Whether you’re still getting the grasp of your new year’s resolutions, or are finally gaining control of your health, finding the right tools to help you keep track of your health plans is just as critical as making the right health choices themselves. In many fitness programs, members are urged to keep a journal of their diet and exercise goals to make sure they stay on the right track. With today’s advances in technology, there are now dozens of apps to choose from that can not only help you track your diet, but also automatically generate reports to see how changes in your diet compare over time and guide what changes you may need to make to see better reports. Similar apps exist for tracking your fitness, sleep, and your mood as well. From our research, here are a few of the best apps to track your health.
If you’re following a diet plan, keeping track of your food intake is critical for managing your nutrition, staying on the right path, and motivating yourself to keep eating foods that you need. FitDay is a free diet and weight loss journal that is used by more than six million people that allows you to track your food and log fitness activity. Signing up is easy and you can immediately start inputting today’s diet and fitness data, along with information like your weight and mood. For those looking to manually monitor their health centered around their diet, FitDay is a well-designed and intuitive app. FitDay is Web-based, though it also features an iPhone app and a PC version to use offline. FitDay is free, but a reasonably priced upgrade also allows users to create custom nutritional goals, design custom stats to track, and it removes advertising. If you’re looking for more advanced functionality and reports to help assist in weight loss goals, you may want to consider MyFoodDiary. This app (also Web-based) provides more options for helping achieve goals with options to input body measurements, body fat percentages, and details about your exercise routines, which include several household chores and recreational activities. MyFoodDiary offers a free trial, but will then cost you $9 per month.
For those with food allergies and in need of a way to track triggers of allergens (whether diagnosed or suspected), I’m personally a fan of myAllergies Food Diary, available for the iPhone. With this app I can keep track of my food and note any reactions, such as irritability or other physical side effects. I have a long list of food allergies that range in severity. While I can’t always avoid some food, using this help might help others with allergies decide whether they can eat some allergens at least in moderation based on their history of reactions.
Along with their dietary components, FitDay and MyFoodDiary are also great apps to help you keep track of your exercise routines for achieving an ideal level of fitness. MyFoodDiary can show you how to track calories based on the known number of calories burned during specific types of exercise. The app then uses motivation charts that show the number of days of exercise for the past seven days and the past 30 days. Its Weight Loss Reports section can help you chart your calories and exercise over time to help you see and project results.
For those looking for more automated fitness measurements, calculations, and results, you may want to consider investing in a tool such as the FitBit. We previously wrote that FitBit is one of the 10 best ways to help you keep your new year’s resolutions, and for a good reason: It’s an easy way to track your fitness without having to really think about it throughout the day. The tiny gadget easily clips on to your belt waistband (or wrist, pocket, belt, or any spare piece of clothing) and will track everything from steps you’ve taken, total distance traveled, and calories burned to how well you’re sleeping. You can then upload your daily data to fitbit.com, which is free, and then assess patterns in your routine to change any necessary habits to improve your lifestyle. FitBit also integrates with other programs like Microsoft HealthVault, so you can use data assessed from FitBit with other health data collected via other self-monitoring health devices.
Can’t sleep at night? You’re not alone. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, around 9-12 percent of the American population reports chronic insomnia. This can be due to several factors, including stress, sleep apnea, or other types of sleep disorders. While you may want to consider talking to your doctor, using a device like the FitBit can help you collect data while you sleep that may alert you to a specific type of problem you are having — such as waking several times during the night or not reaching the level of sleep your brain needs to rest. iPhone users may find the iPhone app Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock useful for not only monitoring sleep cycles, but also ensuring you wake up at an ideal sleep cycle phase. Though I found nothing out of the ordinary about my sleeping habits, I did find waking up much more pleasant while using this app, as I woke up during my lightest phase of sleep before the alarm actually needed to go off.
Whether you tend to just have a few bad days occasionally throughout the month or suffer from mood disorders such as anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder, tracking your mood can be critical in helping prevent future panic attacks or keeping your symptoms from becoming worse.
One of the most well designed apps for tracking mood is from Optimism, which is available as a Web-based app for iPhone users or as a desktop-based client for Mac OS X and Windows users. Optimism can help you rate the quality of your mood, how you cope throughout the day, and how well you sleep and exercise (which are both critical components of maintaining a healthy brain). The app also asks you about other components of your day, such as whether you drank enough water, or if you had any fights. From there, you can view reports about your mood throughout the week and month, which can be used to develop and monitor strategies to remain in good health.
The app can also be useful to help you understand “triggers” and early warning signs of panic attacks or impending depression. Except for its iPhone component, Optimism is not free, though it’s well worth its price. For those looking for lower priced apps to simply document their mood on a daily basis, I also like Mood Panda, available in the iTunes App Store for free.
Do you currently use an app to help you track your health? Be sure to share your favorites in the comments.