Technology is rapidly reshaping both healthcare and the fitness industry, and smartphones, none more so than the iPhone, are putting an unprecedented level of information and control right in the palm of your hand.
David Freedman, contributing editor of the The Atlantic and author of “The Perfect Self”, explained to Mashable that conditioning apps, used to change behavior, are more than just another reason to check your cell phone or tablet: “We’ve been sort of led to believe this is invasive and leads to unpleasant regimentation, that it’s controlling, that it eats into our freedom and we become robots.” However, “these apps are building on how the brain works and taking it on in a useful and advantageous way. When we’re reinforced then we end up feeling pretty comfortable with it. But on the other hand, really, this does come down to the execution,”– which means the apps you enjoy are more likely to be successful than apps that are unappealing to you.
With Apple’s Healthkit arriving soon, in addition to their projected plans for the iWatch, there has never been a better time to explore the best of the fitness apps that iHealth could channel to create your personal health platform.
RunKeeper: Runkeeper has already confirmed their future integration with iHealth, which is excellent news for runners, bikers, and cardio lovers alike. The app can track anything from bike riding to varied, weight-lifting workouts. Runkeeper charts workout distance, weight loss, goals, calorie burn, and much more. The app was designed for iOS, meaning it seamlessly connects with your music as well as other fitness apps such as MyFitnessPal and Fitocracy, and even fitness devices like the Jawbone or basic pedometers.
Withings Health Mate: When contacted, Withings also confirmed plans to ensure data was compatible with iHealth. TheirHealth Mate is a free app that monitors weight, activity, sleep, and blood pressure. More so than others, this app has a strong motivational system, sending regular supportive messages to users. Health Mate is ideal for anyone who wants to focus on losing weight, body fat, and improving overall health using one, all-inclusive app. The Withings app easily integrates with their additional products, which consists of smart scales, activity trackers, sleep and heart products, and even infant products.
MyFitnessPal: With 65 million users and the largest food database of any mobile app, MyFitnessPal has been consistently reviewed as one of the best ways to manage your weight on the go. Hopefully, iHealth will allow food choices through this app or others to easily be logged and view able from the main platform.
Argus: Tracking your movement directly through your iPhone, Argus performs the duties of wearable tech devices like the FitBit or Jawbone without a wristband or other accessories. Rated as being one of the best apps utilizing Apple’s M7 co-processor, Argus uses information about your daily activities to observe greater trends about your overall lifestyle habits. A combination of step counter and workout-watcher, Argus also lets you log the amount of water your drink, the food you eat, and the structure of your workouts. Taking all this data into account, Argus will then offer conclusions and recommendations based on your activities and goals.
Zombies, Run!: Apple will undoubtedly include basic fitness trackers, and we can hope that the more obscure will also find a home in iHealth. For example, for those who love zombies, but hate running, this app hopes that a screaming zombie hoard will provide the adrenaline kick needed to run those few extra miles. Creating a post-outbreak scenario that provides runners with an element of real-life gameplay, Zombies, Run! unravels a tale of zombie mayhem through audio diaries while you complete tasks and “pick up” supplies to use back at base camp.
Pact: Another app Apple should make immediately available for use with iHealth is Pact. Known formerly as “Gympact,” this app makes users think twice about skipping their workout. “Behavioral economics show that if you tie cash incentives to things that are concrete and easy to achieve like getting to the gym, it’s very effective,” said Yifan Zhang, cofounder of the app, to the New York Times. “People don’t like losing money and it’s one of the strongest motivators, much more than winning money.” Allowing you to put a wager on whether you will go to the gym or complete a work out, the app verifies if you’ve hit your goals by making sure you check in to the venues where you said you’d hit the treadmill. If you reach or exceed your goals, you earn cash. If you don’t, you pay up.
Medical Apps and Doctor-Patient Communication
Apple’s Healthkit is an early contender in the race for new fitness and health tracking platforms. Eventually, Healthkit will likely have the ability to be all encompassing in regards to health, not only monitoring movement and diet, but possessing the ability to make these records available directly to your medical professionals.
Healthcare industry expert Tim Cannon from HealthITjobs.com agrees that the tech-savvy side of the medical world will only continue to expand following the Healthkit: “The new surge of health and fitness related apps has provided a way for healthcare providers to stay connected with their patients like we have never seen before. Doctors can now integrate new data like an individual’s fitness/activity level, vital signs and more directly from these apps into your EHR (Electronic Health Record). While there is definitely some concerns around security and reliability of this data those issues will get worked out in the near future as the technology improves and the benefits are seen.”
In response to the fear of privacy concerns Healthkit plans to give users the ultimate control over their data. Users will have the ability to select which data is shared with doctors, or even other third party apps.
Even the Mayo Clinic has put faith in the power of iHealth, discussing their plans to upgrade the clinic health app in order to coincide with the launch of the Healthkit. May Clinic’s app will offer specialized services, such as monitoring capabilities for patients with asthma or diabetes. “If you see the glucose levels rising … you could interact with [the patient] if they had a question, intervene appropriately, and then decrease the need for an emergency room visit or hospital admission, which we know drives up hospital and patient costs,” says John Ward, Mayo’s medical director for public affairs.
Hopefully, as the non-medically trained person becomes more aware of their health and what affects it using these apps and the Healthkit platform, they will eventually find it easier to (safely) share information with physicians and fully understand their body’s nutritional and fitness needs.