For many people, it is hard to imagine living without a smartphone. With the swipe of a finger and a few taps, you can check email, order shoes and change the temperature at home. The convenience factor has blended into all aspects of our lives, including health. Apps now promise to help you lose weight, quit smoking and/or improve your general wellbeing. But do they all work? Care New England experts weigh in on ways to use your phone or tablet to stay on track and improve your overall health and wellness.

1. Exercise

After long days in the office, running the kids to sports practices and the overall stress, one might ask, “How can I fit in exercise, and feel motivated?” What exactly do we have time for?

Most American adults own smartphones, and according to a new report from Nielsen, the average person spends 11 hours per day with electronic media. Being technologically connected can be a great motivator to get your workout on.

“There are hundreds of great health apps out there that can help track everything from physical activity, heart rate, nutrition and calories, and overall health and wellbeing,” said Chester Hedgepeth, MD, PhD, executive chief of cardiology, Care New England. “Mobile and tablet apps are extremely beneficial to the everyday person just trying to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle, as well as a more complex patient, looking to seriously track eating habits or cardiovascular activity.”

Track Your Progress

Start off with a basic tracking app like mapmyrun, Nike+ Running, or Instantheartrate. Once you master one of those, try Nexercise where you can compete with friends and co-workers, and track your progress. Best of all, they are all free!

2. Nutrition

Life can be so hectic, we may be forgetting that our health is a top priority.

“Poor nutrition can be a major contributor to many diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity, but fortunately there are also many mobile apps that are a great resource for those looking for a little guidance in the nutrition department,” said Pam Hill, registered dietitian at Kent Hospital. “Some even allow you to work one-on-one with a registered dietitian and others provide access for online grocery delivery services. They are extremely beneficial and fun to use at the same time.”

Have questions about nutrition and weight management? Contact the Care New England Wellness Center at (401) 732-3066 to set up a personalized program that is right for you.

Eat Healthy

MyFitnessPal and Lose IT! are both fast and easy -to-use meal and calorie trackers with many other features. Fooducate takes the guessing game out of deciding which brand or product has better ingredients. Simply scan the UPC code and the app will evaluate the ingredients and sometimes recommend healthier alternatives.

3. Sleep

We’ve all had those nights where we go to bed early, turn off the electronics, and expect to spring out of bed the next morning, only to wake feeling more tired than we did the night before. There are now smart phone apps and wearables (a device you wear, typically a bracelet) that can monitor your sleep patterns and wake you up at the best possible time in the morning. But do these apps really work?

Jigme Sethi, MD, chief of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine at Memorial Hospital, says, “Many sleep apps on smartphones are advertised to have the capability of measuring various aspects of a person’s sleep cycle, including the stages of sleep and the likelihood of sleep apnea or other sleep problems. While these apps are useful to grow the public’s awareness of sleep-related medical issues, they cannot be assumed to be medical grade devices with accuracy on par with FDA approved sleep monitoring equipment.”

Catch Some Z’s

Apps such as Sleep Cycle, SleepBot and Sleep Pillow all offer sleep tracking features that are both simple and complex. If getting a full night’s sleep becomes an issue, Memorial Hospital’s Sleep Lab, (401) 729-2635 and Kent Hospital’s Sleep Lab, (401) 736-3727 offer diagnostic sleep testing equipment for home-based and hospital-based studies.