by Joseph Kim, M.D.

Mobile Health Apps and Gadgets for Better (and Longer) Living

Jul 18, 20126 mins
Computers and PeripheralsConsumer ElectronicsHealthcare Industry

Technology is increasingly making it easier for you to track physical activity (exercise) and inactivity (sleep), all in the name of helping you live a healthier lifestyle. These gadgets will help you track your progress--and maybe motivate your friends and family to do the same.

A growing number of gadgets promote greater physical activity, better sleep, reduced stress and nutritious eating, all in the name of living a healthy lifestyle. Many gadgets have spurred the self-monitoring movement that some have described as the Quantified Self (QS). Here people track and measure metrics such as foods consumed, activities completed and calories burned, then share this information online to build accountability, support and healthy competition. Whether you’re a QS fanatic or a casual user, you’ll see that these digital tools can motivate you to improve your health.

About the author: Dr. Joseph Kim is the president of MCM Education, a publishing company that provides continuing education for physicians, nurses and pharmacists, and the founder of, and

Fitbit Ultra

FitBit Ultra

The Fitbit is more than a digital 3D pedometer that uploads your physical activity information online. You can clip the Fitbit almost anywhere on your clothes, and the newest version, Fitbit Ultra, includes an altimeter sensor that knows when you’re taking the stairs. Plus, you can wear the Fitbit at night to see how well you’re sleeping. When you create an online profile, you can start competitions among your friends and colleagues—and earn bragging rights for generating the most activity in a day.

Price: $99.95; includes Fitbit Tracker, base station charger, sleep wristband, belt holster and membership to

BodyMedia FIT Armband

BodyMedia FIT Armband

The BodyMedia FIT armband is a 3D activity monitor that uses sophisticated skin sensors to detect how many calories you are burning by measuring changes in skin temperature as well as perspiration. Its wireless Internet connectivity lets you upload your progress and share that information with friends and colleagues. As you exercise, people will notice the device strapped to your arm and ask you about it, so that will generate an additional layer of accountability for you (whether you want it or not).

Price: $99 to $199

Slideshow: Bio-Health Aids for the Digital Age

Garmin Forerunner 910XT

Garmin Forerunner 910XT

Are you an avid swimmer? Now you can track your swimming progress with the Garmin Forerunner 910XT, which is water resistant up to 164 feet (50 meters). This watch tracks metrics including distance, efficiency, stroke identification, stroke count and pool lengths. By connecting with ANT+ accessories, it will also measure running distance, pace, elevation and heart rate for running and cycling.

Price: $399.99; $449.99 with heart rate monitor

Zeo Sleep Manager

Zeo Sleep Manager

It’s easy to measure the quantity of sleep—six, seven, maybe eight hours if you’re lucky. However, the quality of sleep can significantly affect your health as well. That’s where the Zeo Sleep Manager comes in. Wear this device on your head when you sleep and it will measure the quality of your sleep—you’ll know how much time you spent in REM sleep or deep sleep, and how many times you woke up in the middle of the night. With this information, you can change daytime behaviors to improve your sleep. If it’s good enough for Anderson Cooper, it’s good enough for you.

Price: $99 for mobile version (compatible with iOS and Android), $149 for bedside version

Review: Better Sleep Through Technology

MOTOACTV by Motorola

MOTOACTV by Motorola

The MOTOACTV by Motorola is a fitness watch that includes a GPS and a digital music player. Plus, it will connect with a variety of ANT+ compatible heart rate monitoring sensors and bicycle sensors. Additional software is available to track your level of activity for up to 40 specific activities, ranging from cycling, golf (with virtual caddy software) and running to dancing and Pilates.

Price: $249.99 to $399

Slideshow: Get a Net-Workout with Cloud-enabled Gym Gear

High-tech Wristbands

High-tech Wristbands

Some of the first wristband-style accelerometers to hit the market include the UP by Jawbone and the Nike+ FuelBand. These gadgets work as pedometers, integrate with smartphone apps to further track your progress and let you share activity statistics online. The UP has no lights or displays, but it will vibrate and remind you to move if you have been sitting around too long. The Nike+ FuelBand uses LEDs on the band to display the time and to show progress. Finally, there’s Switch2Health, which makes up for a lack of phone or computer sync with a $25 price tag.

UP by Jawbone Compatibility: iOS 4.1 and above Price: $99

Nike+ FuelBand Compatibility: iOS 4.3 and above Price: $149

Suunto Ambit

Suunto Ambit

If you enjoy hiking or backpacking, the Suunto Ambit’s GPS tracking and heart rate monitoring (done through an ANT+ heart rate sensor) will appeal to you. Plus, the built-in compass, altimeter, and barometer will help you get accurate information about your movement progress as you ascend mountains and explore uncharted territory.

Price: $500

Apple iPod Nano (6th Generation)

Apple iPod Nano

The little square touch-screen iPod nano, the 6th generation of the device, now comes with an accelerometer, so you can now use this music player as a pedometer. It also connects wirelessly with Nike Plus (Nike+) shoe sensors and Nike+ cardio machines at the gym. Use the built-in clip and wear the nano on your body, or buy a stylish watch band and wear the nano like a watch that can track your physical activity. Upload your activity progress and let others remind you about your physical activity goals.

Price: $129 to $149



At first, the Striiv may resemble a color version of the Tamagotchi Digital Pet that was all the rage in the late 1990s. Take a closer look at the Striiv, though, and you’ll see that this 3D accelerometer keychain takes a different approach to promote physical activity. In a nutshell, Striiv combines gamification with social interaction to encourage physical activity. Imagine you are on a deserted island and you want to explore the island. Use your actual steps to virtually “walk” around this island. You can also find out many steps it takes to climb Mount Fuji.

Price: $99.95

Gaming Consoles: Nintendo Wii, Microsoft Kinect for Xbox 360, Playstation Move

Video game consoles

Back in 2003, Sony released the EyeToy for the PlayStation 2, which let gamers interact with their games using physical gestures. Now, Sony has the PlayStation Move motion controller and the PlayStation Eye camera.

The Nintendo Wii‘s 2006 release transformed the gaming industry and showed the public that computer games could be (somewhat) healthy.

Microsoft Kinect for Xbox 360 will get you out of your seat and as you jump and dance to play digital games on your television. (Just make sure you don’t injure anyone or break anything as you wave your arms around.)

What will we see next in the world of gaming? I predict stunning virtual reality games. Perhaps the Star Trek Holodeck isn’t far off…