Free health support from your smartphone
| January 30, 2019 2:15 PM
Your little personal supercomputer can change your life.
Just one month into 2019, millions of people have already abandoned their well-intentioned New Year’s resolutions. No judgment. Going to the gym every single day, or just trying to avoid those leftover holiday treats in the house can sometimes feel like a task better suited for Ethan Hunt.
Luckily, better, healthier living is right at our fingertips thanks to our smartphones and the ever-expanding landscape of wellness apps and content. Live Well decided to offer a taste of what’s available out there, from food tracking apps to financial planning primers. It’s not an exhaustive list, but much of it is totally free, and, at the very least, we hope to inspire others to search the App store for something other than the latest Woody Block puzzle update.
App - Insight Timer
Building a healthy mind must be on a lot of people’s… umm, minds, because there are several popular meditation apps to choose from, including Calm, Headspace, and 10% Happier. Medication can be useful for sleeping better, reducing stress and for calming a busy brain. The trick is finding something that works for you, because we can all react to stimuli in slightly different ways.
The Live Well recommendation is Insight Timer, available on IOS and Android. This one is great largely because of the volume and variety of free content. The app includes more than 14,000 free guided meditations, music tracks, talks and courses. There are more than 3,000 meditation teachers and musicians on this one app as well, allowing you to find the voice and sounds that work best for you. The Insight Timer includes different types of meditation and explains them all to help you in your selection. More info: InsightTimer.com
App - Yoga Wake Up
This application syncs with the alarm on your phone and guides you straight from your sleep cycle and into a gentle, 10-minute, audio-guided yoga practice. The app is great for starting your day on a positive, healthy note, with sequences that include breathing and meditation. Comes with a good selection of voices and music choices, all with the intention of deepening your breath and loosening your body when you need it most.
Available on IOS and Android platforms. Visit YogaWakeUp.com for more information.
YouTube Channel - Yoga with Adriene
There are many, many choices out there for quality yoga content on YouTube. One of the more well-liked channels is Yoga with Adriene, which offers free high quality yoga practices for people of all ages, shapes and sizes. She combines traditional yoga studies with developmental movement and storytelling. While she has co-founded a lucrative subscription based yoga platform, she still a variety of free content. In January she hosted a free 30-day yoga challenge on YouTube. More information: YogaWithAdriene.com
Food and Diet Tracking
The big name on the market - MyFitnessPal
MyFitnessPall is hugely successful with millions of downloads across its platforms, and that’s because they offer the most comprehensive and user-friendly features in the space. Their Calorie Counter database contains more than six million foods, and it has the ability to scan barcodes for even easier tracking.
Other features include the ability to save favorite meals for easy logging, a well-designed exercise log and the ability to connect with more than 50 other apps, including FitBit and Garmin.
The app will offer recommended daily calorie targets and personalized plans, and you can connect with other users in forums for tips, recipes and encouragement. MyFitnessPal.com
Food Tracking for dietary health and symptom tracking - MySymptoms
If you suspect something you’re eating is causing some negative physical symptoms (headaches, stomach pain, brain fog, poor sleep, etc.), then the MySymptoms app can help you identify the trigger foods that could be causing it.
The app crunches the numbers on the foods you track and the symptoms you’re feeling on a given day, eventually offering some suggestions of the root cause. It’s a more efficient practice than implementing an elimination diet that requires you to slowly add in certain foods to determine symptom causes. The app also helps you record medications, sleep, stress and exercise patterns as well as any potential environment factors. Available on IOS & Android. Visit SkyGazerLabs.com/wp
Not free but worth a look - Viome Digestive Testing
For those hoping to find specific answers on all the crazy things going on inside their bodies, consider the Viome at-home test kit and corresponding smartphone app. The easy-to-use home kit collects your sample, then a lab identifies the nutrients and toxins being produced by your gut biome. Within two weeks, your food and nutrient recommendations are available on the app.
