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May 17, 2013

App roundup: 7 apps for better health

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m a writer for Windows by day, and a musician by night. Musicians don’t always have the best health habits. Late nights, hanging out in smoky clubs, and getting paid in drink tickets have taken their toll on my health. So I decided to take a look at some apps that might get me back on the health wagon.

Heart Age

Before starting an exercise regimen, I thought it might be a good idea to figure out if my heart could handle it. Heart Age is a free app that estimates your heart’s “true age” based on info like your height, weight, frequency, and intensity of exercise, cholesterol, and blood pressure.

Heart age calculator

According to the test, I have the heart of a 28 year old. That sounds good to me! I ♥ Heart Age!


Want a quick but brutal workout? Bodeefit has workout plans based on time (most are around 10-15 minutes) or number of rounds (the time these take depends on how fit your “bodee” is). The equipment you need is minimal—basically a floor, a wall, a box (for diabolical box jumps), and a bench (for dips and possibly for jumping over). There’s something reassuring about the video clip examples in this app. Watching a guy jumping on the box made me think that I could actually do that too. I was wrong. Box jumps are hard! But the videos make it fast and easy to figure out how to actually do the exercises—a lot easier than reading a description on how to do each move.

With workouts named Furious 10, Fire Breather, and Sit, Sit up, Crawl! I’m strangely looking forward to seeing what new form of torture awaits me next.

Bodeefit app

If you want to save your results, you can sign up for a free Bodeefit account (or upgrade to a Pro membership for additional benefits). With the free membership, you’ll get daily workouts sent to your email address, and a paleo recipe from PaleOMG once a week. The paleo diet, if you haven’t heard of it, is based on what Paleolithic man might have eaten. So basically: meat, fish, certain vegetables, and no sugar, carbs, or dairy. The recipes actually look delicious and include banana bread, brownie trifle, and cake (with substitutions for ingredients not allowed on the diet). Those cave men ate a lot better than I thought!


Taking a workout and disguising it as a game is sheer brilliance. There’s no Mario or Ms Pac Man character in the game of BallStrike, though. Through the magic of your webcam, you’re the main character. Balls appear on the screen, and it’s your job to twist, turn, kick, hit, and jump around to destroy the balls. Just watch out for those pesky bombs. You want to destroy them, not the other way around.


At the end of your session, you can share photos of yourself on Facebook, through email, and on other sites.

Sharing your Ballstrike action

The first few levels of the game are completely free. To get the full version of the app (complete with 12 levels of ball-striking fun) it will cost you US$3.49, but that seems a small price to pay if you like to kick and punch things as much as I do.

MyPlate Calorie Tracker from LIVESTRONG.COM

Losing weight, I’ve been told, is mostly about what you put and don’t put into your mouth. Exercise certainly helps and is very important for overall health and fitness, but as far as actual pounds go, it’s all about the food.

The MyPlate Calorie Tracker has become my favorite app for tracking what I’m eating. It’s easy to add foods. Tap or click the + button under the meal you want to record, and then start typing. Then just pick from the results and, if necessary, adjust your serving size. With a database of more than 1.3 million food items (including many popular brands and restaurant items), you’re bound to find the foods you’re eating. Foods you eat often are shown in a list of recently eaten foods, so it’s easy to add them.

MyPlate Calorie Tracker

You can also track the amount of water you’re drinking and how much and what type of exercise you’re doing.

MyPlate exercise details

When you first start the app (after you sign in or create a free account), you decide how much weight you want to lose each week. MyPlate Calorie Tracker crunches the numbers for you. You can see how many calories you have left to consume, and how many you’ve used each day. I’m going to try using this for a full week. Hopefully the scale will say 2 pounds lost by next Friday.


Insurance info, health history, doctor info – HealthVault brings them all together in one place. I signed in, and then plugged in my info. Not only does Health Vault help track calories and weight, it can keep track of any health conditions you want to enter (oh, my aching back!).


Many popular exercise or heath devices (like pedometers, blood pressure monitors, blood glucose monitors, and even some scales) work with Health Vault, so you can save all your data in one place. There are over 200 devices that are compatible, and the list is growing. Have a Fitbit? You’re golden.

If you use other health apps, they can plug into HealthVault too. So if you have prescriptions at Walgreens, CVS, or various other pharmacies with apps, HealthVault can pull in your prescriptions so all of your health info is in one place.

You can also track health information for your family. So if you have kids or aging parents, HealthVault can help you out.


When it comes to working out, I’m motivated by competition. The KinectHealth app is perfect for people like me. It offers virtual training videos that use your webcam to monitor your activity level. Then, the app shares info about your workout with your friends who also use KinectHealth, so you can all stay motivated.

Kinect Health app

When you watch a workout video, you’ll see your trainer on the main part of the screen, and on the left, you’ll see a video of yourself working out, with your stats. At the top of the screen are friends and trainers who’ve taken the training already. As the video plays, you can see how your friends were doing at that specific point in the video. Your friends don’t need to be doing the same video at the same time—KinectHeath saves their data and just replays it back to you. You’ll see how many calories they burned and if they were calm (a purple circle on their profile picture), active (a green circle), or hyper (a red circle).

Kinect Health working out with friends

There were a good variety of video workouts available when I started the app (including yoga, Pilates, cardio, and strength). I decided to try out the Legs are Burning video, with the trainer, Jason. This workout delivered. As I did my squats and lunges along with Jason, my PC webcam monitored my activity. By the end of the training I was in the hyper zone.

As you reach your fitness goals, your progress is shared with friends (and vice versa) so you can cheer each other on, or at least get guilted into working out more. Effective!

Digital Health Scorecard

From Johnson & Johnson, the makers of a lot of health-related items from baby powder to Nicorette®, comes the Digital Health Scorecard app. Plug in some numbers (the app walks you through 7 questions) and you’ll get your overall health score, based on The World Health Organization’s “Global Burden of Disease” data.


The lower your score, the higher your chances of developing chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, or cancer.

On the results screen you can see how various changes in your overall lifestyle might affect your score by using the “What if?” button.


If you’re currently a smoker, you can see how your score would change if you quit. Or if you regularly enjoy a martini or two at lunch, you can drop your weekly drink number and see how much your score goes up. Making the comparison can be pretty motivating. But there’s no way I’m completely giving up my martinis. I like olives too much. And olives aren’t bad for you, at least in moderation, right?

Here’s to your health! (Clink!)

– Kirsten