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    Digital ob/gyn: Gadgets for health tracking


    Apple Watch apps

    When asked “what to download,” I always remind patients that the Apple Watch is loaded with native applications that are designed specifically for fitness. The Apple Watch comes with a built-in pedometer (the iPhone does as well) and also native activity and fitness applications. The watch can be set to objectively measure the amount of movement the user has done throughout the day and the amount of time spent exercising and standing (the latter is an inverse marker of sedentary behavior). Each of these metrics can be set to specific goals (ie, set the exercise timer to 30 minutes and try to do some form of exercise 5 days a week for at least 30 minutes), and the watch will alert the user when she has achieved her goals.

    With respect to the native Apple Watch fitness application, this app has presets for exercises such as indoor walking/running, outdoor walking/running, elliptical, rower, and stair stepper. The user can click the exercise and then keep track of the elapsed time, active calories burned, total calories burned, and average heart rate. Both of these apps wirelessly and relatively seamlessly sync to the Activity app that is installed on an iPhone after syncing an Apple Watch.

    If a patient tells me that she is bored with the standard out-of-the-box applications and she wants increased fitness/wellness functionality from her Apple Watch, I typically recommend 3 specific apps: MyFitnessPal, Misfit Minute, and Sleep++. All of these apps sync with Apple Health, which is a wonderful dashboard view of fitness/wellness status.

    MyFitnessPal: The iPhone/Android use of this app was discussed in my January 2015 article “Top 5 apps for ob/gyns and their patients in 2015.”3 MyFitnessPal is a platform developed around tracking diet habits and food intake that can be accessed on a smartphone, computer, and now an Apple Watch. When they use it on the Apple Watch, users can access a quick and easy-to-read dashboard of their day’s nutrition information. It is easy to swipe through screens displaying calories remaining, progress toward preset daily macronutrient and micronutrient goals, and how many extra calories the user has earned for the day by exercising. Since the Apple Watch does not have any native diet-focused apps, I think this is truly a must-have.


    Misfit Minute: While it is easy to “hop on” to an elliptical, a rower, or a treadmill, these machines can get pretty boring pretty quickly. Thankfully, Misfit Minute, a creative and easy-to-use coaching app, lets users select a unique 1-, 4-, or 7-minute workout. The workouts integrate body-weight exercises and high-intensity circuit training to build strength and burn calories. In addition, the app offers whimsical encouraging messages throughout the workout such as, “Pain is weakness leaving the body.”

    Sleep++: Because sleep is an important component of health and wellness (and also curiously absent from most health guidelines), I routinely recommend that patients try to get as close as possible to 8 hours of good-quality sleep each night. Patients can keep a manual log of how well-rested they feel in the morning, but it is nearly impossible to collect objective data about sleep without the help of a wearable device. Sleep++ capitalizes on the native motion-tracking capabilities of the Apple Watch to measure both the quantity and quality of the user’s sleep.

    To utilize the app, users must wear their Apple Watch while sleeping (which may seem obvious but appears to be a common “bug” when friends/patients tell me the app doesn’t work). Patients simply open the app on the watch, tap the “Start Sleeping” button and then tap “Stop Sleeping” when they wake. It is important to note that if users are accustomed to charging their watches while they sleep, they will need an alternate charging strategy since the Apple Watch has less than a day’s worth of battery life. I typically recommend charging the Apple Watch in the morning right after waking and then again in the evening while getting ready for bed. In addition, users should be advised to put the Apple Watch in Airplane Mode while sleeping, otherwise notifications will likely result in poor sleep quality.

    Next: Withings Smart Body Analyzer, MOCAheart >>

    Brian A. Levine, MD, MS, FACOG
    Dr. Levine is Practice Director at the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine, New York, New York.


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