If you own a smartphone, you almost certainly use apps, or applications. While many apps are geared toward leisure activities like online shopping or gaming, some apps can be used to improve your health. Cancer survivors may find these apps to be particularly useful.
There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing an app. The first of these is cost. While many apps are free, some do cost money. Other apps are free to download but require payment in order to access premium features. Before you spend money on any app, it’s a good idea to check the app’s reviews to see how satisfied people were with the app.
Another important consideration when choosing an app is its data usage. Web content is often downloaded or uploaded by apps. If it is not connected to a Wi-Fi network, your smartphone will use cellular data to complete these tasks. While this is fine in small doses, using cellular data for apps can quickly add up and become expensive.
Also, apps and their data can take up a significant amount of storage space on your smartphone.
Types of apps
Exercise and nutrition apps
MapMyFitness is a popular workout tracking app that uses your smartphone’s built-in GPS to monitor your route, speed, elevation, and calories burned when you run, walk, or cycle. Using this app is remarkably simple: after downloading it and setting up your account, all you need to do is open the app, turn tracking on, and carry your smartphone with you on your workout. More specialized apps in the same family include MapMyRun, MapMyWalk, and MapMyRide. MapMyFitness apps are free to download and use, but to access premium features, there is a charge of $5.99 per month or $29.99 per year.
Another popular exercise app is Fitbit. Unlike standalone apps, Fitbit can connect your smartphone and computer with your Fitbit device. The Fitbit device is a wearable fitness tracker that can track not only your workout but also your daily activity, food, and sleep. Fitbit devices start at $59.99, and optional premium features for the app cost $49.99 per year.
If you’re trying to achieve specific health goals, you might want to try Lifesum. To get started, the app asks what your nutrition plan is—to be healthier, lose weight, or gain muscle. From there, you can begin inputting your diet and exercise information. The app will help you choose an exercise plan and give you feedback on how to pick foods and eat healthy portions to achieve your goals. Another feature of Lifesum is its hydration tracker, which gives you reminders to drink enough water to stay healthy. The Lifesum app is free to download, but access to the premium membership is $9.99 per month, $21.99 for 3 months, or $45.00 per year.
Another app that can help you improve your eating habits is Fooducate. To use Fooducate, you can download the free app and use your phone’s camera to scan the barcodes of packaged food. The app assigns the food a letter grade—A, B, C, or D—based on the quality of its calories and may offer healthier alternatives. Fooducate is not affiliated with any diets, supplements, or manufacturers, but it does have in-app purchases.
While some health and fitness apps help you remain healthy, other apps are designed to help cancer patients during treatment. One such app, Cancer.Net Mobile, features oncologist-approved information from the American Society of Clinical Oncology. This resource for cancer patients and family members includes guides on 120 types of cancer, the latest news from Cancer.Net, and plenty of interactive tools. These allow you to jot down questions for doctors, record audio answers, save information about prescriptions, and track symptoms. The Cancer.Net app is free and allows you to create a passcode to protect your personal information. If you use an iPhone, you can also back up your information on the iCloud.
Some cancer centers offer mobile apps to help patients manage their care. For example, MD Anderson Mobile connects to the institution’s electronic health record system, allowing patients or their caregivers to keep track of appointments, view personal health records, and communicate securely with their health care team from their smartphone or tablet.
While health and fitness apps aren’t a cure-all, they can be useful tools to keep you motivated and on track to achieving your wellness goals.
– E. Nielsen
For more information, ask your physician, call askMDAnderson at 877-632-6789, or visit www.mdanderson.org/publications/focused-on-health/february-2014/cancer-prevention-apps.html.
OncoLog, September 2016, Volume 61, Issue 9