10 apps designed for your health

Jill Babchak, 34, of Columbia, has joined Weight Watchers before, but this time around she’s dropping pounds with the help of the organization’s mobile application. “I like it because it has all the restaurants, all the foods, right at your fingertips,” says Babchak, a senior marketing specialist at DP Solutions in Columbia.

“You can actually scan a food right there in the grocery store, and it brings up the amount of points it is worth,” she says, referring to Weight Watchers’ system of assigning different point values to foods based on their nutritional content.

With smartphone use on the rise, more people are turning to mobile applications for guidance with weight loss, exercise, allergy management, smoking cessation and nearly any other wellness issue imaginable.

There are now applications that track calories and steps, offer custom exercise plans, beep when it’s time to take a pill, or send text messages to help quit smoking. Some, but not all, are free.

Babchak says she’s tried several applications, including MyFitnessPal, SparkPeople, FitBit and Nike+. But the Weight Watchers plan, which tracks both food and exercise, is her current favorite. In restaurants she turns to the application, which is included in her Weight Watchers membership plan, for guidance on what to order. Tracking her eating and exercise is much easier with the application than it was in the pre-smartphone days, she says, when she had to boot up her computer to enter the information.

With thousands of wellness applications now available and new ones being launched all the time, here are a few favorites:

1. Weight Watchers

A central component of the online Weight Watchers plan, this mobile application gives recipes and tips, while making it easy to track food points and exercise.

2. Fooducate

An award-winning application for Apple and Android products, Fooducate gives letter grades to foods and drinks using an algorithm that gives the highest scores to foods that are the most nutritious and the least processed. Users of the free application can scan bar codes in supermarkets and receive recommendations for better food choices. The application tells the good and the bad about each product, including minerals it may contain or whether the serving sizes on the package are misleading.

3. Nike+

Tracks exercise, helps runners and bicyclists find new routes, connects users and provides advice from coaches. With this application, users can track their workouts, then learn how to improve.

4. SmokefreeTXT

Couldn’t be simpler. Users who want to quit smoking text the word “quit” on their mobile phones to IQUIT, answer some basic questions, and receive advice and encouragement toward their goal.

5. My Medical

Lets users keep their own medical records and histories in one place, so they never again have to rely on doctors’ offices to send information back and forth. This $2.99 application keeps records for an entire family and includes places for health insurance and emergency contact information. An auto-fill-in feature helps users with tricky prescription names and medical jargon.

6. AsthmaSense

Created by Maryland company iSonea, which makes the asthma measurement device Wheezometer, this mobile application, which costs $3.99, helps asthma sufferers manage their condition by tracking systems and medical use, providing reminders for medication, and improving accessibility of emergency information.

7. FitBit

Uses a motion sensor to track both activity and sleep, logging number of steps and stairs, miles traveled, calories burned and length and quality of sleep. The basic application is free; premium products are not.

8. Yoga Stretch

Users can follow a preloaded yoga routine or create their own with this 99-cent application, compatible with Apple devices. They can also play iTunes music during their workouts.

9. Livestrong MyQuit Coach

Lets users design their own path toward a smoke-free future, either by quitting cold turkey or gradually reducing the number of cigarettes smoked each day. The mobile application, which costs $3.99, lets users chart their progress, receive awards for reaching goals, and access tips and inspirational photos.

10. SparkPeople

A free application that tracks calories and exercise while providing personalized fitness programs, recipes and support from other SparkPeople members. 

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