Use your phone to get fit

Tips on using health/fitness apps #Fibbit#MyFitnessPal#SleepCycle#MapMyRide

Do you perform some type of physical activity regularly, or wish that you did?

jogging trail sign
Parks with trails help people stay active.

You probably know that medical experts recommend physical activity; it not only helps us feel and look better, but it can even prevent certain chronic illnesses and delay death.

Physical activity fact sheet from the World Health Organization-WHO

Ask yourself these questions :

  1. Did you make a new year’s resolution to exercise more?
  2. Has your doctor told you to increase physical activity to treat a chronic condition or to prevent one?
  3. Do you need to lose weight, lower your blood pressure, control your blood glucose(sugar) or cholesterol?
  4. Do you want to feel more fit, stronger, and energetic?
blood pressure cuff, pill holder with medication
Controlling blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol can help prevent and manage heart disease.



If you answered yes to any of these, and you own a smartphone, consider installing and using a fitness app.

Using a health or fitness app can

  • Motivate you to be more active
  • Monitor your compliance with activity
  • Measure your progress, and
  • Manage data that you and your doctor can use to improve your health.

Look for these features in a health/fitness app –

you may not need or want all of these, but they increase its usefulness

  • Has a user-friendly interface
  • Offers free trial version
  • Easy to initiate
  • Reliability during the activity
  • Includes a goal setting option
  • Offers real-time feedback
  • Customizable to user
  • Expert consultation available
  • Incorporates behavior change techniques based on science
  • Syncs with other apps and devices/computers for review and sharing
  • Supports social networking
  • Offers periodic summaries

Based on sales and independent reviews, here is a small sample of some of the top fitness apps available now.

They are organized by category, using the mnemonic FITNESS.

(This list contains affiliate links which may pay  this blog  a commission at no extra cost to you.)

FantasyZombies, Run!

Run, walk or jog while completing an adventure mission

 also a book based on the app

Intense CardioRun Tracker


 Tracking and Analytics Fitbitfeet in sports shoes

tracks exercises, food intake, calorie, weight and sleep

Net weight loss MyFitness Pal 

tracks food calories intake by barcode scanner , tracks nutrients, sugar and fiber

milk, yogurt, fruits, vegetables
Nutrition apps can help you make better food choices.

Eating/diet Fooducate

ranks overall nutritional value of food item and suggests alternative food choices when needed; customized to user

someone standing on a scale

SleepSleep Cycle 

tracks sleep quality and quantity, optimizes wake-up interval

person sleeping on a couch
Sometimes getting a good night’s sleep can be a challenge.


SpecializedCharity Miles

motivates more miles of walking, running, or cycling as users can earn donations to a charity of their choice for each mile travelled.

With an app and a fitness device you can  overcome

some of the barriers to physical activity such as

  • Lack of time
  • Inconvenience
  • Boredom
  • Lack of motivation
  • Lack of enjoyment
  • Fear of injury
  • Social isolation
  • Lack of ability to  exercise


Some reasons you may not use a fitness app or device include

  • Apps require basic  technical skill and knowledge to use.
  • The financial resources to purchase and maintain.
  • You must “actively engage” with it to benefit.
  • The value of health apps to change behavior and health outcomes has not been scientifically established.



I have been using the app MapMyRide on my phone. When I’m walking or riding my bicycle, it keeps track of the distance , route and calories burned. I can manually enter activities I do when I’m not carrying my phone, like ballroom dancing. I can even enter activities like gardening, vacuuming, swimming and exercise. I like being able to look back at my workout log and see all that I’ve done the past week, month or year. It motivates me to keep it up, or step it up if I’m lagging .

Map My Ride app

If you choose to use a health app and device, set a goal for its use and periodically assess if it is helping you achieve them.

two champion athletes
You may even become an Olympic champion.

Reference for the information in this blog post-

“Smartphone Applications for Patients’ Health and Fitness”,

by John P. Higgins, MD, MBA, MPhil

The American Journal of Medicine (2016) 129, 11-19


Links in this post are provided for your convenience and do not imply endorsement or recommendation by Dr. Aletha.

Author: Aletha Cress Oglesby, M.D.

As a family physician, I explore the HEART of HEALTH in my work, recreation, community, and through writing. My blog, Watercress Words, informs and inspires us to live in health. I believe we can turn our health challenges into healthy opportunities. When we do, we can share the HEART of health with our families, communities, and the world. Come explore and share with me.

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