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4 Types of Gadgets and Apps For Tracking Your Health

4 Types of Gadgets and Apps For Tracking Your Health

Let’s face it, It doesn’t take much more than a pair of eyes to notice that life in the modern world is having a negative impact on our health. Many of us sit behind a desk for 40 hours a week, eat nutritionally bankrupt convenience foods in outrageous quantities and spend our free time watching TV and browsing the web for adorable pictures of cats, yet we cannot comprehend why good health seems to be alluding us. Here are some technological tools that we can use to get a handle on our health and combat the obesity epidemic.

Wearable Activity Trackers

The best activity trackers are those that work passively, without any interaction on the user’s part, and for this reason, we recommend bracelet style trackers above those that clip to your clothing. Case in point, one of my friends owns a footstep counter that he has to manually put on every morning, and while he and I live similarly active lives, I consistently beat his weekly step count because he inevitably forgets to wear his at least a couple of times per week, whereas my bracelet style tracker never leaves my wrist, I sleep with it and wear it in the pool and shower.

While there are several options available that fit the bill, two of the most widely used devices are the Fitbit Flex and the Jawbone UP24. Both devices are fairly similar, they track footsteps, calories burned and sleep quality and they both break down that information into useful metrics and graphs. Here’s a breakdown of what sets each device apart:

Fitbit Flex – $99.99 (from Fitbit)

fitbit-flex-xl

    Pros

    *Syncs automatically in the background (via a Bluetooth dongle on your computer and/or built in Bluetooth functionality on the iPhone and select Android devices)

    *Larger userbase, better chance that some of your friends use a Fitbit (which opens up the door for some friendly step-count competition)

    *Display allows you to see approximately how far through your selected goal you currently are

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    *Comfortable bracelet design with several swapable band colors available

    *Waterproof (I wear mine while swimming 3x a week)

    Cons

    *The band has a tendency to crack from removing and reinserting the actual fitbit unit

    *Only syncs with a handful of Android devices (Compatibility list here)

    *The mobile app is fairly simple and lacks a few features that are available online.

    Jawbone UP24 – $149.00 (from Jawbone)

    JawboneUP24

      Pros

      *Mobile app is excellent, undoubtedly better than the current iteration of the Fitbit mobile app

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      *Wireless Background syncing (with recently added Android support) and manual syncing via your phone’s headphone jack

      *Subjectively, many feel that the UP is a more stylish device that looks more like a bracelet and is slimmer than the Fitbit Flex

      Cons

      *Expensive

      *There have been some anecdotal reports of syncing issues

      *Band color is not changeable

      *Somewhat limited Android support (Compatibility list here)

      Bottom Line: Buy the device that fits your fashion sense and budget. Other trackers to keep an eye on are the Nike+ FuelBand and the Withings Pulse O2. Personally, I own the Flex and have been very happy with it, especially since it syncs with my Fitbit Aria smart scale. Speaking of that…

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      Smart Scales

      While it is true that weight is just a number, taking regular measurements are a great way to gauge progress and stay motivated.

      Aria Smart Scale – $129.95 (from Fitbit)

      Fitbit Aria

        When my wife bought me the Fitbit Aria smart scale for our last anniversary, I received a plethora of comments to the effect of, “That’s awesome…. but I bet she wouldn’t have been too happy if you bought her a scale, lol.” Outdated gender stereotypes aside, this scale is fantastic and any gift that helps your loved one to improve their health is a sign of true affection.

        So, what makes this scale so smart? The Aria syncs to your WiFi network and updates your weight and body fat percentage to the Fitbit dashboard, which, if you have another Fitbit product, you are already using. It can also sync to popular food tracking apps like MyFitnessPal. The Aria can automatically recognize up to 8 different users and track their weights, uploading the measurements to the correct accounts, the user needs to do nothing more than step on the scale with barefeet (necessary to measure body fat). Visually, the Aria is gorgeous, with a sleek minimalist design that looks great in any bathroom.

        If the Aria isn’t for you, check out the Withing Smart Body Analyzer.

        Diet Tracker

        Diet is arguably the most critical single factor contributing to a person’s overall health and well-being. Much as carefully tracking your spending can, in and of itself, help to avoid making unnecessary, high cost purchases, the careful tracking of your caloric intake can help to avoid binging on high calorie, low nutrition foods.

