Health And Fitness Apps
Written By Amy Landsman Photographed By Justin Tsucalas
When David Berman of Pikesville lost 70 pounds, he used the tried-and-true tools of diet, exercise and self-determination to power through.
Plus, he had an app for it.
Apps, software applications you can download to your smartphones or mobile devices, are hugely popular these days. There are tens of thousands of them out there, many of which are free. As more and more people discover them, they are finding that these have tremendous potential for on-the-go health and fitness.
Berman uses the BodyMedia FIT program, which comes with an accompanying app. He wears a BodyMedia armband that automatically tracks calories burned and sleep habits, while calculating his dietary needs. In turn, the data is sent to his phone.
“My goal is to increase my protein by 5 percent and decrease my carbs by 5 percent, and it will show you over time how you’re doing so you can track what you’re doing and it gives you real and measurable goals.”
Berman, a nurse practitioner with Woodholme Cardiovascular Associates of LifeBridge Health, likes that he can check his progress whenever he needs a bit of motivation.
“You can run reports; it shows you over time so you can track what you’re doing.”
He’s been using the app on his iPhone about a year or so, and for people like him who are into data, it’s a valuable tool.
How can you tell which apps are worth your time? Jackie Foreman, the personal training supervisor at the Park Heights Jewish Community Center, looks for apps that are user-friendly and easy to navigate. She often recommends an app called the Daily Burn. It’s free and you can pay for an upgrade.
“It does everything. It counts your calories; it tracks your weight, your BMI (body mass index),” she says. “It’s in my phone so I always have access to it. It’s a great way to keep track of your food.”
There hasn’t been a lot of research into weight loss and fitness apps, but one study, published in the Journal of Translational Behavioral Medicine, evaluated 204 weight loss apps available in the iTunes store back in 2009. Researchers concluded that many of the sites are indeed based on solid science. The SparkPeople site was top-ranked, meeting 12 of the federal government’s 13 criteria for weight-loss programs. (Criteria include tracking daily food consumption, meal plans and physical activity goals.)
If you’re looking for a health or fitness app, Foreman recommends browsing around and seeing what you like.
“You just plug in ‘weight tracker’ or ‘food tracker’ or ‘exercise planner’ and it will list a bazillion different apps that you can chose from. You flip on an app and take a look at it.”
If an app seems hard to navigate, Foreman deletes it and goes on to the next one. “Because they’re free, you get to sample all kinds of things.”
Apps “have to be based on real science” notes Berman. “If it was a fad diet to begin with, the razzle-dazzle of an app won’t make it any more sound.”
Apps are hugely popular with the running community, says Josh Levinson, owner of Charm City Run, who says “RunMeter” is “a really good one. It tweets your pace per mile.”
Dieters and fitness fans are using apps, but what about the medical community itself?
Berman also uses apps on the job, noting that chores that used to require a pad, pencil and a bit of calculating are now easily done on his phone. For example, he might monitor the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in a patient’s blood. tells us the amount of oxygen and Plus, Berman also uses an app that helps him monitor vital organ systems in transplant cases.
Berman can also access charts through his iPhone and iPad. He emphasizes, however, that patient data is password protected and that the program has an automatic shut-off when it’s inactive for a certain amount of time.
Berman generally doesn’t access apps in front of patients and only uses them to check his data, not as a primary source. “Don’t treat the monitor, treat the patient. The technology is only supplemental. It can’t replace the human factor.”
Occasionally, however, he will recommend an app, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food guidelines at ChooseMyPlate.gov .
“One person came in and wanted to lose weight, was ready to lose weight. …I walked out and came back in. He was on his iPhone. I thought he was watching a movie, but he was watching a video I told him about. He went and immediately looked it up,” recalls Berman.
But for all his enthusiasm for on-the-go data, monitoring and real-time information, Berman is probably a bit like most of us. Not everything he downloads relates to health and fitness. His phone is also loaded with games and other fun and educational stuff for his three kids, the ones who are growing up in this app-filling world.
sparkpeople.com Tracks daily food consumption, meal plans, and physical activity goals, among others.
abvio.com Features a RunMeter, Cyclemeter and Walkmeter. Tracks runs, rides, walks and other motion-based activites.
dailyburn.com It counts calories; tracks weight and BMI (body mass index).
bodymedia.com A BodyMedia armband that automatically tracks calories burned and sleep habits, while calculating dietary needs. In turn the data is sent to a phone.