Without question, modern technology has provided innumerable benefits and has had a profoundly positive impact on improving human health. Like most things, however, it is possible to get too much of a good thing and moderation is key. We need to make conscious decisions in its use. When it comes to apps, this means less Angry Birds and more focus on those apps that actually improve our wellbeing and help us in our efforts to achieve optimal health. I’ve found that the following health-based apps do just that.
I’ve personally used all of these apps and have listed them in alphabetical order, rather than any sort of favorable listing.
Apps to help you maintain optimal health
When it comes to optimal health, ketones and blood sugar levels come to mind. Biosense, the only clinically backed breath ketone monitor currently available, makes tracking ketones ridiculously simple. By using patent-pending deep lung sampling, they are able to provide accurate ketone measurements, anytime, anywhere. The Biosense device measures breath acetone and gives results in ACEs, which is different for anyone used to measuring blood ketone levels via fingersticks. They are closely related, however, and while ACEs aren’t a 1-to-1 replacement for blood levels, they do allow you to accurately predict your blood ketone levels.
The Biosense device is a class 1 medical device and in most cases is an eligible expense for a health savings account (HSA) and/or a flexible spending account (FSA). It can also be an effective tool for remote patient monitoring to help healthcare providers monitor patients via telehealth.
The Biosense app gives you a clear, immediate picture of your results so you can easily see your level of ketosis. It is the perfect alternative to finger sticks and urine sticks – way less painful and considerably more convenient.
Studies have repeatedly shown that breathwork can help relieve stress, effectively lower blood pressure, increase attention span, and can be beneficial in reducing pain. There’s no question that focusing on our breathing has immensely favorable impacts on our health—all without any negative side effects. The problem is, we’re all so stressed out all the time that our heart rates are up and our breathing is faster and more shallow. We’ve forgotten how to breathe.
Breathwrk is an amazing tool to help you start, and be successful at a regular breathwork practice. Simple to use, it provides free guided breathing exercises. The app includes multiple sections with specialized exercises to help you alleviate stress, sleep better, boost your energy, improve endurance, and more. Each exercise includes easy-to-follow instructions, an overview of its benefits, the science behind it, and for what conditions and situations it can be useful for. You can personalize each one by changing the voice, sounds, the visualization guide for each breath, and the session length.
I regularly use Breathwrk before bed and for short sessions throughout the day (it’s amazing what just 2-3 minutes can do!). I’ve also found it successful in alleviating stress before meetings or appointments. Tammy has found it incredibly useful for improving her sleep. One of my kids also uses it regularly to lessen anxiety and help with sleep.
Available for free in the App Store (coming soon to Google Play).
Pro version available.
More about helping others than helping yourself, the Charity Miles app is the best “feel good” app on this list. With this app, you can help your favorite charities simply by moving. Getting setup is super fast and easy. Just download the app, create an account and select a charity to support from a list of 50+ charities. While you can manually log when you do activities, it’s easier to connect it with Apple Health to log activity from any fitness trackers you use like FitBit or the Oura ring. The money raised is drawn from their corporate sponsor pool, and you can also get pledges from friends and family. Charity Miles is a fun way to help others while giving you even more motivation to move as often as you can.
This is hands down the best app for tracking your vitamin D levels. Ensuring your levels of this critical hormone stay at optimal levels is key as it plays a key role in preventing a host of health problems. Dminder helps you gauge the best time to be in the sun for maximum vitamin D based on your location, body type, skin exposure, and time of day. The dashboard of the app shows the angle of the sun, the UV Index (UVI) when your next opportunity to obtain vitamin D is, and the time vitamin D will be available that day. In addition to sun exposure, you can also use the app to track vitamin D from supplementation and even food.
When you start a sun session, Dminder will warn you when you need to get out of the sun before you burn, as well as keep a running estimate of your vitamin D level. Enter lab test results to help fine-tune the app’s estimation and set a goal level and the app will tell you how much vitamin D you need each day to reach it. Using the app for the past few years, I’ve found the estimated vitamin D level to be very accurate – as long as you consistently log vitamin D exposure and/or intake. It’s regularly been within about 10ng/ml of actual lab tests.
Down Dog makes doing yoga at home (or anywhere!) incredibly easy. You are able to filter the instructions in the app to have complete control over the type of yoga you do, your level of experience, and how long the session should be. Additionally, you can choose to add “boosts” to further focus on specific areas such as chest and shoulder stretches, flexibility, hamstring stretches, standing balances, breathing, and more. To fine-tune your experience, even more, you can also choose between six different voices, music (or use your own), the pace, and how much instruction you actually get. Down Dog is perfect for those new to yoga, as well as more experienced practitioners. In this age of “social distancing,” it’s the next best thing to an actual class.
The Heads Up app is the ultimate health dashboard that allows you to easily track the data most important to you and your goals. By customizing your Heads Up dashboard, you can easily see data from your digital health devices and other health-related apps, including sleep metrics, activity, diet information, biomarkers from blood tests, HRV, blood sugar, ketones, and more. Heads Up uses these inputs to provide advanced metrics so you can get a better picture of what factors affect your body. Integrating with over 30,000 medical providers, the app is also a beautiful way to centralize and organize your medical records, so you always have your health record with you and can readily share it with any health provider anytime.
