If you spent 2014 dismissing mindfulness as just some new age fad, you’re missing out on the discovery of a centuries-old practice that holds the power to significantly improve your fitness, health, and mental well being.
Regardless of religious beliefs or spiritual practices, all of humanity can collectively nod in the direction of simply understanding more about why we do what we do.
As the fast pace of Moore’s law further proves itself, modern society is slowly manifesting a cultural backflow: a point when technological advances become more accepted and phased than abrupt.
This awareness is allowing us to take a step back, pull a deep breath, and reflect on what currently available technologies can stimulate increased mindfulness and new self-care practices in our lives.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a practice in which you focus entirely on the present moment. Your current feelings, thoughts, and sensations are accepted without judgment. The benefits of mindfulness can be transformational – mentally and physically, in personal and professional relationships, and in your understanding and acceptance of yourself.
With this information at the tips of our fingers, and stress at an all time high, it is clear that simply knowing the health benefits of mindfulness isn’t always enough to create the necessary spark of action to practice.
How can mindfulness drive tangible self-improvement?
Mindfulness practice is being employed in psychology to alleviate a variety of mental and physical conditions, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, and in the prevention of relapse in depression and drug addiction. It has gained worldwide popularity as a distinctive method to handle emotions.
Accelerating mHealth technologies now can create new behaviors over time via ‘gentle nudge’ applications; inspiring possibilities for the future of our well-being.
The digital health movement is empowering and furthering enhanced self-care more and more each day, as the barriers to entry fade and the seamlessness of fitness wearables, mHealth, and smartphone applications allow easier lifestyle integrations.
Personal adoption of mindfulness applications create a strong framework for better choices in the end-user’s subconscious mind. Who isn’t interested in that?
Here are the 7 Best Mindfulness Apps for 2015:
A beautiful timer and journal for meditation. Its functionality (timers, logs, charts) and design support your meditation practice in an appropriately non-intrusive way.
Discover inner peace and emotional freedom with AWARENESS, a revolutionary new application that helps you learn to be grounded and peaceful in your day to day life.
10-minute meditation sessions, with the first 10 days available free of charge.
Scan a barcode of almost any product at the pharmacy or grocery store and SD tells you immediately which toxic chemicals it contains,
The Mindfulness App helps you to reduce stress and increase wellbeing. Scientific research proves that regular practice for 20 minutes a day brings desired effects.
Moves automatically tracks your everyday exercise, commuting and time spent in important places. Just carry your phone in your pocket or bag.
The folks over at www.fitbit.com were kind enough to give me the opportunity in early December to beta-test the 2015 Fitbit SURGE.
Check back in January for a full product review.
Whether you’re interested in being a better parent, healthier spouse, or taking your athletic performance to the next level, advances in digital health tools and applications are here now to serve your best intentions.
You’ll be surprised how much minding yourself shines light on and empowers those around you to do the same. The mirror of mindfulness is essential for evolutionary reflection.
What do you want to change?
Be the change you wish to see in the world. -Mahatma Gandhi
About the author: Josh Trent, NASM-CES, CPT, HLC, is a corrective exercise specialist and participatory sports technology expert with over 9 years in the fitness industry. His passion is to accelerate wellness evolution through the power of the Digital Health and Quantified Self movements. You can follow him on Twitter @wellnessforce, or through his website www.wellnessforce.com.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle becomes harder and harder in our increasingly busy lives. And in the age of mobile devices, everything seems even more sped up.
For the last couple days of WellnessFX’s Be Your Best Self Pledge, we’re challenging you to use these gadgets to your health advantage. Turn your procrastination-station or work-a-holic generator into a tool for longevity, energy, and overall health.
Listed below you’ll find some of our favorite health apps for your mobile device. From emergencies to recipes to planning that morning workout, there’s something for everyone!
- Sleep Cycle – This alarm clock uses the accelerometer in your iPhone to monitor your movement to determine your sleep phases and wake you at the best time.
- WellnessFX – Review your results. Peruse your practitioner recommendations. Create and keep track of your results. Take control of your health with WellnessFX by adding new goals to help develop and maintain healthy habits.
- Superfood HD – Discover superfoods, and recipes to utilize them.
- Calorie Counter – Track your daily food consumption with this 515,000-food database.
- Fooducate – See how your favorite foods score! This app automatically grades (A-, B+, C, etc…) products by using a scientific algorithm based on its nutrition facts and ingredient list.
- Lose it! – Set up a personalized weight loss plan, connect the latest apps and devices, and start losing weight.