The test utilizes advanced technology to identify different species and strains of organisms in your digestive system, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, yeast, parasites and more. From there the app recommends exact foods that you should be eating and minimizing with the goal of creating a “balanced gut.” The test runs high - almost $400 bucks. But it’s neat stuff for those looking for more answers. Viome.com
Budget tracking - Mint app
A part of the Intuit brand, the Mint Budget, Bills and Finance app is a comprehensive money management tool that can help you crunch the numbers in your life without making your brain hurt. It can automatically update and categorize your information, tracking your bank accounts, credit cards, retirement accounts, investments and more. You can track all your bills and get reminders to pay them (on time!) or you can set up alerts if certain funds run low.
Mint can calculate spending by category and can help you easily create a budget based on spending patterns. It can also offer custom tips and savings based on your lifestyle and goals, for example how to work towards getting a lower interest credit card or a higher yield savings account.
You can plan ahead for one-time only expenses (vacations, cars, etc.) and it can help you make cuts in individual spending categories.
The app also offers free credit scores. Just verify your identity and you can get a free credit report summary within minutes. Mint also offers explanations on how credit scores are calculated and offers tips on how to improve it. Available on IOS & Android.
Stock Market Apps
If you’re anything like me, then you have a LOT of problems, but specifically, you don’t understand much about the stock market. There are a few apps out there to help you understand the game without engaging in risky activity.
The Acorns app is a good one for beginners. For one, it rounds up purchases to the nearest dollar (because who needs cents?), which is then transferred to your account to invest. The app advertises itself by saying “invest your spare change,” which just means you can start with simple subscription pricing plans that run as little as a few bucks per month.
Acorns will automatically build a portfolio of stock and bond investments based on a brief questionnaire you complete when signing up for a new account.
Acorns invests exclusively in ETFs (exchange-traded fund) to help build you a diverse and broad portfolio in line with your investment goals. It does quite a bit, but you can measure your growth and knowledge by following its suggestions and reading its plethora of content. Available on IOS & Android. Acorns.com
Another stock app is Robinhood, which boasts no commissions or trade fees. While it does not give you access to a full range of investments like mutual funds, it allows you free trades with just a simple tap, and you can invest in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. Available on IOS & Android. It’s easy to use, so be careful, especially if you know about as much as me.
If you feel like you’re not quite ready to use your hard-earned cash yet, you could always go the gaming route. The TradeHero app offers a virtual mode to test your skills and confidence. Be careful here too, because you can use real money here as well. Available on IOS & Android.
YouTube channel - The Most Famous Physical Therapists on the Internet
These guys are the best. Armed with their signature “dad humor,” physical therapists Bob Schrupp and Brad Heineck have built an extensive following with their informative and playful videos about how you can treat and manage certain pain and posture issues from home. They even invented a few helpful products, which you can get from Amazon, but many of the videos show you how to use everyday items to manage chronic pain and improve flexibility. I’ve already stashed a rolled-up pair of socks in my car to rest on my neck between the seat to alleviate discomfort while riding.
The videos are fun but not overly-produced, and the guys have a terrific “goobery” chemistry. The “most famous” bit is solely based on Bob and Brad’s opinion (of course), but if they aren’t the most famous yet, they certainly deserve to be. Find them on YouTube or visit BobandBrad.com
Motivation and Building Healthy Habits
Gamify Your Tasks - Habitica
Perhaps the biggest barrier to improved healthy living is finding and sustaining the motivation. Simply having the tools available isn’t going to result in long-term success. If you’re the type in need of a fun extra push, consider gamifying your life through apps like Habitica. The app can track your daily habits and goals and then create in-game rewards and punishments.
By “leveling up” your life, you can earn in-game armor, new avatar skins, special powers, quests and other fun digital trinkets, and you can battle game monsters with friends on social media to earn gold to buy in-game or customized rewards. Gamers can use Habitica to improve health and fitness habits as well as work and study habits or even something as simple as getting the dishes done every day. After all, dishes can be as daunting as slaying a three-headed dragon. Available on IOS & Android platforms. Habitica.com