I love using health apps and have used quite a few over the years to track various aspects of my health, from my general physical activity, pregnancies, nutrition (especially when I’ve needed to lose a few kgs!) to my current obsession with all-in-one health dashboards. And I’m not alone.
One 2017 report estimated that there were 318,000 health apps available worldwide, which is nearly double the number available in 2015. But I know not everyone shares my enthusiasm for these magical little apps. So why not? A quick survey of my friends came up with two main reasons. The first was that my friends are mostly young, fit and healthy so don’t feel the need to track their health. And the second is that there are just so many to choose from so where do you even start? A common case of analysis paralysis. Sound familiar?
Health apps can be extremely useful if you’re managing a chronic illness, but they can also help you to understand your health and your body—even if you’re fit, healthy and take care of yourself.
So, where do you start? And how do you know which apps are the best? The beauty of using health apps is that you can mix and match the ones that fit you and your lifestyle best. Whatever you want to track, I can guarantee there’s an app for that!
Here are a few that are available now that I love. These aren’t meant as a “Top 5 Health Apps of All Time” list, but they are a good cross-section of the types of app you could be using—even if you're in your prime!
FemTech App: Clue
The rise of female technology, or FemTech, has been astronomical in recent years with the development of apps, wearables and digital guides. The most mainstream FemTech apps have been developed to help you monitor your cycle, symptoms and fertility; and subsequently others (or sometimes the same apps) will help you track your pregnancy.
Clue is one such app that doesn’t scream period tracker on the screen of your phone, which is a winner in my book. As well as tracking when your period starts and stops, you can track symptoms and moods and how they vary each month. The app will learn your personal cycle and can predict your most fertile time. You can also set reminders when your period is due so no more surprises.
Mental Health App: Am Mindfulness
Who doesn’t need to take some time to find calm and focus every now and then? This is where mindfulness, yoga and meditation apps come in handy in your arsenal of health apps.
Am Mindfulness uses the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programme to teach mindfulness on an individual level. You can follow the programme, depending on what you want to get out of the app. For instance, maybe you want to learn how to meditate or maybe you just need five minutes to destress at the end of a long day.
A really cool feature of this app is the ability to take mindfulness selfies. A snapshot of this data is used by Am Mindfulness to develop their stress-identifying AI programme. It is now 86% accurate when it comes to recognising stress just from your selfie, and it will give personalised suggestions on the best stress busters.
Skin Health App: Miiskin
With skin cancer making up one-third of all cancers, prevention is definitely the best, but early detection of cancerous moles is incredibly important as well. We have to be especially careful living in tropical, sunny Southeast Asia!
Mole checker apps like Miiskin allow you to take pictures of your moles and track them in the app. This can be really useful to track any changes in your moles over time, something that’s not always easy to do from memory alone. You can set reminders when it’s time to take a new picture and the images are stored so you can spot even subtle changes early.
Nutrition Tracker App: My Fitness Pal
Calorie and nutrition trackers like My Fitness Pal are perfect for keeping track of what you eat. Not just the calories you’re eating, which can be offset against your age, gender and activity levels, but also a breakdown of the macronutrients you're consuming. Concerned about getting enough fibre in your diet? This app will tell you. It can also be easily customised by creating your own recipes, so adding this morning’s nasi lemak is no problem.
Fitness Tracker App: HeadUp
Most fitness trackers have a companion app these days, which means you can see your data on your phone or tablet. And in a lot of cases, you can link one or more other apps into your fitness tracker. Several fitness apps will do this, like Nike Running Club and Apple Watch or Map My Run and FitBit.
Then along came HeadUp, which pulls all your data together to give insights on how you’re doing. This is a new app to the market and seems to be one of many offering this service now. What I like about HeadUp is that I can enter my mood on a daily basis too and the app will analyse my emotional data along with my physical data to give insights on how both are related.
How many devices do you have these days that talk to your phone? Chances are you have at least one or two. Maybe a printer, the remote for your smart TV, or Alexa. They may not come to mind first, but some of your bathroom favourites, like your toothbrush and scales, will also connect to your phone and give information on your health.
Smart scales are a great connected health device. In addition to telling you how much you weigh, a smart scale will also send information on muscle mass, bone mass and level of hydration to your phone in an associated app which you can track over time. Feeling run down? Check your hydration levels. Working out more? Check how much your muscle mass in increasing.
A last word on data protection: this is a very complex subject and it can be hard to navigate—and understand—how your data is being used. I’m sure all developers tell you that they take your privacy seriously, but some do a better job than others. It’s always recommended to read the small print before giving away your personal data. How much you give and where you feel comfortable is a matter of personal comfort.
I think we can all agree on the usefulness of today’s technology when it comes to monitoring your own health and wellness. You have the portable power to track and understand your health quite literally in the palm of your hand. Data that you can then share with your doctor if you wish to do so. You can tailor the information you collect to really reflect and support your lifestyle whether you’re completely healthy and just keeping tabs, or whether you have a health issue you want to pay closer attention to.
Which apps will you choose to help you live your best life? Let us know in the comments section below.