Lifestyle and wellbeing: What's app with your health?
Whether you are trying to lose weight, relax, or just want to get off the couch, there is an app for you. Katie Byrne picks out the top 20 digital health and wellbeing assistants you need in your life.
The health app business is booming with 100,000 health-related apps added to the already teeming marketplace since 2015. Here are 20 that you need to know about.
PACER - free, with option to upgrade
Pacer uses the motion sensor on your smartphone to track your steps, distance and calories burned. It's the easy, cost-free way to shoot for 10,000 steps a day, especially if you don't like wearing wristbands. Upgrade to premium membership for coaching, guidance and weight loss plans. Syncs with My Fitness Pal.
RUNKEEPER - free, with option to upgrade
A nicely designed, easy-to-use app that harnesses GPS to track your runs and overall progress. Users also have the option to connect with their running buddies or select fun voice cues that include a drop-and-give-me-20-style drill instructor and a strangely suasive French mademoiselle.
INSTANT HEART RATE - free, with option to upgrade
Instant Heart Rate measures your pulse when you place your finger tip on the smartphone's camera, and tracks trends and insights over time. Just make sure your fingers aren't cold, and press gently. Like all health monitoring apps, this is only for recreational and fitness use, and is not a substitute for medical advice. It has the novelty factor, though - especially if you want to get a rough idea of how your body responds to high-stress situations, caffeine and alcohol.
MY FITNESS PAL - free, with option to upgrade
With a database of over five million foods, it's easy to see why My Fitness Pal is the most downloaded calorie-counting and diet tracking app. It also connects with over 50 fitness apps and devices, allowing you to combine data and get a daily snapshot of your overall health.
BLOGILATES - free, with option to upgrade
Cassey Ho of Blogilates was one of the first fitness video bloggers and, eight years after posting her debut video, she's still going strong. She's a high-energy personality, which can be a touch overwhelming at first, but her workouts are targeted and effective. The app also includes an extensive selection of healthy recipes for quick inspiration, and a shop with surprisingly well-priced fitnesswear.
J&J 7-MINUTE WORKOUT - free
There are many seven-minute workout pretenders on the app marketplace, but this one, created by Chris Jordan, director of exercise physiology at the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute, is the original and the best. Think of it as a short sharp shock, designed to give you maximum results in minimum time. For added ease, it syncs with your music library and there's no sign-up.
30 DAY AB CHALLENGE BY 30 DAY FIT BODY - free
If you're looking for a stylish interface and intuitive technology, look elsewhere. If, however, you're looking for an effective and easy-to-follow 30-day challenge, this app does exactly what it says on the tin. The intensity increases slowly over the 30 days so you're always tested, and rest days are included. Try the developer's firm butt, toned arms and plank challenges if you want to up the ante.
DAILY YOGA - free, with option to upgrade
You really need to pay for premium membership to unlock the benefits of this app, which includes workshops with the world's best yoga teachers. Beginners, however, will benefit from the free option - the 10-day beginner tour in particular. Expect easy-to-follow tutorials and an option to sync your own music for the soundtrack of your session.
YOGA WAKE-UP - free, with option to upgrade to premium
You could wake up to the eye-piercing sound of your alarm clock or you could wake up to the soothing voice of a yoga teacher for a sunrise yoga session. That's the idea behind Yoga Wake Up, an app that acts as an alarm clock and helps users arise gently with a series of postures that you can do from bed.
MYFLO PERIOD TRACKER - £1.99 a month
There are hundreds of free period-tracking apps on the market, however, if you want to do more than just keep track of your cycle, it's worth considering this clever paid app. MyFlo tracks the cycle from a hormonal perspective, and tells you when you're likely to have more energy and when you'll probably just want to curl up on the sofa. In their own words: "Getting in sync with your cycle doesn't just make you healthier. It also lets you live at your most optimal level, so you can get more done and have more energy to do it."
HEADSPACE - free, with option to upgrade
Headspace, a guided meditation and mindfulness app, has been downloaded more than 13 million times in 200 countries. The app's success is largely down to the fact that it has made meditation, sometimes thought of as an esoteric discipline, accessible to all. It's simple, no-nonsense, and ideal for time-strapped types who want to integrate the practice into their daily lives.
SLEEP CYCLE ALARM CLOCK - free, with option to upgrade
An average sleep cycle lasts roughly 90 minutes. The Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock, which monitors your sleep through movement using the accelerator within your smartphone, wakes you during your lightest sleep phase, helping you to feel more rested. The app's sleep cycle analysis is far from a perfect science but the extensive data it provides will certainly help you identify the triggers that are affecting your sleep.
PZIZZ - free, with option to upgrade
'Sleep at the push of a button' is the tagline for Pzizz, an app that offers a selection of psychoacoustic soundscapes designed to take your slumbers to the next level.
PREGNANCY TRACKER & BABY APP - free
BabyCenter's beautifully designed pregnancy tracker and baby development calendar is bursting with tools and content that is certified by the NHS Information Standard. You can track your pregnancy, day by day. There's also a baby names finder, a birth plan checklist and a community group that allows you to connect with other expecting mums with due dates in the same month.
PEAK BRAIN TRAINING - free, with option to upgrade
Peak, a brain training app that combines neuroscience principals with cutting-edge technology, was named Best App in 2014 by Apple. The app's cognitive workouts, which test focus, memory, problem solving, mental agility and more, are fast, fun and a little addictive.
MY SUGR DIABETES DIARY - free, with option to upgrade to premium version
Diabetes patients are often told to keep a journal to track calorie and carbohydrate intake. My Sugr makes it easy. The app spots trends and patterns in your numbers and works alongside the FreeStyle Libre or Medtronic CGM.
DRAWMD - free
Doctors and surgeons use this database of visual aids to help explain conditions and procedures to patients. However, not all doctors know about it. Bring it along to your next appointment if you want to better understand your prognosis.
FIRST AID BY BRITISH RED CROSS - free
Studies reveal that most bystanders lack the confidence and competence to perform basic first aid. Empower yourself by downloading the award-winning British Red Cross First Aid app, which includes advice for 20 common first aid scenarios, including how to treat burns and what to do if an infant is choking.
GLASSESOFF - free, with option to upgrade
The team behind GlassesOff talks a big game, but they might just be onto something. The program, developed by a group of neuroscientists, aims to eliminate the need for reading glasses by enhancing the brain's image processing function.
It's specifically for people experiencing the natural effects of near vision decline and those who want to keep their vision sharp and avoid reading glasses in the future. Some users have reported benefits after 20 of the 12-minute sessions.
MICROMEDEX - free
A comprehensives database of prescription and OTC drugs that lists contraindications, adverse effects and black box warnings.