By Dr. Joseph Mercola
Did you know that 80 percent of doctors use smartphones and medical apps to help monitor and improve their health?
And 40 percent of them also believe that health apps for mobile phones and tablets can help patients to monitor their fitness and eating habits, and thereby cut down on their number of office visits.
Technology can be a strong factor in helping you take control of your health, but there are now some 40,000 health apps to choose from – and it’s a completely rapidly growing, market.
It can take a serious time investment to determine which apps are actually helpful and provide accurate information, and which are merely a waste of your time.
Many of you know that I have a passion for technology in addition to health, so health apps, which combine the two, are invaluable to a “gadget geek” like me.
I have scanned many thousands of articles and downloaded several hundred applications, and the app suggestions that follow are among those I consider to be quite valuable.
Six Fitness Apps to Check Out
1. My Fitness Pal
This free app lets you track your activity and food/caloric intake using an activity log and food diary. I use this app nearly every day to record my food intake and help me keep track of my macronutrient ratios. It’s an incredibly easy way to monitor your food intake without a lot of fuss.
MyFitnessPal has an easy to use interface that allows you to access about 1 million food items in its database, plus you can also add your own foods and recipes at any time and access them from anywhere with an Internet connection. Once you enter new food nutritional information, it will be there for you the next time you need it.
I really love this app as it quickly and easily allows you to see the number of grams of carbs, fats and protein you’re eating. I consider myself fairly sophisticated nutritionally, but I was really shocked when I found out what the actual numbers were. This is a very powerful tool and best of all it is free.
2. Nike+ Running
If you love running or jogging, this free app lets you map out runs, monitor your distance and speed, and even track calories burned. It will even track your location as you run using GPS, and lets you share goals and run information with those on your social networks.
3. Endomondo Sports Tracker
Another free app, this one is like having your very own personal trainer available at your fingertips. Along with the “usual” ability to track your heart rate, calories, speed, and distance during a workout, a built in GPS tracks your route on a map. Plus, when you enter your goals, an audio coach will give you feedback while you exercising to keep you motivated, and you can also share your workouts with friends and even track the workouts of your friends in real time.
4. Mother’s World And Period Tracker
These are actually two separate apps, but both are incredibly useful for women. Mother’s World is a pregnancy app that gives you updates about your pregnancy, nutritional information, exercises, and allows you to record baby movements, and even has tips for dealing with pregnancy emotions.
Period Tracker allows you to keep track of your menstrual cycle, ovulation, temperature, moods and PMS symptoms. It also has a health journal and a feature to connect with other women for support.
5. D Minder
Discerning how much vitamin D you’re actually getting when you are outside is a very complex individualized formula, which takes into account your location, weather, your skin color and more. After entering some basic information, such as your height and weight, skin type, location and time you are outdoors, D Minder helps you track and manage your vitamin D.
It will compute your generated vitamin D versus your target vitamin D, as well as track how long you can stay out in the sun and warn you when that time is up.
6. All-In Yoga
If you’re interested in creating an individualized yoga program, but don’t want to hire a one-on-one instructor, try this app. It lets you create a program based on your experience (beginner to advanced), time available and goals, as well as a database of more than 200 poses with detailed instructions. Also fun, it will give you a daily inspirational message to keep you on target.
And A Bonus App: Fitness Builder
There are loads of exercise applications on the net but Fitness Builder, in my experience, is the most comprehensive fitness database in the world. It contains the largest library of exercise images and videos, the most challenging workouts across all disciplines, access to a live personal trainer and a complete set of every fitness tool, and a calculator and tracking feature are available.
Most all of the apps I have are free, but this one costs $10 for the base version and it is worth every penny if you use it, as it helps you keep incredible records for your workouts.
Should You Consider A Tablet For Your Apps?
Apps are quickly becoming one of the most useful ways to harness the power of technology, but can you really get their full effect if you access them from a smartphone?
It depends on your usage, but if you plan to use fitness or other apps with any frequency, a tablet will make it much easier. Personally, the iPad is definitely one of my favorite gadgets. I simply do not travel without it, as it is a nearly ideal way to make use of electronic content. Every expert I have read gives it a significant advantage over other tablets and it will likely retain its lead for the next several years.
That said, if you’re in the middle of a workout and are looking to track your heart rate or calories burned, apps for your Blackberry or iPhone will make more sense, and can keep you informed and get you going no matter where you are, as long as you have a smartphone.
More Apps You Might Want to Consider – From Gauging Radiation Exposure To A Personalized “Magazine”
I also want to mention several other applications that you might find useful if you pull them up on your smartphone or iPad:
- The Galactic Radiation Calculator: Calculates how much radiation you’re being exposed to when you fly in a plane.
- The NVIC Vaccine Ingredients Calculator: This simple-to-use application can help you evaluate the ingredients in specific vaccines to help you compare brands and create a vaccination plan for your child
- The True Food Shopper’s Guide by the Center for Food Safety, which helps you identify and avoid genetically modified (GM) ingredients.
- The NON-GMO Shopping Guide by the Institute for Responsible Technology, which also helps you avoid GM foods. This guide is also available in Spanish.
- Flipboard is without question my favorite app. I have used RSS feeds for well over a decade, but Flipboard takes them to a new level. It is like a personalized magazine. It’s actually one of the most popular apps on the Web, as you can easily find RSS feeds and blogs on any topic and easily add them.
- Zite is a lighter weight version of Flipboard but can also be useful for novices. It’s a personalized digital magazine that updates virtually every time you open it up to crawl over half a million Web sites to find specific reading material that would be of interest to you. It is a snap to learn and use.
- Newspapers: Another justification for purchasing the iPad is that you can get free subscriptions to some of the best papers in the US as they all have free apps. The Wall Street Journal, New York Times and USA Today are all on my home page. Subscription to the WSJ costs hundreds of dollars a year but you can get virtually all of the articles for no charge on the app and for the ones you can’t get, all you need to do is type the article headline in a search engine and it will give you a link to the full article where you can read it for free.
- The Weather Channel: If you want to know what the weather is now or will be in the near future, I don’t know of a better app out there than this one. This free app is an absolute must have. Beautiful graphics allow you to easily compare different cities by a single swipe with colorful graphic 10-day predictions. Of course they have Doppler radar maps so you can easily see when rain or snow will likely hit your area. I use this nearly every day and suspect you might too.
- Dragon Dictate is another free app that is shockingly accurate and will allow you to dictate emails and texts on your phone or iPad
Dr. Joseph Mercola is an osteopathic physician, board-certified in family medicine. He has written two New York Times bestsellers and shared his expertise on ABC News, NBC’s The Today Show, CNN, CBS, Fox News, and in TIME and Forbes magazines.