't see something through!

Two great strategies that can help here are starting a blog and committing to fundraising. Both are really easy to do on the web. There are free web sites you can use to set up and manage blogs - Blogger, and Wordpress are two popular options. Meanwhile, online fundraising sites such as JustGiving and Localgiving.com make it easy to set up your own fundraising page for whatever good cause you wish to support.

You can use a blog to record progress towards your goals, milestones you achieve along the way and how you feel about your progress. Writing a diary like this can help you see how far you've come, even just a few weeks after starting out.

A blog can help on the dark days as well as the successful ones. If you have a setback, recording it can elicit encouraging comments from readers, and these can often spur you on. Tell friends and family about your blog and the chances are they'll read it regularly, applauding your successes and offering support when you need it.

Adding charity fundraising to your goal can also give you a really compelling obligation to succeed. Fundraising websites give a running total of how much money family and friends have pledged to your chosen good cause, and the amounts can really mount up. This reminder of how much money your good cause stands to lose if you drop out of your challenge can be a real motivator.

It's not all about blogging and raising money, though. There are other ways technology can help you achieve a fitter, healthier lifestyle.

If you want to take up running or other active sports, there are web sites to help. Many offer training plans designed for all ages and abilities. Some work in conjunction with smartphone apps or specialist sports watches which can record routes, times and distances automatically and then upload this information. As your information cumulates and you see how much you’ve done since you started, using sites like these can become normal. You'll feel strange when you’ve not logged a run - that's when you know you've really changed your lifestyle!

Meanwhile, if want to take up a new sport, the web can help you find a local club. It can identify potential sports you've not thought of trying, and you'll probably find there are far more friendly, social sports clubs in your area than you thought there were.

And if you're interested in healthy eating, there are plenty of food related websites that explain nutritional information and deliver recipes you can try out. Again, many of these have interactive elements, allowing you to see what other people think of recipes or information, and to log your own comments.

With so much on offer anyone with a new year's resolution to get healthier ought to find resources that can help them achieve their goal. Now all you need to do is make the most of them!

Remember, if you're not used to exercising take care and get started slowly. Follow this guide from the  BBC Health website to making sure you stay safe and well while working out.

For extra inspiration look at:

Wendy M Grossman's article on tennis websites.

Charlie Swinbourne's guides to football and cricket.

Sandra Vogel is a technology journalist who has written for many web sites and magazines. She's written several books on computing. As well as technology she enjoys running, growing vegetables and playing the saxophone.

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