The Inner Balance app provides real-time feedback to help you shift from stress and frustration to balance and resilience, with just a few 3-5 minute sessions per day. The app tracks your heart rate variability, displaying real-time HRV feedback, and offers coaching tips during your session to help you improve your practice. As you become more proficient, you can increase the difficulty of maintaining coherence, resulting in reduced stress, better sleep, and increased resiliency over time.
While I also practice meditation on a daily basis, I also incorporate a session or two of Inner Balance every day. With meditation, I let my mind wander and there are times that my brain just doesn’t want to cooperate, making those bouts less than ideal. Inner Balance, however, always keeps me focused and prevents my mind from wandering. This results in highly effective sessions, even though they are considerably shorter than my meditation sessions. Regular use of the Inner Balance system has been instrumental in reducing my stress levels.
With Inner Balance, there’s no more guessing if your meditation practice is actually working. This is an incredibly powerful tool to help you retrain your body and mind to achieve a more composed state of calm and optimal health.
Like having your own trainer or coach right in your pocket. Each day Keelo provides you with a workout plan that includes a warm-up, HIIT-style workout, and cool-down that’s tailored to you based on your body, goals, and results from prior workouts. If strength training is important to you, Keelo gives you the option of including a strength training component as well.
Each movement is accompanied by a short instructional video to help you understand how to do the movement safely and effectively. You can quickly and easily select what specific equipment you have to work with, how much time you have to work out, and even what specific movements to exclude (due to injuries, limitations, etc). Keelo also really embraces the community aspect of training with rewards you can earn, leaderboards, and ways to see what other Keelo users are doing. As a premium member, you can also use their “Ask Your Coach” feature, which gives you Facebook Messenger or email access to ask a real live coach any questions you have about your training.
Available for free in the App Store and Google Play.
Premium version available.
Use this link and get 50% off Keelo Premium for 3 months!
Tracking your blood glucose levels and ketones aren’t just for folks with diabetes, and getting your fasting blood glucose levels tested once a year at your annual physical may not be enough. Tracking these markers on a regular basis can help you determine how your body responds to certain foods/meals, exercise, and even stress.
Chronically elevated fasting blood sugar and/or blood sugar that regularly spikes too high after meals, could eventually lead to chronic health issues like diabetes, heart disease, stroke, permanent organ damage, and dementia. The Keto Mojo device, and their corresponding app, make it easy to test your blood glucose and ketone levels and easily track results. Being able to test both with a single device (though you need different strips!) is incredibly convenient, and the strips are reasonably priced as well. Start tracking and stop guessing.
The Oura ring is a lightweight, stylish and powerful wearable device that tracks your sleep and activity. It helps you make more informed decisions and better understand lifestyle changes that are working for you—while identifying those that aren’t.
Coupled with its corresponding app, this ring gives you daily feedback on your heart rate variability, sleep patterns, body temp and activity level. Based on these inputs, the app provides a daily “readiness score” with advice on how active you should be on a given day, as well as suggested bedtimes to optimize your sleep. I’ve found it to be quite accurate. In addition to providing me with feedback that allows me to sleep better, it has twice alerted me to an oncoming illness, via the body temperature reading. Both times, it tracked a steady, daily increase in temp days before I felt any symptoms.
For those gym rats who love the equipment and feel of an actual gym, Strong is the perfect way to design and track your workouts. The app is super easy to use, with a library of hundreds of exercises for the chest, back, core, arms, legs, shoulders, and more. Each movement includes an illustration showing what muscles are used, as well as instructions on how to properly perform it. It also provides some sample routines, however, it’s better suited for folks who like to design their own workouts (or have already found some they’d like to try). Adding new routines, and modifying existing routines, is extremely easy, as is adding notes, warm-up sets, and the length of the rest timer between sets.
Here are a couple of others that also work extremely well.
Fitbod is an incredible app for building custom-fit, personalized daily workouts for you. To help their training algorithm dial-in workouts specific to you, you can choose available equipment, fitness goals, your level of experience, timed intervals, circuits/supersets, workout duration, training splits, and even exercises to exclude. You are also able to decide if you want Fitbod to offer cardio recommendations. To further personalize the workouts, you can rank the effort of each suggested exercise and weight.
Fitbod is one of the best, easiest ways to constantly change up your workouts to keep your muscles guessing and your mind engaged.
Calorie tracking apps, like MyFitnessPal and Cronometer are incredibly popular. Unfortunately, if you’re like me, you quickly lose interest in taking the painstaking amount of time each day to figure macros for every meal and log everything that you eat. The fact is, for the vast majority of folks, that kind of meticulous detail isn’t necessary—and can actually damage your relationship with food if you start to see eating as a chore.
We humans are notoriously forgetful when it comes to remembering what we eat over time though, so logging what foods you eat during the day can be helpful in determining food intolerances, improving the awareness of what you eat, or identifying triggers to making poor food choices. This is where the beautiful simplicity of Foodility comes in. The app allows you to simply list the foods you ate so you can look back, with no questions, and see what you ate on a specific day, no calories or macros required. If you want it even easier, just snap a picture of your meal instead. Clean, simple, and effective, without the hassle.
Available for free in the App Store.
Premium version (paid) to get more customization and export options.