- Gain Fitness – Get workouts and plans-matched to your fitness level, goals and time constraints-instantly, from the convenience of your mobile device.
- Pocket Yoga – A yoga instructor in the palm of your hand!
- Fitness Buddy – 1000+ exercises, 45+ tailored workouts, 3000+ retina display images make this a packed fitness journal app!
- FitnessBuilder Plus – Access 800+ workouts and a personal trainer to reach fitness needs & goals.
- Nike Training – Sign up to Nike Training Club to get your own personal trainer, anytime, anywhere.
- Teemo: The Fitness Adventure Game – This game is designed to help you find the time to work out and increase your overall fitness, all while having fun with a team of friends.
- Fitness Trainer – Designed to be the only tool you need other than yourself in the gym or at home.
- Authentic Yoga with Deepak Chopra and Tara Styles – Suitable for all levels, and includes poses and routines for developing strength, balance, and flexibility.
- Health and Medicine: WebMD – Browse slide shows, read articles, and find the answers to your health and wellness questions.
- Pocket Pharmacist – An easy-to-use drug informational app.
- The Merck Manual Home Edition – Based on the entire Merck Manual Home Health Handbook, the trusted medical reference written by more than 300 worldwide medical experts.
- Heartwise Blood Pressure Tracker – Quickly record and keep track of your blood pressure, resting heart rate, and weight.
- First Aid by American Red Cross – Access expert advice for everyday emergencies with videos, interactive quizzes and simple step-by-step advice.
- MyWOD – Track CrossFit workouts and progress.
The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one’s own healthcare professionals.
Today there’s an app for just about anything, whether you’re looking for a playlist with the best bumpin’ beats for your run or the easiest way to not wake up feeling groggy every morning. The problem then becomes: How do you determine which apps are worth your time (and precious storage space on your phone)? Sure, you can look at ratings from previous users, but those stars (or lack thereof) only tell part of the story.
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We tested hundreds of health and fitness apps to find the best of the best. Some of the apps appeared on last year’s list -yes, they’re that good-but there are plenty of newcomers in the mix as well.
Note: This list is presented in no particular order. To check out the methodology we used to determine which apps made the cut, scroll to the bottom.
Getting six pack abs isn’t easy (trust us, we tried). But strengthening your core has never been easier, thanks to Runtastic Six Pack. Choose Daniel or Angie as your avatar trainer, and then select from workout programs that last anywhere from 10 days to almost a month. The best part? Slo-mo videos of the virtual trainers means you learn each exercise right the first time around and avoid injuries. (Free; iOS and Android)
Tracking and Analytics
There are dozens of tracking apps out there-and now Apple and Google have thrown their hats into the ring with Apple’s Health Kit and Google Fit. But this is one of those cases when it’s best to stick with the tried and true. MapMyFitness has been tracking activities and logging food since 2007 with an easy-to-use interface and some of the most accurate tracking capabilities out there. The app now lets you set challenges (for yourself or friends) and even tracks you gear, so you know when it’s time to buy a new pair of running shoes. (Free; iOS and Android)
Food and Nutrition
Here’s the clean eating cheerleader that will help you stop at just one cookie and find ways to actually enjoy sauerkraut. Rise is so effective because the app pairs you one-on-one with a registered dietician. First you talk goals with your nutrition coach and then start snapping photos of every meal and snack you have. The next day, your personal dietician checks in and offers suggestions for healthier changes you can make. ($20/week; iOS)
Mind and Brain
There are high and low points in all of our lives, and while we can talk through breakups and weight fluctuations with friends, sometimes it’s nice to get an outsider’s advice. That is, until you realize that therapy can quickly drain your bank account. Talkspace aims to make therapy more affordable by connecting users with licensed therapists for unlimited messaging. That means you can message your therapist the moment a problem comes up instead of waiting for your next session. The app has been so popular that the company just added a couples therapy. ($25/week; iOS and Android)
Methodology: We asked a number of questions to determine if each app we tested should appear on our list. Is it highly rated? Does it offer something unique? It is user-friendly? Is it reliable and not buggy? Does it drain a smartphone’s battery? Can it continue to grow and innovate? Apps that scored well on all criteria ended up the final list. Do you think we missed an app? Send a message to email@example.com, and we’ll consider it for next year’s ranking.
