Fitness and tech are converging at a rapid pace. Wearables can be used to track a lot of our vitals, the Galaxy S5 puts a focus on health and, rumor has it, Apple is gearing up to introduce an entire Healthbook section dedicated to health monitoring inside iOS 8. You might use your smartphone to track a jog here and there, or you might already know that you can use it to count calories. If you’re not already into fitness, however, there are a lot of ways you can use your phone to help get yourself back into a healthier lifestyle. There are tons of really great health apps that can help you track details like your body fat percentage, your weight, your heart rate, your diet, sleep patterns and more. The five below stand out as really compelling applications, and I’ve installed some in an effort to improve my overall health. Hopefully you find them useful, too. Oh — one last note, these are all available across iOS and Android.
1. Instant Heart Rate
There’s a ton of buzz around the heart rate monitor on the Galaxy S5. But did you know most smartphones are already very capable of offering the same feature? All you need is an app called Instant Heart Rate. Using the LED and your camera lens, similar to what Samsung does on the Galaxy S5, Instant Heart Rate can easily inform you of your beats per minute. I tested it side-by-side with the Galaxy S5 and most of the time received identical alerts, so I know Instant Heart Rate works at least as accurately as Samsung’s option. Keeping track of your heart rate can be important for many reasons: during a workout you might want to push yourself harder or ease back a bit, but you can also pick up on some underlying problems – like if your heart is racing while you’re sitting idle. Instant Heart Rate is free though there’s also a premium version of Instant Heart Rate that shows your history and a real time PPG — the latter of which isn’t even available on the Galaxy S5.
2. Noom Weight Loss Coach
Noom is a really impressive weight loss coach. It’s kind of like Lose It! (covered below) but it has a more social aspect to it. The general idea is to help you lose weight by tracking your fitness, diet with a food log and more, but Noom isn’t like other health apps: it constantly reminds you to make sure you’re entering in what you’ve eaten, making it a hard weight-loss coach to ignore. It even lets you track your body fat percentage, set your ideal body weight and your body mass index. Also, you’re split into different groups of random other Noom users to provide a teamwork weight-loss aspect. You can coach one another, talk about what struggles you have along the way and more. The premium features cost $9.99 per month, and I used it for the month of March and enjoyed everything it offered.
Do you ever have that feeling where you wake up feeling super groggy in the morning? It might be an indication that you didn’t sleep enough or slept poorly, but it also might just be because you’re waking up at the wrong point during your sleep cycle. If your alarm starts shouting at you while you’re in a cycle of deep sleep called rapid-eye-movement (REM), odds are you’re going to wake up feeling a bit loopy and still very tired. If you wake up outside of that cycle, however, chances are you’ll feel more refreshed. An app called SleepBot on Android can help you out, with sleep tracking support, the ability to turn off all of your connections (to prevent interruptions in your sleep), and the option to set your ideal sleep length time. Then, based on your movements and rest patterns, SleepBot will wake you at the optimal time when it thinks you’re no longer in REM. That should leave you feeling perfectly rested each morning.
4. Lose It!
Lose It! is an application from Fitnow Inc., that I downloaded late last year to help keep track of my health with a Jawbone Up. It supports tons of other fitness bands and products, and also lets you log your current weight, body fat percentage and then set goals to drop a few pounds so you can hit your ideal body weight. You need to be consistent along the way, though, by entering in meals eaten, distance walked, when and where you worked out (if at all) and more. There’s a barcode scanner for keeping track of specific foods, a web interface for manually entering in all of your info (like the aforementioned body fat percentage, BMI, your height, weight and more) and charts that show your progress along the way. A premium subscription will set you back $39.99 a year, which I coughed up, and it’s required for seamless integration with the aforementioned fitness trackers.
I ran cross country back in high school but these days I don’t make enough time to run — and my body fat percentage certainly shows it. When I do run, sometimes I end up hitting the treadmill too hard, leaving me with achy knees. Couch-too-5k is an app that was built to get you from out-of-shape to in-shape without pushing you too hard. The goal is to make sure you’re progressing in a healthy way to prevent yourself from any early injuries that would send you right back to the couch. It’s priced at $1.99 and starts you out with a brisk 5-minute warmup walk, and then asks you to alternative 1 minute of jogging and 1.5 minutes of walking for a total of 20 minutes. Then, after about 9 weeks and 3 days — working out 3 days a week — you should be ready to go for a 5k, following a final 5 minute warmup walk and 30 minute jog workout. The app has bonus features, too, like a log, trainer characters, the ability to keep track of a free-run, and then even a tool to help you find local 5K races.
These are all health apps that I’ve installed and have tried, and I’m going to push myself to use them a lot more. From what I’ve found, they’re all really high quality and should be helpful in getting me (and hopefully you) in better shape — and you don’t need the Galaxy S5 or the iPhone 6 with iOS 8 to get it done. Hit up the comments to let us know if you’ve had great (or poor) experiences with these health apps, or have recommendations of your own.