        MyFitnessPal – Free (Available on most mobile platforms)

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        MyFitnessPal

          Having tried most food trackers currently available, I can say with a fair degree of confidence that MyFitnessPal is the most complete and comprehensive option available. MFP has a very large database of foods, making it possible to quickly input your meals with a high level of accuracy. You can quickly scan in premade foods via their barcodes, create and save your own frequently eaten meals and even manually set your macro nutrient goals (Protein, Fat and Carbs). In addition, MFP syncs with a ton of other fitness apps, including most of the popular activity trackers and smart scales.

          If MyFitnessPal is not for you, check out Noom.

          Exercise Tracker

          While a wearable tracker like the Fitbit Flex or the Jawbone UP24 are fantastic for tracking general activity, they are not ideal for keeping track of your progress while engaging in exercise activities like running, biking, hiking and the like.

          Runtastic – Free for basic version, $4.99 for Pro (Available on all major mobile platforms)

          runtastic-app

            Runtastic is capable of tracking a host of physical activities and providing useful feedback. Runtastic maps your activity, provides a breakdown of your pace, allows you to easily challenge yourself or others using the app. Runtastic can also sync with your music library, so that you can listen to your workout playlist while still receiving informative and encouraging prompts from the app in the form of a coach that speaks to you through your headphones based on your personal preferences. You can even set a Powersong that the app will play when you need a boost. Overall the free version of the app provides some excellent features, but I think the Pro version is well worth the money.

            Don’t love Runtastic as much as we do, check out Runkeeper or Endomondo.

            While buying a couple of products and downloading some apps is not going to automatically transform you from Chris Farley to Channing Tatum, accurately tracking your activity level and progress might be just what you need to get off the couch and start improving your life. Check out this awesome article for 7 ways to sneak exercise into your busy schedule.

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            Last Updated on March 25, 2020

            How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

            How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

            When it comes to living long, genes aren’t everything. Research has revealed a number of simple lifestyle changes you can make that could help to extend your life, and some of them may surprise you.

            So, how to live longer? Here are 21 ways to help you live a long life

            1. Exercise

            It’s no secret that physical activity is good for you. Exercise helps you maintain a healthy body weight and lowers your blood pressure, both of which contribute to heart health and a reduced risk of heart disease–the top worldwide cause of death.

            2. Drink in Moderation

            I know you’re probably picturing a glass of red wine right now, but recent research suggests that indulging in one to three glasses of any type of alcohol every day may help to increase longevity.[1] Studies have found that heavy drinkers as well as abstainers seem to have a higher risk of early mortality than moderate drinkers.

            3. Reduce Stress in Your Life

            Stress causes your body to release a hormone called cortisol. At high levels, this hormone can increase blood pressure and cause storage of abdominal fat, both of which can lead to an increased risk of heart disease.

            4. Watch Less Television

            A 2008 study found that people who watch six hours of television per day will likely die an average of 4.8 years earlier than those who don’t.[2] It also found that, after the age of 25, every hour of television watched decreases life expectancy by 22 minutes.

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            Television promotes inactivity and disengagement from the world, both of which can shorten your lifespan.

            5. Eat Less Red Meat

            Red meat consumption is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and cancer.[3] Swapping out your steaks for healthy proteins, like fish, may help to increase longevity.

            If you can’t stand the idea of a steak-free life, reducing your consumption to less than two to three servings a week can still incur health benefits.

            6. Don’t Smoke

            This isn’t exactly a revelation. As you probably well know, smoking significantly increases your risk of cancer.

            7. Socialize

            Studies suggest that having social relationships promotes longevity.[4] Although scientists are unsure of the reasons behind this, they speculate that socializing leads to increased self esteem as well as peer pressure to maintain health.

            8. Eat Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

            Omega-3 fatty acids decrease the risk of heart disease[5] and perhaps even Alzheimer’s disease.[6] Salmon and walnuts are two of the best sources of Omega-3s.

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            9. Be Optimistic

            Studies suggest that optimists are at a lower risk for heart disease and, generally, live longer than pessimists.[7] Researchers speculate that optimists have a healthier approach to life in general–exercising more, socializing, and actively seeking out medical advice. Thus, their risk of early mortality is lower.