Whether you just want the basic app-which counts your steps whenever you have your phone handy, and sets weekly goals to keep you on track-or you get more advanced with their activity trackers, like the Fitbit Charge HR (you don’t even have to manually log your workouts anymore), you can’t go wrong with Fitbit. The new wearable even has heart rate technology built in, so you know just how hard you busted a move in that weekly Zumba class. Fitbit, free for the app, prices vary for trackers.
Whether you’re for or against the Affordable Care Act, health care is a huge subject right now, and for good reason. According to the Kaiser Foundation, employer-sponsored health coverage for family premiums has increased nearly 100 percent during the past decade. In addition, total health spending accounted for approximately 18 percent of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) back in 2010.
Bottom line, staying healthy not only costs money but requires an investment of our time. The investment pays off in terms of employee productivity, morale and high performance. Smart companies are starting to direct energy to educating employees to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It’s good for employees and it’s good for business.
What better way to encourage employees to take care of themselves than by using social tools? After all, we have our phones and tablets with us all the time these days. Here are some ways you can take full advantage of the connectivity:
1. IBX Wire: Provide Information for Better Decisions
A person’s health is an intensely private matter. Laws such as HIPAA protect an individual’s medical information, and any effort by an employee to use social tools for tracking health-related data must be secure.
Matt Gillin, CEO of Relay, a mobile interface that provides a simple and secure way for businesses and customers to communicate, said his customer, Independence Blue Cross (IBX), is using Relay to increase the level of service it delivers to members.
‘It helps members access information and support via a private, digital space, allowing them to more easily get things done-including staying on top of need-to-know personal health details, completing transactions and receiving one-to-one support exactly when they need it,’ Gillin says.
‘Through IBX Wire, the health insurer will deliver practical and usable account- and service-based information to members in real time through its private, customized message boards,’ Gillin explains. ‘This direct connection will give members a faster, easier way to stay on top of the status of their accounts, maximize plan benefits, learn ways to save money and get the support they need from IBX. When information is posted to a member’s personal Wire, a notification is sent to the member’s enrolled mobile device.’
According to Gillin, future upgrades will include more interactive communications, such as the option to submit questions and get a response via this secure, HIPAA-compliant message service.
2. Endomondo: Stay Motivated
Regular exercise and activity is good for our health. We all know this. The challenge occurs when we have jobs that keep us from moving, or when we can’t find time to visit the gym. Some call it excuses. Others say the issue is staying motivated.
The Endomondo Sports Tracker app turns GPS-enabled devices into a personal trainer and social motivator capable of tracking workouts, analyzing performance, and can aid in the discovery of new routes, activities and insights into fitness so people become and stay active. The app is being used by companies including Harley Davidson, Kimberly-Clark and The Coca-Cola Company.
‘The Endomondo Sports Tracker mobile app can record data from almost any type of physical activity and provides valuable feedback on everything from calories burned to hydration required after exercise. But Endomondo stands apart from other activity tracking apps because it incorporates aspects found in leading social networks and helps users connect with like-minded fitness fans so experiences and support can be shared. Users can send friends’ real-time pep talks while they exercise, offer valuable route maps, compete against friends for fun, challenge co-workers, and share it all on Facebook, Twitter or across the Endomondo social network.’
One feature of the app is called ‘pep talk,’ in which users can send short, real-time messages to friends that are read aloud by the app during workouts. It’s designed with the goal of keeping users more engaged and, therefore, spending more time exercising.
3. Hotseat: Create Healthy Games, Competition and Team Sports
Plenty of employees will tell you they’re motivated. That’s not the issue. Their challenge is staying focused and on track. For many, exercise needs to be fun and have variety.
Arriving in Q1 2013 is a brand new app called Hotseat. The app uses nudges, social accountability and gameplay to create easy and fun two-minute office activity breaks. Using their smartphones, employees can select physical activities they’re comfortable with and capable of completing at the office. Then Hotseat inserts a rotating daily selection of activity breaks into the user’s calendar, based on their availability. In addition, employees can compete in collaborative or competitive challenges.
Fran Melmed founder and CEO of Context Communication and consultant to Hotseat, said simplicity and flexibility were key factors in the app’s design. ‘I know what a priority it is for employers and for us as a nation to increase our physical activity overall, but to also increase our regular movement throughout the day to lower our risk of heart disease, kidney disease, cancer, obesity and diabetes.‘
Because 30 minutes of gym time doesn’t counter the effects of too many hours sitting, and 10,000 steps might be unachievable for some people, Hotseat makes it easy. ‘I worked with the creative design folks at MadPow to create a tool that has a simple, playful look while at the same time provides a baby step toward greater activity for those currently less active,’ Melmed says.
