There are apps to track how many calories you've burned, measure your blood pressure and plan meals.
As part of the special report Chasing Cures, CBC News checked with doctors, dietitians and other experts to assess some health and fitness apps.
Their 10 most commonly recommended apps were:
A free tool to help people lose weight by counting calories and tracking physical activity levels. "Research demonstrates that those who record their food intake will achieve greater weight loss than those who don't, so I highly recommend this to all my clients. For those high-tech users, apps are fantastic option," says Jodi Robinson, a registered dietitian and fitness specialist in Toronto.
- Lose It! app and LoseIt.com
"It's free, it helps you to count and budget calories, plan meals, factor in exercise, and lose weight at a safe, sustainable pace," says CBC medical specialist Dr. Karl Kabasele.
Another app to track nutrients, MyNetDiary is free, but also offers a $3.99 upgrade, though that isn't necessary, says registered dietitian Rosie Schwartz. The Toronto-based expert emphasized monitoring food intake — the food, time and amount after you eat. Taking steps to record your food consumption can help limit it, Schwartz advised.
This Canadian site has an app for the iPhone and iPad that tells you how much sodium is in foods and tracks your consumption. CBC medical columnist Dr. Peter Lin says it's valuable for people with high blood pressure.
Apps can help people to reach their food and fitness goals, but the key is to make a plan and stick to it, says registered dietitian Zannat Reza. Reza suggests My Heart and Stroke Health app for people who want to find out about their risk for heart disease and get heart-healthy recipes that are lower in sodium.
The site maps out your workout route for running, cycling, etc.
A tool to track heart rate, distance, pace and calories burned during exercise.
The app has a GPS that tracks where you bike and uploads performance data in real-time to a website where personal trainers and teammates can track your progress, says Dr. Brian Goldman, host of CBC Radio's White Coat, Black Art.
"Apps designed to promote physical activity and healthy eating should be easy to use, allow you to input your own goals or targets, monitor behaviours (e.g., built-in GPS to record and store physical activity) and provide motivational prompts," advises Mark Tremblay, director of Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research in Ottawa.GluCoMo
An app to help people with diabetes track their blood sugar levels, food consumption and insulin dosage and transmit the data to a network of doctors for feedback, said Goldman.
Way of the future
WebMD for Android, iPhone and iPad
The app offers advice about acute symptoms, with reliable, up-to-date information, Lin says. Goldman calls patient apps the way of the future for getting healthy and staying healthy. The bottleneck is finding a doctor or hospital in Canada to receive the data and advise patients accordingly, he says.
"We're also starting to see apps that enable patients and doctors to look at X-rays, CT scans and MRIs together. As well, apps can be very helpful in getting patients to book their own appointments with specialists instead of waiting for your GP to do it for you," Goldman says in an email.
"To make that a reality, Canadian doctors must be willing to embrace new technologies and to surrender some of the traditional control they maintain as gatekeepers of the health-care system."
Besides apps, there are a variety of websites offering medical information for consumers. Commonly recommended sites include:
- The Canadian Cancer Society's Smokershelpline.ca and Health Canada's Quit4life.com are two resources to help smokers quit. Smokershelpline.ca features online support for people quitting smoking, including a social media interface to create a profile and interact with others who are trying to quit. It also allows you to chat (by typing) with smoking cessation counsellors 24 hours a day, says Kabasele, a physician who works in that field at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.
- Mayoclinic is a reliable source, Lin says.
- An interactive online survey designed by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health helps you to assess whether your alcohol consumption is problematic.
- American Cancer Society
- Canadian Diabetes Association