Health apps are great because they empower us to take charge of our own health behaviors and educate ourselves on medical conditions and prevention. But with so many options available for download, it can feel overwhelming to choose one. Medical Librarian Emily Hurst recommends asking yourself a few questions to weed through the thousands of choices:
- When was it last updated? Ideally it was less than 6 months ago.
- Who made it? Distinguish between a reputable company and an unknown person with a Hotmail account as the contact.
- What is it rated and what do the comments say? Maybe it gets 4.6 stars but there are a bunch of comments about some annoying problem.
Take a look at some of our favorite free wellness apps:
This app consistently ranks near the top on "Best Of" lists, and is very popular among library staff for tracking nutrition and calorie intake. It has an enormous database of preloaded foods, which makes logging your daily eating a snap! Children's librarian Lindsey reports that "it is RARE that I run across a food that it doesn't recognize." Teen librarian Jenny has used MyFitnessPal for over 6 years, and loves that it syncs with her activity tracker apps to document calories burned.
The Fitbit app is an "all-in-one" app that allows you to track your health goals in one place. This app does require a wearable Fitbit tracker, but will log all your daily movements into steps, calories burned, heart rate, sleep and more. NPL staffer Liz loves that she can sync it with other apps such as earning Weight Watchers activity points.
Despite its name, you can use Runkeeper to track walking, biking, skiing, and more. It maps your terrain and elevation change, while also reporting distance, speed and personal bests. NPL staffer Kate used this app to track an inter-island kayak trip on Percy Priest Lake. "If I hiked the previous week, the app will send me a reminder saying, 'You got out for 3 miles last Sunday. Do you want to do it again?' That reminder can be a real motivator."
Nike+ Run Club
If you are looking for curated playlists, friendly competition, and motivation from professional athletes, try out Nike+ Run Club. Librarian Sarah enjoys that it maps speed, elevation, and distance, and that she can check the stats during any point in the run. The app has a social feel and lets you connect with other runners by sharing post-workout photos and receiving encouragement.
Mental and emotional wellness are just as important as nutrition and exercise, and meditation is one tool to explore. The Calm app has guided recordings for beginners as well as for advanced practitioners. NPL staffer Sharra loves that she can set up a reminder to meditate. It also has a serene and calming layout, so just opening the app is relaxing in its own right.
Also used for meditation, Insight Timer has thousands of recorded meditations that are organized by categories such as length of time, teacher and focus area. There is also the option of a simple chime or gong timer with intervals, if you are a more advanced meditator. NPL staffer Elizabeth enjoys being able to "favorite" meditations for later, and track number of minutes meditated over time.
Streaks for Small Starts
If you want to keep it local and work on health behavior changes alongside other Tennesseans, this app is a great choice. You can pick simple daily goals like taking a 10-minute energy walk or preparing a healthy breakfast the night before, and then see how many consecutive days you can stick to it. You earn points and badges and can have friendly competition with other people in the state.
Although this is not an app, it functions like one on your phone screen, and makes researching health conditions, prescription drugs, and clinical trials a breeze. MedlinePlus comes from the U.S. National Library of Medicine so you can be sure the medical information is trustworthy and up-do-date. Use this website to complement your wellness tracking and educate yourself on any personal health issues or new diagnoses.