8 Tips for Choosing a Health App
Molly Waring, PhD; Assistant Professor, University of Connecticut Department of Allied Health Sciences
There are so many health-related mobile apps these days, it can be overwhelming to find the right health apps that really work for you. Every app has different features, and they all have their pros and cons. Here are some tips from behavior change experts on choosing apps to help you manage your health.
What are you looking for in a health and fitness app?
First, ask yourself what you’re looking for, both in terms of purpose and features. For example, are you looking for an app to help you lose weight? Manage stress? Remember to take your medications? Then, decide what you want the app to help you with. For example, do you want it to help you track what you eat or when you exercise? Do you want it to provide info or connect with others? Being clear about what you’re looking for will help you narrow down which apps you might find helpful.
Can your doctor recommend an app?
Your doctors or other health care professionals may have a suggestion based on what has worked for other patients. If you find a health app you like, tell your doctor. Your doctor can then recommend the app to other patients with similar needs.
Do your family members or friends have a favorite app?
People in your life can be a great source for recommendations. What health or fitness apps do they find helpful?
What apps are out there, and what features do they have?
The iPhone App store and Google Marketplace let you search for apps based on key words such as “health” or more specific interests such as “weight loss,” “stress,” and “diabetes”). Look through the descriptions of apps that come up in your results. Does an app look like it addresses your health concern? Does it do what you’re looking for? For example, if you’re interested in tracking your sleep, does the app do this?
Are you willing to pay for an app?
Many apps will offer a free version, but charge users to unlock content. Make sure you know which features are free and which ones require in-app purchases.
What do people who use the app think about it?
Look for apps with high average ratings (>4.5 stars) across a large number of ratings. However, it can also be helpful to look at the number of 1-star vs 5-star ratings. For example, an app with an average rating of 3 stars may be because some people hated the app (1 star) and others loved it (5 stars), and if you’re more like the people who gave the app 5 stars, the app may be great for you. User reviews can tell you what people like and don’t like about the app. You can also Google search the app for reviews by professional organizations and health professionals.
Trust your gut.
Does the app include something that doesn’t seem legit to you? Does it make claims that that your doctor doesn’t agree with? Does the app claim to produce results that seem exaggerated? If something seems suspicious, or just too good to be true, it probably is.
Try it out!
Download a couple of apps and try them out. Which apps do you like in terms of information, features, and graphics? How much time and effort does it take to use the app on a regular basis? And does this match what you’re looking for? If an app isn’t working for you, delete it and try another!
Ultimately, which app is best for you depends on your health goals, your needs, and your preferences. It may take a few tries to find the one that works well for you.
Do you have a health-related app you love? Tweet about it, tagging us (@BehavioralMed), and tell us what you like about it!