Improve your health right on your smart device.
Even before Fitbits hit the market in 2013, health apps were taking over smartphones. Now apps and devices work together to give you more information about your health than ever before, helping you achieve goals from losing weight and getting pregnant to just learning how to slow your day down with meditation.
Women’s Health Apps
Women have tracked their menstrual cycle in low-tech ways for years, but now apps make it easy to plan around Aunt Flo (there’s actually one called Flo Period & Ovulation Tracker). The apps also can track cycles to help women conceive — or not.
In August, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first app for use as a contraceptive.
The $80 Natural Cycles app uses natural family planning or fertility awareness methods to predict a woman’s fertile period so she and her partner can avoid sex or use a condom to prevent pregnancy.
To use the app correctly, a woman must take her basal body temperature with a smart thermometer connected to the app first thing in the morning, before she gets out of bed. A red light warns if she has a chance of pregnancy while a green light is a go-ahead for intercourse.
The FDA-approved Ava Bracelet is worn at night. It tracks your temperature, sleep, resting pulse rate and more to determine when you should try to conceive a child.
Described as a “completely unprecedented method of tracking a woman’s cycle,” the Ava bracelet also tracks your stress level and sleep quality. It’s been shown to detect an average of 5.3 fertile days per cycle at 89 percent accuracy.
Weight Loss Apps
While the FitBit still reigns as the top health app in downloads, many other weight loss and fitness apps are gaining in popularity. Many of these apps offer custom workouts to help you achieve your goals, whether you want bulging muscles or a trimmer physique.
The popular MyFitnessPal functions as a calorie tracker and has more than 5 million foods in its database. It also allows users to put in their own recipes and connects to apps like MapMyRun for more accurate calorie counting.
While the app is mainly used to help people diet and lose weight, it’s also proved helpful for diabetics, who must estimate how many carbohydrates they eat in order to give themselves the right amount of insulin.
With DietBet, players join a game with other dieters, chipping in a set amount of money. They can choose to lose 4 percent of their weight in four weeks, 10 percent in six months or maintain their weight for a year.
At the end of the game, users send in pictures of themselves standing on a scale with a “Weigh-In” word that lets a DietBet referee know the weigh-in is legitimate. If they haven’t lost the right amount of weight, they lose their money to the pot. If they have succeeded, they get their money back and split the pot with any other users who have also succeeded.
A new weight loss app promises to help you lose weight by “hacking” your metabolism.
Lumen — a pocket-sized device that is in beta stages of testing — analyzes users’ breath to determine whether calories burned are coming from fat or carbohydrates.
It then creates a recommended daily nutrition plan that includes how many carbs to eat and what meals and snacks are appropriate.
You can continue to use the device throughout the day to stay on track and ensure you have the right energy for a great workout. The device teaches you about your metabolism and the foods you eat so you can make better choices.
Jefit is one of the most popular workout apps for both Apple and Android, offering free, customizable workouts for men and women. Choose from pre-made strength workouts or create your own workout program, selecting from hundreds of pre-set exercises that include instructive animations.
As you complete your workout, Jefit logs your sets and reps. It also includes a rest timer to ensure you are building muscle. Each week, you’ll receive a report letting you know how much time you exercised and how much weight you lifted.
Apps for Mental Health
Health apps are taking aim at every aspect of wellbeing, including your mental health. They calm you down, help you meditate and even offer trained listeners and therapists to help with your problems.
Calm offers hundreds of guided meditations to help you become more mindful, which is associated with better mental health. It also offers “sleep stories” narrated by calming personalities such as Bob Ross to help you relax and fall asleep faster at night.
When you need to stay focused at work, the app offers music or “scenes” with ambient noise to help you.
While the Calm app offers a free version, you’ll get access to a much wider variety of music, daily meditations and stories with the premium app, which costs $60 for a year subscription.
With this app, users “check in” with how they’re feeling at a particular time and are given recommendations for guided meditations, yoga and acupressure videos tuned to one’s own emotions. There’s also a version of the app for kids.
The app’s creators pledge to share 10 percent of their net revenue with Tools for Peace, a non-profit dedicated to helping at-risk youth experience the benefits of mindfulness and meditation.
If you’re feeling depressed, sad or just a little lonely, the 7 Cups app may help. This app has more than 160,000 trained listeners and licensed therapists who are available around the clock.
Users can visit chat rooms and community forums or text one-on-one with a trained therapist, all anonymously. Each listener specializes in various categories, ranging from panic attacks to surviving a breakup.
The app also offers hundreds of free mindfulness exercises and simple activities to boost your mood.
This app is actually a game intended to help build personal resilience and strengthen your ability to remain strong, optimistic and motivated when presented with challenging obstacles in life.
The apps creators say it encourages the idea of living gamefully — to bring the same psychological strengths that you naturally display when playing games, such as courage and determination, to real life. One user says it “turns something like battling depression into an epic adventure.” There are daily quests such as “hug yourself” and “chug a glass of water.”