My Top 5 Favourite Health Apps

We’ve all heard of the potential health implications of spending too much time wired in.  Whether it’s the radiation from our cell phones, the arthritis that sets in our thumbs, the damage done to our interpersonal communication skills or the strain on our eyes, we’re constantly told about the negative health implications of our technological age.

However, as much as we hear these warnings, there is no chance that our electronic lifestyle is going anywhere soon.  Wireless technology, the internet and smart phones are here to stay.  They serve as essential tools for the rapid-paced society we live in.  While I advocate taking  an “electronic-free” day off each week to give your nervous system a break, I wonder if all this technology can actually have a positive impact on our health.  Here are my favourite apps for Android and iPhone that can promote your health rather than hinder it.

1) Pocket Yoga: Of all the Android yoga apps out there, this one is by far my favourite.  It’s
not free (it costs $3) but it actually takes you through a series of yoga workouts rather than just showing you a list of poses.  The app gives you the option of choosing from three different settings (mountain, ocean or desert), three different workout lengths (30 minutes, 45 minutes or 1 hour) and three levels of difficulty (beginner, intermediate, advanced).  When staying at my aunt’s cottage I roll my yoga mat out on the grass, put my phone beside me and get into the flow.

2) Sleep as Android (or Sleep Tracker for iPhone): The idea behind the mechanism of this app is that, when we sleep lightly we move around more than when we enter states of very deep sleep.  With this app, you set your alarm and put your phone on your mattress while you sleep and the sleep tracker senses your movement throughout the night.  Rather than being jarred out of a deep and comfortable sleep, your phone waits for you to enter a state of lighter sleep, up to half an hour before your desired wake up time, before sounding the alarm.  Using this app has helped me greet the day with a less groggy disposition and makes me feel like I’ve slept more soundly.  The sleep tracker also produces a graph when you wake up, giving you information about the quality of sleep you experience each night. Take advantage of the 14-day free trial and see how this app makes a difference in how you begin your mornings.

3) Meditation Oasis: These apps may cost $1 each, but are very relaxing, guided audio meditations.  I listen to these audio meditations to help relax both my body and mind (especially after a stressful day) before going to sleep.  They’re also very useful guides for those who want to start a daily meditation practice but aren’t sure how to begin or even for those who just need a mental break from study or work.  If the internet is available, you can go online to the listening page at meditationoasis.com and choose from a free list of 43 different guided meditation podcasts for varying levels of expertise.

4) 8tracks: Whether you need a fast-paced playlist to accompany your daily workouts or some calming music to help you relax, 8tracks will have an awesome compilation of songs for your musical taste.  We live in a visual culture and sometimes it’s therapeutic to turn off the visual stimulation, steep a cup of tea and listen to some soothing, stress-relieving music.  You can download this free app onto your phone and browse through a variety of music playlists according to genre.

5) My Fitness Pal:  This free app is a portable tool that can be used anytime for tracking your daily nutrition.  You simply use the database to search for and enter in the foods that you eat each day. This app helps you track weight loss goals by giving you a personalized caloric intake target based on your age, weight, gender and activity levels.  It’s also very useful for people with other diet goals, such as limiting sugar, increasing dietary fibre intake or consuming an adequate dietary intake of micro-nutrients (vitamins and minerals).  By using this app you’ll have a more accurate view of your daily nutrient intake and will be motivated to make healthier food choices.

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6 thoughts on “My Top 5 Favourite Health Apps

  1. I totally just took an electronic-free day yesterday and it was great! I forget sometimes what it feels like to be “human.” To just cook food, talk to people (in real life), go for walks and take a bath! It’s great.

    Another app I love is FitDay – I use the official online version here – http://www.fitday.com/ as well as the iPhone version (and then I have it all available). I think it’s a great way for me to check in every month or two to track what I eat for a week to see if I’m getting enough protein and also all my vitamins, minerals, and fiber – it gives a graph and you can track virtually any nutrient you want! Love it.

  2. Hey, Erica, long time no see!

    Yes, last Saturday I took an electronic-free day. I was tempted to check my email on my phone and refrained. Nothing exploded, nothing bad happened, no one was annoyed that I didn’t respond and my eyes and nervous system got a much-needed rest. I will definitely post an article on this, I think it’s a good and relevant practice for modern families to engage in once a week, especially since kids do absolutely everything on the computer nowadays (phone, TV, schoolwork, reading, games, arts and crafts etc.) and while we “wire in” we often “tune out” to our surroundings.

    Fitday, I’ve heard you mention it before. I’ve always used myfitnesspal but I feel that they are similar. Either way they’re free, you search for and enter in the foods you eat each day and they tally up your calories, fat, protein, carb, sugar, sodium, vitamin and mineral intake and create graphs for you. They also give you a target range to hit (recommended daily intakes all all the nutrients). It can be time-consuming but provides great information for those who want to learn more about what they’re consuming on a daily basis. Thanks for commenting!

  3. I use, and recommend, most of the apps you already talked about. Besides those, I frequently refer patients to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Dirty Dozen app, a shopper’s guide to pesticides in produce with regular updates on the “dirty dozen” and the “clean 15”. Also from EWG, is the Good Guide app, where you can look up health, environmental and social performance ratings for over 120,000 products. It even has a feature where you can see the ratings for a specific product by scanning its bar code, making it great for on-the-go product research.

    And because my kids love fish so much (not that I’m complaining), I couldn’t live without the Ocean Wise app put out by the Vancouver Aquarium, with its ocean-friendly seafood guide.

    1. Hi, Cyndi!

      Thanks for the suggestions! My classmates and I are involved a rather large Facebook debate stemmed from the movie Earthlings and our role, as naturopaths (or future naturopaths), in educating patients on sustainable and cruelty free practices when purchasing food and deciding what to eat. I will definitely check out those apps.

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