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Blog: Health, Fitness, and Appy-ness

With over 68% of Canadians owning smart phones, technology has easily snuck its way into many aspects of our everyday life. We have integrated smart phones into appointment scheduling, bank account checking, email sending, and television watching. Using our hand-held technology for health and fitness is no different. With over 100,000 health and fitness apps, it can be difficult to know which to use and how to incorporate this kind of technology into your lifestyle. Health and fitness apps are intended to help you track anything that impacts your lifestyle. This can include logging eating patterns or calorie counting, monitoring sleep patterns, tracking physical activity, journaling, saving favourite recipes, learning relaxation techniques, smoking cessation aids - the list is impressive!

As someone who has not used health and fitness apps, I decided to do a bit of research, select some apps, and conduct a mini experiment. After my research, I downloaded the top rated app in Canada, myfitnesspal, Apple’s own Health, and one that is recommended for all body types and fitness levels, Withings’ Health Mate. I tested these apps for a month to determine what they can offer, and what they would be best used for.

App: myfitnesspal

Intent: This app is meant to help you lose weight and keep track of your overall fitness goals. You can create personal fitness goals and the app will help you achieve them by breaking down what your calorie intake should be, recording your physical activity, and mapping your progress. 

For those that like upgrades, this app has a premium version for $10/month or $50/year - but there is really no need to subscribe because the free version does enough.

What I found neat: The food diary allows you to search for types and brands of foods, which allows the app to give you a daily nutrition report.

Perk: This app is powered by Under Armour and allows you to connect with all other Under Armour apps (Map My Run, Map My Fitness, Map My Ride). These apps integrate all your activity data into myfitnesspal to help you keep track of, and reach, your goals.

Cons: myfitnesspal does not auto-record any exercise data - you physically have to enter all your info into this app, which means you need to remember to enter it. This app requires a little more effort to keep track of your daily activities.

You need to measure your food; the intent of this app is to assist with weight loss and that means keeping track of your food consumption. If you’re not already doing this, you may need to invest in a scale for your kitchen to measure ounces of meat, and grams of vegetables and fruits.

Recommendation: I would recommend this app to individuals trying to lose or maintain weight.

Reason: It has a large variety of goals that can be set by the user; it allows you to monitor your fitness and nutrition, keep recipes, log a food journal, etc. The food journal is a bonus because if you have any digestive issues, this is a great way to track your symptoms with the foods you consume.

App: Health

Intent: This app is meant to help you track all your sorts of physiology markers and your fitness. For example, you can track your physical activity, blood glucose, blood pressure, inhaler usage, menstruation, protein intake, sleep patterns, and the list goes on… and on. It is really great for individuals that want to store their health information in one location. For those that love patterns, this app will show you patterns and cycles for just about any health-related thing you can think of.

What I found neat: It counts your steps automatically using sensors in your phone and displays them in three different ways on your dashboard: as steps, distance, and flights climbed.

Perk: You can complete your Medical ID. This info is available without having to put a passcode into your phone. In case of an emergency, someone can easily swipe right anywhere on the lock screen, touch ‘Emergency’ and then ‘Medical ID.’

Cons: This app is only available on iPhone and only works with iPhone – a bonus for all Apple lovers.

This app could be overwhelming; it takes a significant amount of time to fill in all the data because there are so many things you can keep track of.

Recommendation: I would recommend this app to individuals who are looking to keep track of overall health and physiology.

Reason: It allows you to keep track of, and store info for anything and everything related to your physiology, and it can sync with tons of ‘Health and Fitness’ apps, like 7 Minute Workout or UP (also come recommended), as well as recipe apps, medical apps, and even games.

App: Health Mate by Withings

Intent: This app is meant to track everyday activity and monitor heart rate using sensors in your phone, and has the ability to sync information with both myfitnesspal (food diary and fitness info) and Heatlh (physiological info).


What I found neat: It can use your phone camera to measure your heart rate, and will use your phone sensors to track your steps. 
Note: unlike your Health app, you have to turn your ‘steps tracking’ on for Health Mate to record this data

Perk: You can buy Withings products (scales, active watches, baby monitors) that sync with your phone and the app.

Cons: This app is less detailed than others. It does not allow you to have detailed food records unless you sync it to myfitnesspal, and does not record as many physiological details as Health does.

Health Mate uses body mass (BMI) as a measurement to keep track of weight loss/gain – many apps do. BMI does not take muscle mass into account and can give an inaccurate estimate of the amount of body fat you have. This is really important to remember when you start exercising regularly, because you will see weight gain with muscle gain.

Recommendation: I would recommend this app to those who already use myfitnesspal and want some extra features (like the heart rate monitoring or Withings devices).

Reason: Health Mate will share and exchange data with myfitnesspal like a pro. It will monitor your heart rate through your phone, letting you know if you’re in optimal workout range. You can connect Health Mate with other apps and to other Withings devices for a holistic approach to using this tech.

Remember what works for some may not work for all, so feel free to do some of your own research, download more than one, and try them out! Find what works best for you! Do you have a favourite health and fitness app?

The apps I tested are free and can be found in the App Store for iPhone.

Questions or comments? You can contact Katrina at bpseatingresearch@gmail.com

LinkedIn: ca.linkedin.com/in/katrinalisapisani