There’s an App for That, But Does It Help? Making Sense of Fitness Technology

Using Smart PhoneAs citizens of the smart-phone age, we find ourselves connected to our super-computing dynamos 24/7, devices that literally can do it all, from track our shopping to show us the big game when we are away from our homes.

Millions of applications, or apps, created for these devices give us a wide range of useful, or useless, information, depending on our penchant for news, cooking, exercise or just goofing off. There are so many, it can be a challenge to pick ones that really help us, especially when we are asking our phones to help out as health coaches, too.

Thankfully, we have a lot of good choices out there in this app ocean, and we wanted to share some perspective on what might help you live better, live balanced and be healthier. Now, I’m a physician, not a technician, but our friends at Click Rain provided their tech-savvy knowledge and provided some information that helped me recommend some of these apps.

A recent NYU School of Medicine study found that more than 40,000 health apps are available for Apple devices, and there are just about the same amount available for non-Apple smartphones as well. With so many available, there are some good, and some bad. Several studies show that customers, like you, want apps that help them track symptoms or help determine what ails them, and many more people enjoy apps that can help them with weight-loss goals, like tracking steps or calorie counters.

Health care systems like Avera are providing customers with apps they want. Our AveraNow app gives patients 24/7 access to video visits with providers for a reasonable, one-time cost. AveraNow also has calorie-tracking and weight-loss features, ones that our doctors and advance care providers can access to see patients’ activity. We are considering additional features on this platform, as well as new applications that people like you can use.

Beyond our own apps, here are a few that I feel can help you make healthy strides towards a healthier autumn and winter:

MyFitnessPal: This free iPhone and Android app gives you a wide range of diet and exercise tracking features, and it sets up quickly, provides recipes and can help you connect to wearable fitness trackers, such as the Fitbit or Apple Health devices.

Medisafe: We all need reminders, and this app serves to remind you daily to take medications and requires the user to confirm it was taken. It keeps a record so your doctor can take a look at the data and help you. It also reminds you to refill prescriptions and offers a feature that can help couples – it’ll help you manage your meds as well as those of your wife or husband, if needed.

OluminaLife: When a team of physicians and psychologists develops an app to help you lose weight and sleep better, it gives its user more confidence. That’s the case with this app that extends the doctor-patient relationship without additional review. It also provides sleep coaching, tracks your goals and steps and gives you motivating encouragement as you work on you.

Shopwell Healthy Diet & Grocery Food: Ditch the paper list – this app lets you keep all your shopping needs on your phone, but it also helps you match foods you buy with recipes, all the while providing real-time nutrition information. It even reads barcodes, so you can get all the facts while you’re in the aisle. It’s free, too!

These four are not even the tip of the iceberg, but they do pack a lot of information that can benefit you and your family into the palm of your hand. Apps for those who live with diabetes, heart disease or other chronic conditions also are available, and they can help. Information is powerful, and with a little coaching from your physician, these tools can get you closer to any health/fitness goal you might have. Of course your Avera Medical Group physician would be more than happy to coach you on the best ones for you.

Want to see more of our recommendations? You can online.

 

By Dr. Tad Jacobs

Chief Medical Officer of Avera Medical Group at Avera Health

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