First, the obvious caveat: No app can make you healthier. Only you can do that!
But choosing right tools can help us fill in the gaps in our health game. And what better medium than the screen you likely already carry in your pocket all day. These apps are free (or have free versions) and do not rely on a wearble.
Do you struggle to gain positive momentum on breaking a habit or making a new one? Streaks is going to be your best friend. This nicely-designed app is based on a very simple premise: A challenge to make your habit streaks as long and unbroken as possible.
You might be familiar with this motivational technique. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld credits the simple-but-effective mantra don't break the chain for maintaining his daily writing habit. And you know, the guy's doing okay!
One of my favorite features is the integration with Apple Health. If I use my Apple Watch during my workouts (and I do), it automatically checks off my goal to move for a minimum of 30 minutes per day. The "bedtime" feature in the clock app calculates my sleep, and if I hit the 7.5 hour minimum, checks off that goal for the day.
Downside: Sorry, Android friends. This one's only in the Apple App store.
This is an embarrassing personal pitfall as a health and fitness coach working in one of the hottest states possible, but here it is: I am absolutely dismal at hydration.
So much so, I downloaded My Water to harass me into pouring more H2O down my gullet.
Now every couple of hours, I receive pings on my phone and Apple Watch, reminding me that my internal organs would really like a little of the building block of life.
A disclaimer, but IMO an unintentional perk: The alerts are clearly written by someone who is not a native English writer, but it's actually far more humorous that way. I actually drink more water just because I simply can't let that mediocre translator down.
Either way, until I achieve osmosis or learn to drink water like an adult, My Water is helping keep the Alvestad boat afloat.
I regularly use Insight Timer three times a day-- for meditation, focus, and for falling asleep. It excels in all three scenarios. This free app is chock-full of different guided meditations, courses, and music, so you have a limitless supply to choose from.
Right now my personal meditation practice looks like 30 minutes of doing absolutely nothing except breathing and observing my inner monkey brain, which can be really excruciating to do in silence. I use the customizable timer function, and you can choose from all sorts of music or ambient noise for your background.
When I'm trying to focus on something-- like writing this blog post-- I choose Binaural Beats or other ambient music to give my brain a little soundbath while I zone in. It's soothing as all get-out, and I can get stuff done.
And then at night, I'm queuing up a yoga nidra selection, or soothing nature sounds to drown out my inner chatter and get to sleep faster. I'm an insomniac, but this has really helped increase my sleep quality.
Honorable mentions: Headspace is wonderful, but I wish it included different voices (creator / former Tibetan Monk Andy Puddicombe's voice is so soothing, it puts me to sleep), the different kinds of meditations are limited, and you'll need a subscription to reach the good stuff.
I also love Inner Balance by the Heart Math Institute, but it does require the purchase of a peripheral bluetooth device to use with your phone. If you're curious about Heart Rate Variability (HRV) training, this is where you should start.
I'll be honest, I hate including My Fitness Pal because it feels so uninspired. This is on every "top fitness app" list out there.
But after noodling on it, I simply could not leave this nutrient tracking app off this list. It's just that good. My Fitness Pal will let you scan packaged foods, add by weight or volume, or create custom recipes for your most common homemade food items.
Any sort of performance or aesthetic goal requires you to know what your "calories in" looks like. It's a piece of data we can't get around, no matter how long you dedicate to the gym.
As someone who has tracked my own nutrition, worked with a coach on my nutrition, and helped my own clients with their nutrition, this app is bar-none the best thing out there for both sides of the client-coach equation.
If you're tracking macronutrients, there's a big wrench that gets thrown into the game when you try to accurately account for alcohol.
That's where the Working Against Gravity Alcohol Calculator comes in real handy. This tool can help you decide how to allocate your carbs and fats accurately, based on ABV and volume.
And really, seeing those numbers in black and white will make just about anyone sip a little slower and savor every drop.
Those are my top five health-related apps right now, but I want to hear yours! Share yours in the comments!