On the Menu: Smart Health Apps

take 5

Click to View this Take Five Segment on my 3 Favorites.

Smartphones can be a helpful tool in your pursuit of a healthier lifestyle. They can help you manage weight loss, reduce stress, track medical visits and learn how many calories you burn through exercise. There are even support apps for group programs such as Weight Watchers, Alcoholics Anonymous and tobacco cessation.

Do these apps work? Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health Research studied over 1700 people and found that by keeping track of what you eat – perhaps through the use of a smart phone app – can actually double your weight loss efforts. This is because you become more acutely aware of health behaviors and can change those that result in negative outcomes.  “You can’t change what you don’t measure.”  Yet how this theory gets translated to apps has yet to be rigorously tested in a controlled environment. That’s because to do so would stymie the creative process, slow down release times and raise costs. In the mean time if you are more actively engaged by  earning badges, reaching new levels, competing for points and reading app information, keep clicking!  Here are a few to get you started.
my fitness palMyFitnessPal  

Not only does this app track your calorie intake for the day, it identifies any nutrients you may be lacking or in excess. It allows you to adjust goals, enter calories and output for exercise and check progress towards your goal.
Available for iPhone and Android – Free

sworkit appSworkit   

You can choose from strength and cardio, yoga and stretching and design you own custom workout depending on the body part you want to focus on (the whole body, upper body, core or lower body) and how much time you have to exercise. No equipment is required and it syncs to MyFitnessPal. It has workouts for kids, pregnancy, runner’s (golfer, surfer, snowboarder) warm up, office chair refresher and my favorite “the rump roaster” for a gluteous maximum workout.   You set daily and weekly goals and can challenge friends on other social networks.                                                              Available for iPhone and Android – Free

fooducate app

Fooducate “Eat A Little Better”  Fooducate allows you to scan product barcodes and get a “Nutrition Grade” an A, B, C, or D rating on the food in addition to all of the ingredients and nutrition profile. Learn about the health attributes, both good and bad as well as fun facts.  My favorite bonus is that it provides you with the “A” grade alternatives.   Some would say Fooducate is like having a dietitian on speed dial, but I wouldn’t say it’s that marvelous!

Breathe2Relax  Customizable scenery and music paired with a calming voice guides you through breathing exercises to help reduce the effects of stress on the body.

Available for iPhone and Android – Free

Guided Meditation  This app uses the world-famous Silva Centering Meditation exercise to improve energy, well-being and quality of life. Meditation exercises include good morning, good night and energy boosters that will leave you refreshed.

Available for iPhone  – Free

12 Steps AA Companion  This app includes a sobriety calculator, The Big Book, prayers and contacts to help keep you free of alcohol.

Available for iPhone and Android – $2.99

My Last Cigarette  Enter your smoking habits and personal details and watch various indicators display your expected increase in lifespan along with improvements in heart and lung health. Nicotine readout, expected cravings readout, daily motivational messages and medical facts keep you informed and motivated.

Available for iPhone and Android – $0.99

WebMd  This app includes a symptom checker, information about conditions, treatments, pill identifier and medication side effects, first aid information and local health listings.

Available for iPhone and Android – Free

HealthKit  This app was stalled for release with the iOS 8 but should come out in time for your New Year’s resolution. It’s a central storage device for all of your health apps and provides you with a dashboard snapshot of your health and fitness. It can let data like nutrition, exercise, blood pressure and other vitals be shared directly with your doctor or other family members. Apple CEO Tim Cook said the goal was to “help people build a comprehensive view of their lives which should empower you to take care of yourself over time.” Information is power it just depends on whether you have the motivation to collect and track it and do something about it.

Both Duke and Standford University will be piloting HealthKit clinically for care of different health populations.  Duke will be using the app to better manage weight and blood pressure in patients with cancer or heart disease and Standford will use the app to enhance diabetes management in children.  This app will avoid the “If you are a doctor’s office, calling with medical information, please press 1 now.  If you are a patient, please press 2.”  It will also eliminate faxes and in many instances errors related to handoffs as it’s app direct.  Mark my blog, HealthKit will be a game changer in your healthcare managment and a good one indeed!

Yet do remember, no app should take the place of an annual doctor visit or one on-one counseling.

Categories: Nutrition & Wellness

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