6 Clever Ways Your Smartphone Can Make You Healthy

6 Clever Ways Your Smartphone Can Make You Healthy

Anyone can download a fitness or health app onto his or her smartphone -- it's how you use it that matters. Here are six ways to get the most from your phone to meet any health goal.

1. Set up "be healthy" appointments. Let your reminder function prompt you to do more than get to your next meeting on time. You can use it to remind you to take your medication or vitamins and schedule workouts (making it less likely that you'll bail). If you tend to be a night owl, set the alarm in the evening to prompt you to go to bed on time.

2. Use your timer. We know we're supposed to brush our teeth for two minutes. But how many of us do it? Let your smartphone timer help you. Have time management issues? Use the timer to track how long it takes you to do basic things (clean up the kitchen, write a weekly report). Once you know how long something takes (what seems like 15 minutes is really half an hour) you'll be better able to schedule tasks and prioritize. Your timer can help you firm up, too. Use it to time how long you hold plank pose, or any other move that has a time element to it.

3. Track your progress. Fitness apps can be used for tracking a variety of workouts, so be sure to make the most of yours. Basic features include tracking your speed, number of steps, distance, elevation, and route, all of which can be shared socially. Some apps, such as Cardiotrainer, egg you on by letting you compete with users around the world. The Nike+ app keeps a record of your runs and, based on your goal, tells you how many miles you need to cover during your next workout.

4. Manage a medical condition. Some apps offer a one-stop destination for managing complex health problems. For example, a person with fibromyalgia could use PatientsLikeMe to track pain levels, migraines, medications and treatments along with outcomes -- all of which can be shared with your doctor, either through printouts or via the interface. It also stores lab reports, appointments, and tracks refills.

5. Eat healthy. Fooducate takes the guesswork out of deciphering food labels. Scan the UPC code and the app instantly evaluates the ingredients; it even recommends healthier alternatives in the same category. FoodFacts is handy for looking up nutritional values for the ingredients in a recipe -- especially helpful to the home cook who isn't relying on labels for info such as total calorie count.

6. Motivate yourself. One of our colleagues takes her fitness reminders to a whole new level. She customized her smartphone alarm by recording a message that would have a Marine drill sergeant shaking in his boots: "Get UP lazy @ss! Get UP. Do you want to be fat forever? GET…TO…THE…GYM.'" Much more motivating than beep, beep, beep.

Medically reviewed in August 2018.

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