The Best Apps for Health? The Ones You’ll Use.

The folder on the last page of my Home Screen tells a story of hope and disappointment, of love and hate, of promises made and promises broken. Its the folder called Unused. There lie the apps that didn’t live up to their reviews, that couldn’t perform as I wanted them to, that tried so hard and accomplished so little.  And more than a few of them are health-related apps that don’t share data with Health.  The genius, IMO, lies in integrating data between apps, so that info you gather in app A is automatically shown in app B.

Personally, I’m banking on Health’s future.  Because right now, the Health app itself is little more than a warehouse for data. Apple has stretched some semi-user friendly UI over the rough edges, but the fact is, The Health app itself still falls well short of what we’ve come to expect from Cupertino.

Thankfully, a number of new and well established app developers have integrated with their Apps with Health, In doing so, they’ve eliminated the need to use Health as a place to enter data. Which means you can use Health’s Dashboard without having to crawl around under the hood.  Here are three apps that we especially like for their seamless integration with Health and with each other.

BLG-HealthKitApps-myfitness-cntntimgMy Fitness Pal (Free) – Keep track of everything that goes in and out with MyFitnessPal. In addition to tracking calories by allowing you to search their enormous food database or by scanning a barcode, MyFitnessPal gathers data from your iPhone’s built in motion sensors to track your activity throughout the day.  At the end of the day, it totals up total steps and estimated calorie burn against your total reported caloric intake.  I find it tremendously helpful because instead of just having to hit a certain number of calories per day, the app will take in to account my activity levels as it shows me whether I had a “good” day or otherwise.  MyFitness Pal also integrates with lots of other apps, including…

BLG-HealthKitApps-runkeeper-cntntimgRunKeeper – (Free, offers in-app purchases) Runkeeper has been a favorite of mine for a long time.  In addition to being a capable running app that utilizes the iPhone’s built-in GPS and sensors,  RunKeeper integrates seamlessly with Garmin running watches, FitBit, Misfit and most other popular fitness trackers. Its tight integration with Apple Health means that it talks with Fitness Pal.  So that on the days when I manage to get in a long run, the additional exercise will be automagically shared with MyFitnessPal.

BLG-HealthKitApps-instantheart-cntntimgInstant Heart Rate (Free, offers in-app purchases) – simple, quick, Health enabled and surprisingly accurate, Instant Heart Rate does exactly what it says.  Takes your heart rate.  Almost intstantly.  Using your iPhone’s flash to illuminate the end of your index finger when you press it against the lens of the camera, the app acquires and records your heart rate in about 10 seconds.  I’ve compared it to the heart rate monitor/chest band combo on my Garmin running watch and found them to track within about 10 percent of each other.  While I’m hardly an elite athlete, I’ve found that tracking my heart rate is an effective measure of my overall fitness.  As I train and my endurance increases, my heart rate at all levels of exertion drops.

I consider these three apps to be my go-tos. I’ve begun training for a half-marathon this spring as well as keeping track of my food. These three apps together make keeping track of food, exercise and vitals so easy. Part of it is due to the fact that I’ve committed to using them.  But Apple’s Health app serving as a bridge between the three is tremendously helpful as well.


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