NYACK, N.Y. -- With today's interconnection of health and technology, learning how to keep your body in shape can be a click away, thanks in part to the growth of wellness apps and wearable fitness trackers. While some apps motivate people to exercise, others help count calories, monitor hear rate and more. Through use of these advanced apps, phone users can calculate health risks such as heart disease and monitor cardiac health, right in the palm their hands.
Fitness trackers such as Fitbit or Apple Watch can help develop and maintain an exercise program, which is an important aspect of a heart-healthy lifestyle. “I find these apps to be motivational,” said Dr. Jared Corriel, director of Echocardiography at Nyack Hospital and a physician with Highland Medical's Advanced Cardiovascular Care. “They give you awards when you reach your personal best times, and compare you with other people.”
As part of his own health routine, Corriel has used two exercise apps: Strava and Runtastic. Strava tracks runs and bike rides using GPS, while Runtastic allows users to monitor running, jogging, walking, cycling and other fitness activities and compare them with other users. The key part of any app is that it motivates people to get moving. “Studies show that 10 percent of premature death is associated with a sedentary lifestyle," said Corriel. "If you exercise moderately, you can cut your risk of premature death by as much as 20 percent.”
Equally as important as exercise is monitoring what we put into our bodies. Calorie-counting apps, such as My Fitness Pal, help people track calories and lose weight. “When I put patients on a calorie-restricted diet, these apps make it easier to keep track of what they’re eating throughout the day,” said Corriel. “It gives you an awareness of what you’re eating and how many calories you’ve already consumed that day.”
For an even more detailed approach, some blood pressure apps can record heart rate and blood pressure. App users manually enter their latest blood pressure reading, or attach an external blood pressure monitor that takes the reading and loads the data. Other apps such as ASCD Risk Estimator can assess a person’s risk for heart disease by simply entering information such as blood pressure, age and lifestyle habits. “I find these apps very helpful for monitoring and tailoring patients’ medication needs,” said Corriel.
When deciding which apps to download, asking a doctor's recommendation is a good first step. “Your doctor probably has other patients who have used them,” said Corriel. However, apps and devices can only work if they're used. With the myriad of free apps available, he recommends trying a few, seeing which ones work best and, most importantly, sticking with it.