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Top 5 apps to get your health on track

Data from the 2007 Canadian Community Health Survey revealed that screen time (time spent viewing television and using computers) was positively associated with major determinants of health such as obesity, inactive leisure time, and poor diet. This isn't the first time we've been told to turn off our screens and, you know, have a conversation with a real human or (gasp!) go outside for some fresh air.

Truth of the matter is we're on our screens for work, socialization and play and that's not going to change any time soon. What's more, access to our devices allows us to conveniently record and track our lifestyles so we can monitor trends and become more accountable for our decisions. As a naturopathic doctor, I encourage my patients to use technology to help them build smarter, more informed health care habits that we can regularly review together in follow up appointments. Here's my (ever-evolving!) top 5 list of free apps to get you started:

1. myfitnesspal This app makes dietary tracking as painless as possible - plug in what you've eaten from a wide variety of whole as well as prepared foods and it breaks down the macronutrient content (carbs, proteins, fats etc) so we can make sure you have the right fuel for your day. Track your activity levels as well to get a sense of your energy balance (calories in vs. calories out), which is an essential part of a broader weight loss strategy. I encourage my patients to use the food notes section to keep track of symptoms like indigestion, bloating, and fatigue to determine whether food sensitivities are sabotaging your health goals, and whether further testing is warranted. Honourable mention: Strava This one goes out to all the weekend warriors! Strava allows you to track your cycling, running and cross-training achievements so you can nerd out over the data and fight for the title of King of Mountain, nothing wrong with a little healthy competition!

2. Fertility Friend Whether you're looking to conceive or wondering why your period always shows up when you least expect it, fertility friend is an easy (and addictive!) way to get to know your body's natural hormonal rhythm. For example, did you know that there are (typically) only a few fertile days per cycle, and that you can use your body's own signals to determine your fertile window? Track your menstrual flow, temperature, mood, energy levels and tonnes of other customizable data points in one app, giving us critical info that can help in the diagnosis of PCOS, early menopause and other hormonal challenges prior to formal laboratory evaluation. This allows us to build a focused treatment plan using lifestyle changes, botanical medicine and supplements to get things back on track.

3. Headspace I love a guided meditation - it's a surefire way to carve out a couple minutes of self care in a busy day, especially for those of us that struggle to quiet our minds in absolute silence. I use mindfulness based stress reduction techniques with almost every patient that walks through my door, because research shows the benefit these practices can have on anxiety & depression, cardiovascular disease, chronic pain & fatigue, sleep disorders and many other common conditions. The 'Take 10' intro to meditation for beginners is fantastic, everyone can find 10 minutes in a busy day, and the visualization cues give excellent tips on how to manage distractions to keep you motivated. Honourable mention: When you just need 5 minutes to stretch or lie down and take a load off, this app provides a choice of soothing background music that allows you to drift away without having to keep your eye on the clock. I use it to time my yoga breaks - the daily reminder helps keep me on track as well.

4. OurGroceries This grocery list app is a major help to those of us who tend to aimlessly wander the aisles while buying food, only to come home realizing you forgot the broccoli, again! I love using this app as part of a broader meal planning strategy. If you plan a few healthy meals for the week, stick the ingredients on the app so you can ensure your fridge is stocked with the necessary items and you're not stuck eating popcorn or takeout for dinner. You can also share this with a partner, and sync your list to ensure no double purchases, saving you time and money.

5. MindBody Let's face it, no one likes having to call in to book an appointment. This app allows you to schedule your next follow up or massage quickly and easily, giving you access to practitioner bios and all available openings for the next two months. Want to get your nails done after spin class? Use the explore function to check out other fitness, beauty and wellness spots in the neighbourhood.

Got an app you love to use that didn't make the cut? I'd love to hear about it! Post a comment below or come on in for a complimentary 15 minute introductory consult (meet & greet) so we can share info and get started on your health goals.

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