Track It, Share It, Lose It: How smartphone apps are guiding people toward better health By Linda DePoto

Hoping to lose that last ten pounds of pregnancy weight but have no time or money for Weight Watchers? Just signed up for a November 10K with some friends but not sure how you’ll find the motivation to train? Find yourself in a chain restaurant deciding which option won’t ruin your diet? Don’t fret! Look it up in your phone! If you have a smartphone, a handy tool is, quite literally, right under your fingertips.

Capabilities unique to smartphones make them a compelling platform for improving health and wellness. Since most people carry their smartphones with them the majority of the time, they serve as a convenient tracking device for food, exercise, blood sugar, etc. If, for instance, you, find yourself traveling in a new city and want to find healthy food options, look it up in your phone! GPS capabilities allow for a host of useful information to be passed along to you, based on where you are physically located. The GPS also allows for automatic tracking of runs and bike rides, making it effortless to track exercise. Many apps also allow for instant connection to Facebook or other social media sites to share progress with friends. A little friendly competition just might be all you need to get training for that 10K.

According to comScore, a leading digital business analytics firm, 107 million Americans now own a smartphone, which is 35 million more than just last year. Given how quickly the mobile market is growing, it’s no surprise that there is an app for everything. This is good news for consumers; it means that an inexpensive tool probably exists that will be useful in helping you with your specific health issue. The real challenge is finding which app is best for you.

What follows is a brief list of popular nutrition, fitness and wellness apps. There are also many apps out there designed for specific conditions, such as blood sugar trackers for diabetics. Visit the Apple App Store or Google Play to search for apps, depending on whether you are looking for iPhone or Android apps.

Lose It!

A food and exercise tracker that tells you how many calories you have left to eat for the day, based on the food and exercise data you’ve already entered. Users have lost 11,949,038 pounds and counting!

Fooducate – Healthy Food Diet

A grocery shopping aid that gives letter grades for packaged foods you scan with your smartphone. You may be dismayed to see your granola bars received a grade of “C”, but then Fooducate offers healthier alternatives.

 Noom Weight Loss Coach

A coach that doesn’t meticulously track calories but that gives you challenges to complete (like switching from higher calorie to lower calorie beverages for one week).

Nike Training Club

A personal trainer on your smartphone! Designed for women, gives personalized workouts, videos and allows for sharing through social networking

Sports Tracker

A social sports computer which uses your smartphone’s GPS capabilities to track your speed, duration, etc. You get notifications of your friends’ workouts on your phone and can link your workouts to Facebook as well.

Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock

A smart alarm clock that monitors your movement, identifies which sleep cycle you are in, and wakes you up during your lightest sleep cycle within a reasonable timeframe of your wake-up time, thus resulting in less grogginess.

 Absorb Water

A hydration tracker that measures water in liquids and foods, and you can also put your urine to the test with their “mellow yellow” comparison chart.

Quitter

A tool that calculates how much money you save by quitting, whether it be smoking or another vice you are trying to shake.

Linda DePoto is a second year food policy and applied nutrition student at Friedman. She took a deep dive in the world of health apps this summer having completed Tufts’ first online course, Mobile Health Design. 

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