Getting people to adopt healthy behaviours is not an easy feat. But that hasn't stopped mobile app developers from trying to come up with new ways to motivate you to make healthier lifestyle decisions.
A variety of apps are available to help you stay informed about health issues and encourage you to take steps to stay healthy. Here are a few suggestions:
> Scoring points
Andreas Souvaliotis and Sarah Richard, of Carrot Insights in Toronto, developed an app designed to nudge people to exercise more and eat better.
The CarrotRewards app, developed with funding from the federal government, gives users tangible rewards for getting informed on health issues. It takes cues from nudge theory — the concept in behavioural science that a little encouragement can influenced people to change their behaviour.
"People need to make choices about how to exercise," Richard says. "And sometimes, they need to get reminders."
Since retention is often a challenge for health-related apps, Souvaliotis says, the developers had to figure out how to integrate the app's activities into people's daily routines. The answer? Offer users incentives for consuming bits of information throughout the day.
"[Carrot Rewards] harnesses our social addictions," Souvaliotis says. "We're so hooked on points. They could be standing at a bus stop and take a quick quiz, to earn more points."
Here's how it works: Let's say it's flu season. Using location-based technology, Carrot Rewards can direct you to a map of nearby clinics where flu shots are available. (You don't have to get a flu shot, just consume the information.) Or it can prompt you to watch a video on a health-related topic. Every time you complete an activity, you accumulate points tied to popular loyalty programs such as Aeroplan and Scene.
The data collected is aggregated for policy use by government agencies, Souvaliotis says, but your personal data is not disclosed for research purposes.
App: Carrot Rewards
> Strike a pose
If you can't manage a trip to the gym for yoga class, this app helps you develop a routine at home. Through videos and written instructions, the five-minute sessions run through a series of poses, which you can squeeze in just before heading to work or going to bed.
App: 5 Minute Yoga
> Digital sleep aid
SleepBot tracks your sleep patterns and records sound levels. It helps detect what might be disrupting your ability to fall into a deep sleep. It logs information on your "sleep debt" and average hours of sleep and features resources on how you might adjust your routine to get better quality sleep.
> Bearing fruit
Is it relatively safe to eat non-organic apples? What about mangoes and grapefruits? Through its research into the concentration of pesticide residue in various fruits, the U.S.-based Environmental Working Group has developed two lists to guide your purchase decisions.
It splits fruits and vegetables into two categories — the "Dirty Dozen" and the "Clean 15" —based on pesticide content. The research results are featured in the Dirty Dozen app, so you can better plan your grocery shopping.
For the record, apples fall into the Dirty Dozen, because test results showed that about 98% of the samples had significant traces of pesticide. Mangoes and grapefruits came back with a much cleaner bill, putting them in the Clean 15.
App: Dirty Dozen
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