Healthcare Tech: A Reluctant Tracker Tries MyFitnessPal

Healthcare Tech: A Reluctant Tracker Tries MyFitnessPal

The majority of Americans do not track their health, weight or exercise with a fitness tracker or smartphone app. Nearly 75 percent of adults recently surveyed by TechnologyAdvice Research responded that they do not use such devices. I must confess. I am among them.

Lack of interest (27.2 percent) and cost (17.7) topped their reasons for not tracking fitness or health. Yet, health and fitness app sales have surged this year. Analytics firm Flurry reported seeing a 62 percent increase in usage of health and fitness apps from January through June 2014.[1]

I suspect others, like myself, download these apps with good intentions, use them for a few days and slip back into a life of untracked habits. Over the years, I’ve tried a few sleep apps and calorie counting apps, but with little commitment. However, the health and fitness options in the iTunes App Store impressive, many are free and they continue to evolve. These days, apps don’t only engage with social media, many also engage with one another thanks to Apple’s HealthKit.

The Calorie Counter & Diet Tracker by MyFitnessPal seems to be the gold standard app for tracking diet, exercise and weight, and it is keeping up with tech trends. This app is no hidden gem. It is widely publicized, reviewed and appreciated. I did not necessarily need to link it to a wearable device. It seemed a good gateway app for someone like me. I could document my food intake and physical activity with a goal to lose, gain or maintain my weight. Simple and straightforward.

The MyFitnessPal experience

In its App Store writeup, MyFitnessPal claims it has the largest food database of any iPhone calorie counter with over 4 million foods and more added daily. The database is indeed impressive, complete with brand-name products you will find at your mainstream and organic grocer alike. As an athlete with multiple food sensitivities, I cannot claim to have a conventional diet, so I was thrilled to find the gluten-free and vegan products I eat as well as my favorite protein powders and bars. If a food is not there, you can add it. Don’t feel like typing an item into the search bar? Just scan its barcode to see if it’s in the database.

MyFitnessPal groups exercise into cardiovascular and strength. Again, with 350 exercises the database proved impressive with everything from running and cycling to chopping wood and moving furniture—a good reminder that movement in all forms can be beneficial. My cycling workouts were easy to log and provided an estimated calorie burn. My weightlifting sessions took more time to enter and did not provide calorie estimates, but I appreciated how I could truly customize my workout with the number of sets and reps and weight for each exercise. As with diet, the app recalls your frequent activities so you can quickly add them.

The food and diet tracking diary involves a clean, simple and intuitive interface. You can sync it with the Web which means you can log in from your computer, your phone or your tablet. It’s also highly customizable and intelligent. The app gets to know you and your eating and exercise habits, which makes tracking quick and easy if diet and movement tend to be the same from day to day. You can also add your own recipes and exercises, and save the meals you eat most so you don’t have to enter each item every time.

From a results standpoint, MyFitnessPal allows you to stay basic and stick to the key numbers—goal, calories left, food and exercise. It also lets you dig deep by looking at the calorie and nutrition breakdowns for your day—I found this to be an eye-opening experience, and it actually impacted my decision making. A progress chart allows you to log your weight and track your goal visually.

If you like social support or need to be held accountable to others, you can add and request friends, post status updates, and like and encourage one another. Because MyFitnessPal works with HealthKit, you can also connect it with other HealthKit-connected apps to track your goals—there are dozens, including Endomondo Sports, Fitbit Tracker, Garmin Connect, Glow, MapMyRun, Wahoo Balance Scale and many, many more.

I also want to throw in a plug for MyFitnessPal’s fantastic blog, hellohealthy, which is accessible through the app or online at blog.myfitnesspal.com. It supplements your diet and exercise tracking with helpful, quality health and fitness information, recipes and even gift ideas for active people. I really appreciated the first post I read, a piece on body recomposition—how to lose fat and gain muscle. Useful and educational info for those making lifestyle changes.

People love MyFitnessPal and App Store reviewers rave about their success with the app, and I can see why. It makes tracking almost effortless due to its extensive database and user-friendly design. You just need to be committed to opening it and making the entries.

Great for: Those who are motivated by data. If seeing the numbers helps you stay on track—and you remember to track them—this is the app for you. It’s not just for those on a diet. It can be a great way to assess what you consume and how you move, so you can maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle.

Cost: Free

Compatibility: Requires iOS 6.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Optimized for iPhone 5.

Get it: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/calorie-counter-diet-tracker/id341232718?mt=8

 

[1] Khalaf, Simon. “Fueled by Fitness Fanatics.” Flurry by YAHOO! June 19, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.flurry.com/blog/flurry-insights/health-and-fitness-apps-finally-take-fueled-fitness-fanatics#.VBc87lYqC0t.

About Jenifer Dorsey

Jenifer Dorsey is a regular contributor to HealthCare.com. She has covered health insurance and health and fitness for more than five years. In her free time she is a competitive track cyclist and loves to travel, especially to places with velodromes.

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