No more excuses for not reaching your health and fitness goals: These apps do (almost) everything for you.
Dr. Levine is Clinical Fellow, Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility, Ronald O. Perelman and Claudia Cohen Center for Reproductive Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York.
Dr. Goldschlag is Assistant Professor of Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology and Assistant Professor of Clinical Reproductive Medicine, Ronald O. Perelman and Claudia Cohen Center for Reproductive Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York.
We are witnessing an interesting trend in the mobile phone market. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, mobile phone manufacturers focused on making phones as small and unobtrusive as possible.
In the intervening decade, phones have gotten larger, and in the past 18 months, we have seen mainstream smartphones of record size, including the iPhone 6 4.7” display, iPhone 6 Plus 5.5” display, Galaxy S5 5.1” display, and Galaxy Note 5.3” display. Given these dramatic increases in screen real estate, the onus is on app developers not only to create visually pleasing apps that capitalize on increased screen resolution, but also to take advantage of a device’s ability to present large amounts of information on a single screen.
Here are our top apps for women’s health practitioners and their patients in 2015.
Not only did Apple’s newest operating system, iOS, come with a bevy of improvements to the strength, power, and capability of iPhones, but it also came with a preloaded healthcare-focused app named Health. With this unified metric-based wellness consolidation app, users can track a wide array of health and wellness information via statistics on the dashboard.
Think of Health as an easy-to-use and easy-to-navigate repository of health information. Samsung and other Android manufacturers have fragmented the Android health data storage market with their individual iterations, while Apple aims for a single app on a single secure platform.
Information can be automatically synced between Health and other wellness apps, such as those that track weight, heart rate, blood pressure, steps, and sleep. In fact, iOS Health has a built-in pedometer that tracks your steps.
Apple prohibits the app from connecting with third-party developers that might trade sensitive information, such as “advertising platforms, data brokers, or information resellers,” without user permission. In fact, Apple encrypts the information with the security used to lock their phones, which has been cited by the FBI as being almost too secure.
Health users can enter almost any piece of health information, such as blood test results, or they can sync their Health app with other electronic health record manufacturers’ apps. For example, Epic, the electronic medical records incumbent, has updated their app, called MyChart, to allow seamless syncing with Health. This allows Apple Health users who are patients at Epic-compliant institutions to track their health and wellness while reporting their performance to their physicians.
Even in this early version, Health is impressive: For example, diabetic users can track and chart blood glucose values and never have to worry about forgetting to bring their logs to a doctor appointment.
Another great feature in Health is the ability to enter critical health and contact information. For example, in the event of an emergency, if someone were to find your phone, you now have the ability to have a *Medical ID icon on your home-screen/locked screen. You have to activate this feature and enter the key information, but this information could save your life. Even if your phone is locked, a first responder has only to click the *Medical ID to find out your name, birthdate, medical conditions, medical notes, allergies, medications, and emergency contact, as well as blood type and organ donation status.
This app may prove to be Apple’s greatest achievement in mobile health. The app is free and preloaded on all updates to iOS 8.
While we all would agree that the best way to lose weight is to burn more calories than consumed, actually counting those edible calories can be the toughest part of the weight-loss challenge. In an attempt to help us count our calories, MyFitnessPal was developed around tracking diet habits and food intake. So how does it work? According to the MyFitnessPal website, it is very simple.
After you set up a basic fitness profile, MyFitnessPal will recommend a daily net calorie target for your weight loss (or gain) goals. As you eat and exercise throughout the day, you log your snacks, drinks, meals, and exercise in the Food and Exercise diaries. This can be done on the app or with your own synced MyFitnessPal webpage. As the data are logged, MyFitnessPal will calculate the number of calories you’ve consumed and burned and let you know how many calories you have left for the day.
If you stay within your calorie limits, you should achieve the weight loss (or gain) you’re looking for. One of the best features of the program is the relatively simple food logging interface: MyFitnessPal remembers the foods and exercises you like most and makes it easy for you to add those items to your diary. Periodically the app will remind you to use the Check-In feature (or “Progress” page in the app) to track your weight/progress over time and also adjust your calorie goals vis a vis your new weight.
MyFitnessPal syncs to Apple Health and a number of other third-party apps. It is available for free on Android and Windows Phone 8, and as a stand-alone website.
Recipes & Grocery Shopping List
One of the most popular apps that is dedicated to helping people buy and eat high-quality food, Yummly uses high-tech solutions to solve the rather simple problem of deciding what’s best to eat. Yummly is one of the fastest-growing food websites, with more than 1 million recipes logged and nearly 15 million monthly visitors.
According to its website, Yummly “utilizes its proprietary food genome and technology to understand recipes, ingredients and products creating ‘Big Data for Food.’” This translates into nearly 100,000 classifications for food. Users can search for recipes by holiday, cuisine, taste, diet, nutrition, allergy, cook time, technique, ingredients, and more, on either the downloadable app or website.
Favorite recipes can be saved to a “personalized digital recipe box” and you can even create shopping lists with ingredients for the meals that you plan to make, or you can get recipe suggestions based on a customized list you create. Users can also scan items to add them to a shopping list or get recipe inspiration.
Yummly is available for free on Android, iOS, and as a stand-alone website.
There is no fitness app quite like CARROT Fit. CARROT Fit is a talking, tongue-in-cheek fitness coaching app with one goal: “To transform your flabby carcass into a Grade A specimen of the human race.” CARROT Fit actively threatens, inspires, ridicules, and bribes you based on the data it aggregates. It makes looking at the data fun because you have no idea what it is going to say. The app works best when synced with Apple’s Health app. It is able to sync weight and workout data with Health-compatible apps even when you’re not actively using CARROT Fit.
Included in the app is a native step pedometer/step-counter and a “7 Minutes in Hell” workout during which CARROT may have you, on a given day, “traveling through time, escaping from an elite squad of attack ostriches, and punching Justin Bieber in his pretty face.” Each exercise is fully narrated and contains training tips, vignettes, and pop culture references to energize you.
CARROT Fit is available for iOS for $2.99.
iHealth is close to a one-stop shop for health and wellness data acquisition. Not only does the company manufacture wireless blood pressure monitors, blood glucose meters, wireless scales, wireless pulse oximeters, and activity trackers; it also develops apps that sync with many of these devices.
The MyVitals app tracks exactly what it says: your vital health information. What sets it apart from all the competitors is that it aggregates data from the iHealth Blood Pressure monitors, iHealth Scales, iHealth Pulse Oximeters, and iHealth Activity and Sleep Trackers, as well as allowing users to manually enter data.
iHealth Gluco-Smart syncs with the company’s Wireless Smart Gluco-Monitoring System to allow users to measure and record their glucose levels using a portable testing kit and Bluetooth-enabled mobile device. The glucometer is small, wireless (of course!) and delivers results in approximately 5 seconds on an easy-to-read LED display.
The iHealth SpO2 mobile app works with the wireless pulse oximeter to help athletes and those with respiratory issues track blood oxygen saturation (SpO2), pulse rate (BPM), and perfusion index.
iHealth has the ability to collect, store, and display almost any user-defined piece of health information that you can think of. iHealth integrates seamlessly with Apple iOS Health, letting users populate all their favorite Health-compatible apps with oodles of data points.
iHealth MyVitals is available for free on Android and iOS.
iHealth Gluco-Smart is available for free on Android and iOS.
iHealth SpO2 is available for free on iOS.
Devices pairing with each of these apps range from less than $20 to approximately $100 and are available at the iHealth web store: https://store.ihealthlabs.com.