            10. Own a Pet

            Having a furry-friend leads to decreased stress, increased immunity, and a lessened risk of heart disease.[8] Depending on the type of pet, they can also motivate you to be more active.

            11. Drink Coffee

            Studies have found a link between coffee consumption and longer life.[9] Although the reasons for this aren’t entirely clear, coffee’s high levels of antioxidants may play a role. Remember, though, drowning your cup of joe in sugar and whipped cream could counter whatever health benefits it may hold.

            12. Eat Less

            Japan has the longest average lifespan in the world, and the longest lived of the Japanese–the natives of the Ryukyu Islands–stop eating when they’re 80% full. Limiting your calorie intake means lower overall stress on the body.

            13. Meditate

            Meditation leads to stress reduction and lowered blood pressure.[10] Research suggests that it could also increase the activity of an enzyme associated with longevity.[11]

            Taking as little as 15 minutes a day to find your zen can have significant health benefits, and may even extend your life.

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            How to meditate? Here’re 8 Meditation Techniques for Complete Beginners

            14. Maintain a Healthy Weight

            Being overweight puts stress on your cardiovascular system, increasing your risk of heart disease.[12] It may also increase the risk of cancer.[13] Maintaining a healthy weight is important for heart health and living a long and healthy life.

            15. Laugh Often

            Laughter reduces the levels of stress hormones, like cortisol, in your body. High levels of these hormones can weaken your immune system.

            16. Don’t Spend Too Much Time in the Sun

            Too much time in the sun can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer. However, sun exposure is an excellent way to increase levels of vitamin D, so soaking up a few rays–perhaps for around 15 minutes a day–can be healthy. The key is moderation.

            17. Cook Your Own Food

            When you eat at restaurants, you surrender control over your diet. Even salads tend to have a large number of additives, from sugar to saturated fats. Eating at home will enable you to monitor your food intake and ensure a healthy diet.

            Take a look at these 14 Healthy Easy Recipes for People on the Go and start to cook your own food.

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            18. Eat Mushrooms

            Mushrooms are a central ingredient in Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s GOMBS disease fighting diet. They boost the immune system and may even reduce the risk of cancer.[14]

            19. Floss

            Flossing helps to stave off gum disease, which is linked to an increased risk of cancer.[15]

            20. Eat Foods Rich in Antioxidants

            Antioxidants fight against the harmful effects of free-radicals, toxins which can cause cell damage and an increased risk of disease when they accumulate in the body. Berries, green tea and broccoli are three excellent sources of antioxidants.

            Find out more antiosidants-rich foods here: 13 Delicious Antioxidant Foods That Are Great for Your Health

            21. Have Sex

            Getting down and dirty two to three times a week can have significant health benefits. Sex burns calories, decreases stress, improves sleep, and may even protect against heart disease.[16] It’s an easy and effective way to get exercise–so love long and prosper!

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            Featured photo credit: Sweethearts/Patrick via flickr.com

            Reference

            [1] Wiley Online Library: Late‐Life Alcohol Consumption and 20‐Year Mortality
            [2] BMJ Journals: Television viewing time and reduced life expectancy: a life table analysis
            [3] Arch Intern Med.: Red Meat Consumption and Mortality
            [4] PLOS Medicine: Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review
            [5] JAMA: Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in Women
            [6] NCBI: Effects of Omega‐3 Fatty Acids on Cognitive Function with Aging, Dementia, and Neurological Diseases: Summary
            [7] Mayo Clinic Proc: Prediction of all-cause mortality by the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory Optimism-Pessimism Scale scores: study of a college sample during a 40-year follow-up period.
            [8] Med Hypotheses.: Pet ownership protects against the risks and consequences of coronary heart disease.
            [9] The New England Journal of Medicine: Association of Coffee Drinking with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality
            [10] American Journal of Hypertension: Blood Pressure Response to Transcendental Meditation: A Meta-analysis
            [11] Science Direct: Intensive meditation training, immune cell telomerase activity, and psychological mediators
            [12] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
            [13] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
            [14] African Journal of Biotechnology: Anti-cancer effect of polysaccharides isolated from higher basidiomycetes mushrooms
            [15] Science Direct: Periodontal disease, tooth loss, and cancer risk in male health professionals: a prospective cohort study
            [16] AHA Journals: Sexual Activity and Cardiovascular Disease

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