4. Digifit: Set Healthy Goals
Turning an activity into a habit is the key to success. It’s not just exercising-it’s incorporating exercise into our daily routine, just like brushing our teeth. When we can see progress, it helps us stay motivated and focused. We want to do more because we’re seeing a positive outcome.
Digifit offers a suite of fitness-tracking apps including iCardio, iBiker, iRunner and Spinning, which give users the ability to track and monitor activities while motivating them to be healthier and adopt healthy habits.
Christopher Means, marketing director at Digifit, Inc., says the key to developing good habits is starting out on the right path. Digifit offers users a series of fitness assessments that help establish fitness level, allowing users to be smart in developing an exercise routine. ‘Digifit’s fitness assessments were developed by experts and include a range of tests for beginners to advanced athletes including Beginner Cardio, Rockport Walking Test and the Cooper Running Test,’ Means says.
Beginner assessments, such as the Rockport Walking Test, establish a baseline of fitness. The more advanced tests establish ‘accurate low-end lactate thresholds used to calculate personalized heart-rate training zones,’ which helps users train at the right intensity to achieve their fitness goals, Means explains. ‘The assessments can be completed with a variety of activity types, including running, walking, cycling, spin or even custom cardio activities like elliptical.’
Digifit also tracks other biometrics such as weight, sleep, daily activity, nutrition and blood pressure to give users a comprehensive view of how multiple aspects of their lives are affected by other aspects and the choices they make. For groups, Digifit allows challenges to be set up with leaderboards and other inspirational activities or incentives based on a customizable set of criteria.
5. FitBit: Implement a Program at Work
With all the choices available, companies have a big task ahead of them. Veterans United Home Loans, the national’s number-one dedicated VA lender, decided to create a Life Balance Department to support the health and wellness of its 1,200 employees.
Kate Quinn, life balance coordinator at Veterans United Home Loans, said the company recognized the need to incorporate a technology-based solution in their wellness plans. ‘Our summer Fitness Challenge introduced employees to the FitBit ultra tracker. The tracker allowed them to keep track of their calories burned and even their sleep patterns. Using the FitBit app, the employees were also able to log food, activities and more.’
While the task of creating a program is major, Quinn shared that the results are worth it. ‘The program has over 40 percent participation. The beauty is each employee has the ability to focus on his or her individual goals, while at the same time providing motivation and support to co-workers.’
In addition, the app’s progress reports opened the employees’ eyes. Quinn explains, ‘Awareness of their activity level has been the biggest takeaway from the use of the tracker. Many employees ‘think’ they are active until they see the pie chart that shows their daily activity levels with more than 50 percent of their time spent sedentary. This simple bit of knowledge is a big motivator!’
Both employees and employers are looking to ‘get healthy and stay healthy’ in 2013. The good news is, a lot of options exist to help with your small business’s wellness goals. The key is finding tools people will use to help them stay motivated and engaged, and get results.
Is your company encouraging healthy living using social tools? Let us know in the comments.
If you like this article, read more about office culture.
Health and wellness apps are mobile application programs that offer health-related services on smartphones, tablet PCs and other communication devices. There are many types of health and wellness apps focusing on various aspects of promoting digital health.
The most popular categories of health and wellness apps include:
- Sports and fitness activity tracking
- Diet and nutrition
- Weight loss coaching
- Sleep cycle analysis
- Stress reduction and relaxation
- Medical advice and patient community
- Menstrual period tracking
- Hospital selection and appointment management
Note that the U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA) distinguishes between general health and wellness apps that promote awareness, and wellness from other mobile medical applications that focus on diagnosis and treatment of diseases.
The FDA has authority to regulate mobile medical applications, but the line that distinguishes health and wellness apps from medical apps is slightly blurred.
‘Mobile apps are software programs that run on smartphones and other mobile communication devices. They can also be accessories that attach to a smartphone or other mobile communication device, or a combination of accessories and software. Mobile medical apps are medical devices that are mobile apps, meet the definition of a medical device and are an accessory to a regulated medical device or transform a mobile platform into a regulated medical device.’
The FDA doesn’t regulate all mobile apps, and makes that determination based on the following:
‘The FDA is taking a tailored, risk-based approach that focuses on the small subset of mobile apps that meet the regulatory definition of ‘device’ and that are intended to be used as an accessory to a regulated medical device, or transform a mobile platform into a regulated medical device. Mobile apps span a wide range of health functions. While many mobile apps carry minimal risk, those that can pose a greater risk to patients will require FDA review.’
