Published on May 31st, 2013 | by admin


5 Ways Your Smartphone Could Improve Your Health

Anyone who owns a smartphone knows that this favorite mobile device does more than just make phone calls and send text messages. A developing ecosystem of apps and attachments is helping smartphone owners from all walks of life to improve their fitness, sleep quality and even stress management. Since over one billion people worldwide use smartphones, these handheld gems could make a huge difference in public health.

For graduates of traditional and online masters degree in public health programs, the smartphone is rapidly becoming a vehicle for improving the health of people worldwide. Researchers are using smartphones to galvanize better health in five important ways.

1. Get a Physical

The University of California at San Francisco is working to enroll one million patients in a study that will determine whether tracking markers like heart rate and blood pressure over smartphones could improve cardiovascular health. A number of smartphone functions could give patients a fairly comprehensive picture of their health, including:

  • Blood Pressure.

Plug your smartphone into a specially designed blood pressure cuff for your systolic and diastolic readouts.

  • EKG.

Wondering about your heart rate? Just place your fingers on your smartphone screen to see the proverbial peaks and valleys of an EKG reading.

  • Blood Glucose.

Plug your smartphone into a small glucose monitoring device, prick your finger and get an instant readout.

  • Other Functions.

New attachments can perform sonograms, take photos of your eardrum, examine the back of your eye and chart your respiratory functions.

2. Start an Exercise Program

Stanford researcher Abby King, Ph.D., has developed a smartphone app that utilizes a bird avatar to track health progress. For instance, you can set certain exercise goals and then record progress within the app. If you get your exercise, the bird thrives; if you stay a couch potato, the bird languishes.

King’s research has compared the avatar app with other exercise app approaches, including setting up exercise competitions between friends in a social media format and using an analytical approach that sets goals and provides feedback. After the study, 54 percent of users of the social media-style app were still exercising and about one-third of the bird app users were still moving. The analytical style app produced the lowest results.

3. Monitor Your Diet

Are you tired of looking at your expanding waistline? Use your smartphone to track your eating habits. Scientists from the University of Leeds in the U.K. compared weight loss among smartphone app users to weight loss from people keeping either an online or paper food diary. The smartphone app allowed users to write down their food intake and track weight loss goals.

After six months, app users had lost an average of 10 pounds, while paper diary users lost 6.5 pounds and online food diary users lost three pounds. Smartphone app users tended to record food every day, while users of paper and online food diaries tended to make entries about once a week.

4. Evaluate Your Sleep Quality

University of Washington researchers created an app that can help people to improve their sleep quality. According to Ph.D. student Jared Bauer, poor sleep has been linked to a number of ailments, ranging from the common cold to cardiac disease to premature death. Even so, people often ignore the importance of this crucial biological function.

The University of Washington app can tell users whether it’s a good time of day for a coffee, a beer, a nap or a jog. Having coffee, for example, can cause a decline in sleep quality for the next 14 hours. This statistic means that drinking coffee just two hours after waking can affect whether or not you obtain a good night’s sleep. Even well-intentioned activities done at the wrong time, like jogging, can lower the quality of sleep.

5. Manage Stress

Researchers from the University of Cambridge have developed an app that tracks stress. Using smartphone sensors, the app creates a readout of the day that identifies points in time during which the user felt the most stress. For example, the app can link stress to factors like text messages and phone calls, sound levels and light conditions surrounding the user. Once users have the information, they can manage the associated activities that caused them to show signs of stress. Stress management can prevent problems like insomnia, ulcers, irritability and headaches.

About the Author: Jenna Rhodes is a certified personal trainer and teacher. She holds an education degree and teaches health to school-aged students.

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