I have always been fascinated by data. Its why I studied biochemistry and did research in a lab when I was younger. I love that if we collect data, that we can often learn alot about the thing in which we are studying.
Fast foward to my own health crisis and challenges, and it was natural for me to gravitate towards testing and gathering data, I loved the idea of doing functional medicine tests (or labs) so that I could have a direct view on what was happening inside the body, but also to track progress... to know if what I was doing was helping or sending me sideways.
And now, we have means to track all sorts of data about our lifestyles. For this reason I love the technologies that have become part of our lives to help us live better and be healthier. I know its a fine line here between using technology to get good data and using technology too the point of it negatively affecting our heath (can you say checking our phone every 30 seconds on average?). So there has to be a balance.
For the sake of gathering data that helps propel us toward optimal vitality, there are some key tracking apps that I think are perfect for optimizing vitality and keeping check on our overall health through lifestyle. Now we have a ton of options out there, but Im going to focus on the ones that I use on a daily basis. These apps are helping me daily to see how I am doing. Just have an Android device? Fear not, some of these great apps are also available for Android devices.
- Headspace - Meditation - by far one of the best meditation apps out there. Its so easy when you have Andy navigating you through 10 minutes of body scan meditation. And meditation is proven to help reduce stress and increase performance. You can use Headspace for free using the Take 10 Series for as long as you want! For me, this has really allowed me to become centered in on what is important to me in my life, help simplify time clutter and become much more calm when I become worried about the status of my health.
- Activity - Get a movement tracker - So there are so many different apps in this category, from running and cycling tracking, to step tracking, there is something for everyone. I started out with a FitBit and loved that I could track steps. But if I wanted to track much else, I had to use a different app. My favorite one these days is simply the Activity app that is included with the Apple Watch. I was lucky enough to get my wrists on an Apple Watch a few weeks back (tip: when you upgrade your iPhones, trade in your old one for Apple Store credit, eventually it will add up to something cool, like an Apple Watch!). At first I thought it was weird that it didn't focus more on steps taken, but I have been really surprised at how varied the movement tracking is and the algorithms to encourage me to vary my activity more. Sometimes focusing only on one thing, steps for instance, leads to doing the same movement over and over which can lead to repetitive stress. I have found that I'm even more active now than when I was tracking steps alone. Pretty cool!
- Elite HRV - Track your Heart Rate Variability - Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is simply the measurement of time between heartbeats. The more variable the HRV, the less you are spending in "fight or flight" stress mode. The less variable is an indication you are under stress (emotional, physical, environmental, etc). Using a tool like Elite HRV can help you determine not only if you are ready for more stress (physical activity, tougher workouts, etc) but can also help you determine if there is something that is causing your body to be unusually stressed. For example, I started a new supplement earlier in the month that was supposed to help with gut repair. But a day after taking the supplement, my HRV dropped significantly and I could tell my immune system was mounting a flare. After 2 days on the supplement and continued low HRV scores, I stopped the supplement and recovered in a few days. I now know that supplement is not ideal for my body. HRV has been a very valuable tool! Elite HRV does require a bluetooth enabled heart-rate chest strap, like this one.
- Sleep Cycle - Track your sleep. I can't say it enough, prioritizing sleep is one of the best things we can do for maximizing vitality. Sure we can dim the lights at night, use blackout curtains or an eye mask and even earplugs, but we don't always know the quality of our sleep. And sleep quality is paramount to getting optimal recovery. I use Sleep Cycle as a means to track my sleep quality and quality. I love this app because you can set it at the top of your bed in Airplane Mode (read: reduced EMFs) and use it when you travel. You don't have any other component strapped to your mattress tracking your sleep. And if you really want to geek out, it integrates with Hue lighting to wake you up with light to mimic sunrise. How cool is that?
- Health - Analyze the data - The Health app is extremely useful for me. Its my dashboard of all my trackers (even ones not mentioned here) and I can not only track movement and sleep, but I can track my weight, body fat percentage, active and resting calories, weekly workouts, respiratory rate, blood glucose levels, body temperature and more! Health does this by connecting to other tracking devices or by data entry of the data, for example, I manually enter in my morning blood glucose reading as I have not found an app that I like for this. Health app allows me to quickly see any correlations as the data graphs are stacked. So if my blood sugar has spiked, I can see a corresponding increase in weight, for example. This also saves me the time of graphing this stuff myself, which lets face it... Im a data nerd and I like to graph things.
What apps are at the top of your list for tracking optimal vitality? I'd love to hear from you and learn from you too! Leave a comment below.