The question: I’m interested in tracking my health goals on my smartphone but I don’t know where to start? Any suggestions for apps that may be helpful?
The answer: It’s no surprise that apps targeting health and wellness are popular and abundant. According to the eHealth Strategy Office at the University of British Columbia, there are more than 40,000 of these types of mobile apps available. They can help us reach our health goals, track our symptoms and provide quick and reliable advice.
Look for ones that are easy to use, safe, effective, maintain privacy and are free or low cost. Here are some of my favourite (and free) apps that I recommend to patients.
1. SleepTime: This app monitors the quality of your sleep and length of time you spend in each cycle (awake, light, deep) based on your movement. It also acts as an intelligent alarm clock that will gently wake you at your lightest sleep phase within 30 minutes of a set wake-time. As a bonus, it also graphs your sleep patterns, which gives you and your doctor helpful information. One limitation to this app and others like it is that if you share a bed with someone, it may not be as accurate as it will detect their movements too.
2. My Fitness Pal: For those who want to maintain or lose weight, My Fitness Pal has a database of over three million foods that helps to monitor your caloric intake and exercise. Similar apps to this one include Lose It! which also has a barcode scanner for store-bought products.
3. Ecoheadache: When discussing headaches with my patients, they often have a difficult time remembering what happened before, during and after each attack. Ecoheadache is a diary entry tool that allows you to characterize the headache and identify triggers. It then generates a report that you can review with your doctor to determine what medication or lifestyle changes you require.
4. MindShift: An excellent Canadian anxiety tool that offers strategies to assist you in regaining control over your thoughts and fears.
5. Period Tracker Lite: This app tracks your menstrual cycle and tells you when you may or may not be fertile. It also indicates the physical and emotional changes that can occur during your cycle, which will help you build body awareness.
6. Sworkit: For those of you who travel frequently or can’t find time to hit the gym, Sworkit is an easy to use mobile circuit training workout. It can be done without equipment and can be modified to fit into your busy day with different workouts of varying lengths.
7. Bant: A made-in-Canada app that was created for individuals with Type 1 diabetes, Bant is targeted to adolescents and encourages them to pay attention to diet, activity and insulin therapy. It motivates its users to record blood sugar readings and monitors patterns that can provide insight into adjusting medications accordingly. As a reward for inputting your data, Bant gives its users free perks such as iTunes credits.
8. <30 Days: Created by the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation, <30 Days can help you reduce heart disease and stroke risk. It’s designed to assist you in identifying bad habits and suggests small yet meaningful goals for you to adopt in 30 days or less.
Dr. Sheila Wijayasinghe is the medical director at the Immigrant Womens’ Health Centre, works as a staff physician at St. Michael’s Hospital in their Family Practice Unit and at Hassle Free Clinic, and established and runs an on-site clinic at Women’s Habitat Shelter in Etobicoke.
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