For example, an app that records how many miles an individual runs is a health and wellness app. But if the same app claims to track exercise to help address obesity, then it can be linked to a disease state and transforms into a medical app – which may then be regulated by the FDA.
How are health and wellness apps used in the digital health industry?
Health and wellness apps vary a great deal, and are often used interchangeably with the term, mHealth apps. Each is designed with specific target users in mind – such as clinicians, consumers, and healthcare organizations.
Some apps serve more than one use, as when a patient with cardiac disease obtains activity information and sends it to his cardiologist for analysis and treatment recommendations.
As medical devices merge with communication devices and app-makers innovate, the types of available mHealth apps will continue to expand. For now, the most popular and recognized mHealth apps are categorized according to the purpose that each type serves:
Clinical and/or Diagnostic Assistance
Remote Patient Monitoring
- ECG viewer
- Heart monitoring
- Oxygen level monitoring
- Telehealth services
- Vital signs monitoring
Health-Related Alerts and Reminders
- Prescription management
- Medication adherence
- Appointment reminders
- Menstrual period tracking
- Medical E&M (Evaluation and Management) coding
- Specialized medical reference
- ICD-9/10 reference
Health and Wellness Promoting
- Exercise and fitness
- Sleep quality tracking
- Pregnancy and fetal development
- Healthy eating
- Diet assistance
- Weight loss assistance
- Health-related data tracking
- Psychiatric/behavioural modification assistance
- Chronic care management (such as asthma, diabetes, etc.)
- Smoking cessation and alcoholism treatment
- Hospital selection
- Surgery scheduling
- Remote dictation
- Interoffice communication
Current Market and Industry Trends for Health and Wellness Apps
The ever-present smartphone has spawned a massive market for mobile health and wellness apps. Healthcare-related mobile apps are becoming popular at an astonishing speed, as indicated by the fact that 69% of U.S. smartphone owners track at least one health indicator using them.
According to industry estimates, 500 million smartphone users worldwide will be using a healthcare application by 2015, and by 2018, 50 percent of the more than 3.4 billion smartphone and tablet users will have downloaded mobile health and wellness apps.
Since the GCC currently has the highest number of apps users among high-use countries, the adoption of mobile health and wellness apps in this region is forecast to outpace the rest of the world.
By the end of 2013, more than 97,000 health and wellness apps were available for download with 42% of them adhering to a paid business model.
The top categories of mHealth apps as defined by downloads completed are:
- Weight loss (50 million)
- Exercise (26.5 million)
- Women’s health (10.5 million)
- Sleep & meditation (8 million)
- Pregnancy (7.5 million)
- Tools & instruments (6 million)
- Others (18 million)
The mHealth apps market was valued at $6.6 billion in 2013 and is expected to touch $20.7 billion by 2018 at a CAGR of 25.5%.
The health and wellness apps market is quickly moving from novelty to mainstream.
Since the focus is now shifting from generating data to demonstrating clinical efficacy, the mHealth market will move further toward an integration with healthcare systems and the providers within them.
As the mHealth app industry continues to grow, the outcomes will be healthier consumers who are more empowered in their care – and healthcare providers who appreciate the efficiencies these health and wellness apps have to offer.
- FDA on Mobile Medical Applications
- National Library of Medicine’s gallery of mobile apps
- UCSF’s iOS mobile health apps database
- UCSF’s Android mobile health apps database
- iMedicalApps – Review of medical and healthcare apps
- TopOrthoApps – Mobile app reviews for orthopaedic surgeons
- University of California, Riverside’s database of wellness apps
- AISLE7 – Mobile health and wellness app marketing solutions provider
- HHS’s mobile health apps
- Top free health and wellness apps for Android phones on Google Play
- Top health and fitness apps for iOS devices
- MobiHealthNews – Online news, commentary and research on mobile health
- mHealthEvidence – Reference site for scientific proof on mHealth
Relevant News Articles
- With Smart Technology and Personalized Daily Pill Packets, PillPack Reinvents Retail Pharmacy
- Lose Weight or Get Shamed by This Sadistic Talking App
- 2014 to Witness More Digital Health Acquisitions, Sensor Commoditization and Privacy Issue Concerns
- Smartphones to Turn Into Cancer-Detecting Tools
- Teledermatology is as Reliable and Efficient as In-Person Consultation, Study Says
- du’s Wellness App Creates Waves at the Arab Health Congress 2014