Health Apps: Are They Useful And What to Look For

 

Smartphones and mobile devices have changed our lives in ways we could never have imagined. With convenience being a requirement and no longer an option, people are using their devices to take life into their own hands. This trend is extremely evident in the health space.

There are plenty of health apps available in your app store, and they do everything from track your fitness levels and monitor your eating habits to giving you a detailed description of how you sleep on any given night. With 58 percent of smartphone users having downloaded one of these apps, it’s safe to say that mobile health and fitness is a trend that isn’t going away.

But it’s also fair to ask ourselves if these apps are actually doing any good for us; are the effects actually worth noting and should we be embracing this change. If you’ve found yourself skeptical about the validity of these apps in the past, here are a few facts to help you make wise decisions when using a health app.

Are they worth the hype?

The short answer is yes. Health apps, as a whole, allow people to take their well being into their own hands. They provide real-time information and answers about the complexity that is the human body, encourage people to make healthy choices, and their convenient and user-friendly designs make it easy for just about everyone to have autonomy over their health.

The one drawback to these apps is that it’s easy for users to interpret them as a substitute for sufficient health care. It’s important to remember that while most of these apps are great sources for information, they are not a replacement for regular doctor visits or medical care, nor are they capable of diagnosing or curing any disease you may have. If you’re ever concerned about the advice you’ve received on one of these apps, don’t hesitate to consult with a medical professional.

As long as you’re using these apps as a guide for healthy living and not a substitute for basic medical care, then health and fitness apps are great tools for keeping your body and mind running smoothly. They can also supplement the conversations you have with your doctor, as they provide you with personalized data about your lifestyle habits.

What should you look out for?

When choosing a health or fitness app to incorporate into your lifestyle, you must do your research to ensure these apps aren’t providing you with misinformation.

In general, it’s a good practice to avoid apps that over promise results— whether that be shedding 30 pounds in 10 days or curing your insomnia in a week. You’ll also want to be skeptical about any app that promises to diagnose you with a specific disease or that offer you major medical advice, as they are not qualified to do so.

Below are more tips on how to vet health apps specifically for the category of health that you’re trying to improve.

Mental health apps

There are plenty of apps that target different aspects of mental health, whether that be guiding you through meditation to increase your mindfulness or giving you access to live interactions with healthcare physicians. When choosing the one that’s right for you, be sure the app helps you to achieve your personal goals.

One of the biggest things users should be on the lookout for when using a mental health app is how their privacy is handled. Be wary if the app requests access to data on your device that it doesn’t need, like your photos, messages, or data from other apps. You also want to research if it shares information with a third party.

Additionally, these apps should not be diagnosing you with any sort of disorder or mental disability, nor should they offer to fix or cure a disorder. Instead, look for apps offering tools to deal with everyday feelings and emotions, or even ones that allow you to self-track your feelings without providing a medical solution.

Of all the ways to boost your mental health, a well-developed app can do wonders in helping you find ways to improve the state of your mind. Just be sure that it’s an app that you enjoy using, and one that you can confidently trust.

Nutritional apps

Nutrition apps are a great way for you to learn how to eat healthier and make better lifestyle choices. However, there are plenty of dieting apps available that spread misinformation, and could lead you down a path that leaves you hungry and malnourished. Users should do a lot of research into apps before they download them.

Avoid apps that suggest you cut out large food groups like carbs, dairy, or gluten, especially if you’re not on a medically approved diet that has these foods off-limits for you. They should also not be so restrictive that long-term use of the app is impossible. Instead, search for apps that show you how to make sustainable lifestyle changes.

When doing your research, be mindful of where the app is getting its strategies. Are their weight-loss claims backed by science, or are they based on current diet fads? Is the app made by actual nutrition experts? Look for apps made by companies you can trust. The WW app, for example, features their doctor-approved weight loss program that gives users science-backed information to help them through their weight loss journey.

Most importantly, choose an app that makes it easier for you to make healthier eating choices. Whether that be by allowing you to monitor the food you’re eating or by providing you with facts to help you while grocery shopping, whichever app you use should encourage you to eat healthy in a way that works for you.

Fitness apps

Fitness apps are all about getting you motivated to live an active lifestyle. Whether that be by providing you with fun exercises for your workout or reminding you to take your 10,000 steps throughout the day.

When choosing a fitness app, make sure that you’ve picked one that actually makes you excited to work out. Avoid choosing apps that give you arbitrary or unachievable goals that you’re not interested in reaching. If walking 10,000 steps a day is not something you’re interested in or you’d rather not keep track of the number of calories you’re burning, then don’t download an app that focuses heavily on those things.

Instead, go for apps that make working out fun for you in whatever way that may be. If you’re someone who enjoys working out to music, then perhaps an app like Aaptiv, which offers personalized music-based programs, might be a great fit for you. If counting steps or creating a rigid work out schedule is more your style, then go for a fitness tracker that lets you record these things and pushes you to stick to your goals.

The main thing to keep in mind when choosing any sort of health app is making sure that it’s something that you genuinely enjoy. The goal of these apps is to provide you with healthy habits that you can use long term, so if something is not working for you then don’t be afraid to try something new. If you’re ever really concerned about something then reach out to your doctor, but otherwise, feel free to explore the hundreds of apps that are available until you find the one(s) that are right for you!

 

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