These days there are thousands of health-related apps available for smartphones–everything from activity trackers to nutrition logs to meditation guides. For people trying to emphasize health and wellness (or just stick to a particular health goal), it’s worth maximizing the smartphone technology in your pocket to help motivate, measure, and track your progress.
Here are 12 healthy living apps that can help take your fitness/nutrition/lifestyle goals to the next level. All are free except where noted.
This one’s only relevant if you have (or are willing to invest in) a Fitbit activity tracker. But if you do, the app automatically syncs with your Fitbit to track steps (and calories burned, if you’re into that). It also allows users to log food information, weight goals, water consumption, sleep quality and more–and see it all on one dashboard. The app also has a social platform so you can connect, compete with, and cheer on friends who use the app. Accountability is an important aspect of achieving wellness goals, so the prominent scoreboard may help give you an extra push to do what you’ve set out to do.
If you don’t have a Fitbit tracker or similar, you can still monitor your movement with your phone. Pacer automatically tracks your steps–no need to open the app first. Like the Fitbit app, it tracks your daily and weekly steps, allows you to set goals and receive notifications and reminders, and has a social component. The upside is that it’s free and doesn’t require any equipment other than your phone; the downside is that unless you carry your phone everywhere you go in your pocket it’s not going to be all that accurate.
This free app gives additional motivation to get out the door and get moving. Turn it on before you go for a walk, a run or a bike ride and you’ll earn money for a charity of your choice–25 cents per mile for walkers and runners and 10 cents per mile for bikers. (The money comes from donations by corporate sponsors.) It’s super easy to use: just open the app, choose a charity, and press start. Some of the organizations available to receive funds are: Wounded Warrior Project, Habitat for Humanity, Feeding America and The Nature Conservancy.
I wrote in more detail about it here, but Yoga Studio is my favorite app for a comprehensive set of yoga sequences with easy-to-follow instructions. From the other post:
Yoga Studio is designed to simulate the experience of actually being in a studio: A soothing voice guides users through classes set to music and even gives instructions for when to inhale/exhale. The app offers 65 video classes ranging from 10-minute Beginner Flexibility to 60-minute Advanced Strength. Or, you can create your own custom classes using their pose database. There are several in-app music options to choose from, or you can listen to music through other apps (iTunes Radio, Pandora, etc.) during a class. You can also schedule classes to your calendar, a convenient feature for setting the intention and making the time. For iPhone and iPad only. ($3.99)
I’m not really into calorie-counting (I’ll do an article in the future on why) but it can be a starting point for people who are trying to gain or lose weight and need an estimate of their food intake. In MyFitnessPal, you log the food you eat and the app tells you how many calories you’ve consumed, the macronutrient breakdown, and displays a scoreboard of your progress toward your goals. It also syncs with fitness trackers (such as Fitbit and Pacer) to estimate calories burned throughout the day. The app holds users accountable by sending reminders to log your food if you’ve forgotten to.
This app is an all-around guide to selecting and storing fresh produce: learn what’s in season in your area, get tips and tricks on choosing and storing fruits/vegetables/herbs, and see average crop pesticide levels to help you decide when you should buy organic. For iPhone only. ($1.99)
Remember those little pocket guides to choosing sustainable seafood? This is those in app form. Seafood Watch gives recommendations on selecting ocean-friendly and low-mercury seafood. Sushi is searchable by Japanese name too. It’s not the easiest to use, but it’s a useful and regularly-updated guide to choosing healthy and sustainable seafood.
An estimated 70% of food available in conventional American supermarkets contains genetically modified crops. Despite mounting scientific evidence that these new crops have environmental and health consequences that should be closely monitored, the U.S. does not require that genetically modified foods be labeled. This free app developed by the Center for Food Safety helps decode food labels to clue you in to which foods in your grocery cart are genetically modified–and how to find alternatives. (Read more about GMOs and their history in this post.)
I also wrote about this one briefly here. It’s a sleep tracker, alarm clock, and (hopefully) restfulness improver. Place your phone on your mattress when you go to bed and the app will track movement in your sleep to determine where you are in your sleep cycle so it can wake you in your lightest phase. It’s pretty cool to see how much easier it is to wake up with this app. I feel much more refreshed in the morning when I use it. One thing though: you should probably turn your phone on airplane mode if you’re going to sleep with it next to your head–although the jury’s still out on its long-term effects, mobile phone radiation is worth being cautious about. ($1.99)
This one is like a custom-designed wellness plan. Its slogan is “Get more out of life,” which is fitting because it’s a convenient reminder to actually do the things you know are positive and healthy for you. How it works: You set different life/wellness goals and reminders with specific timeframes (for example, to meditate daily or call grandma every two weeks) and the app reminds you of your intentions and tracks what you do. For iPhone only.
Need a moment of calm? Take a few minutes out of your day to meditate with this app. Choose your duration (2 – 20 minutes), your preferred nature scene, and press start. You’ll be guided through a meditation (or, alternatively, you’ll hear calming nature sounds for the period of time you requested). Relaxation at your fingertips. They also have a website you can use to get Calm on desktop.
This free app educates consumers on dangerous ingredients in the cosmetics industry and helps you make informed decisions about which products to purchase. (If you’re not sure what you need to be worried about in your cosmetics, start here and here.) When you’re shopping, scan products to learn more about the ingredients in them and their health implications. If the product you scanned doesn’t fare so well, the app also offers recommendations for healthier product options. It includes information on over 200,000 products from 2,900+ brands.