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Sheryl Kraft

Sheryl Kraft, a freelance writer and breast cancer survivor, was born in Long Beach, New York. She currently lives in Connecticut with her husband Alan and dog Chloe, where her nest is empty of her two sons Jonathan. Sheryl writes articles and essays on breast cancer and contributes to a variety of publications and websites where she writes on general health and wellness issues. She earned her MFA in writing from Sarah Lawrence College in 2005.

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How Your Phone Can Keep You Healthy

Self-Care & Mental Health

When I need to get motivated to exercise, I'll sometimes leaf through books and magazines for some new or forgotten ideas. Or I'll go to the gym and look around to see if something someone else is doing inspires me to try something new. And then there are those times I'll have a very serious conversation with myself that starts off with something like this:

Me: I know you're too tired/busy/hungry/bored/frustrated/hungry/moody/achy/sluggish … but really, you should get some exercise.

Not until recently did I think about checking my phone.

As they say, "There's an app for that." (For those of you who don't know, an "app" is a software program that you can access on an iPhone, Android, Blackberry or other smartphone).

I just got a new smartphone and I'm really grateful to one of my readers for asking the question, "Do you have any recommendations for exercise apps?" because I, a novice in the smartphone department, have been very hesitant do anything besides use it as, well, a phone. I am having enough trouble typing e-mails and texts on its virtual keyboard. Just this morning, I tried sending a message that meant to say, "Can't wait to see you in person," but instead it came out "Cany aSk tto see toi ui pAssinG."

My research only touched the surface of what's available, I'm sure. But, hey, we all need to start somewhere, right? In addition to exercise apps, I've uncovered some pretty interesting and fun-sounding healthy living apps, too. And then I stumbled across an issue of the Harvard Health Letter that I've been saving since last November, with lots of recommendations. I'll include some of these, too. I haven't tried any of these (remember, I'm still learning how to type!), so can't give you my personal recommendations, only what I've found. Many apps are free but some charge, usually a small fee such as 99 cents, though some cost up to about $10.

For Fitness and Weight Control

Tap & Track: An all-in-one app for diet and exercise. Enter what you eat, your physical activity, your actual weight and your target weight. (I'd say that awareness of all these factors is a great motivator in and of itself!) Your nutritional intake (calories, carbs, protein, saturated and unsaturated fats and sodium) will be computed from a database of about 250,000 items (even including what you might grow in your own garden). You'll get a selection of 180 physical activities, a nutritional tally and graphs and spreadsheets tracking your progress, which can be e-mailed to your computer.

iTreadmill Pedometer Ultra with PocketStep.
This will actually sense your motion as you walk and determine your stride length. It will even select a tune with a matching beat to keep you moving, as well as estimate the calories that you burn.

Fitness Builder. As apps go, it's expensive ($9.99) but much less than a personal trainer and might be worth it if you'd like a huge library of fitness routines as well as individual exercises; the ability to narrow your options by your location (gym, hotel room) and goal (flexibility, core); the capability to track your workouts by date and more.

Fitness Pro. This one's free. It offers an electronic log for your workouts, tips on types of cardio and proper form, and an option to select exercises by individual muscle (if you're searching for the perfect Popeye-biceps, for example). In addition to providing some preprogrammed routines, you can create your own.

For Blood Pressure Tracking:

HeartWise. If you want to track your blood pressure at home, this makes it easier. You enter the numbers, as well as your pulse and your weight. The app calculates your average arterial pressure and pulse pressure and will generate graphs showing fluctuations in these values over time. A similar app, My Blood Pressure and Heart Rate, is available for Androids.

For Cuts and Bruises (and more):

Pocket First Aid & CPR. From the American Heart Association, it includes the latest videos, images and emergency content and detailed instructions for things like assisting accident victims, performing CPR and even using a cardiac defibrillator.

For Calorie Counting:

LoseIt. You can figure out how many calories you eat at each meal, how many you burn at the gym and then track your progress throughout the program. It has an extensive library of standard and brand-name foods with values for calories, fiber, fat and protein. Sure, it only works if you are honest with yourself, but I happen to know a (very honest) prospective bride and groom who used this program and with one month to go till the wedding, have each lost 20-plus pounds.
MyNetDiary. This has a 300,000-plus food database and instant food search. It also offers recipes, exercises, planning, charts and even a bar-code scanner.

If you're trying to lose weight, it helps to plan ahead. This app has meal planning, recipe storage and a grocery list feature.

For General Wellness:

Wellness Tip of the Day. From the folks at the Cleveland Clinic, you get helpful daily tips for overall health to remind you of things you may have forgotten (like volunteering helps make you happy) or never known in the first place (like drinking cloudy juice with lots of pulp has more antioxidants than clear juice). You can also e-mail selected tips to all your friends and family, as well as rack up your favorite trips on the "Favorites" page.

For Stress Reduction:

Stress Free with Deepak Chopra. Relaxation tricks and exercises including meditation, yoga and journaling. There's even a feature that offers e-mailing privileges with Chopra himself.

iBreathe. This was developed by the Department of Defense to help troops under combat pressure. It uses videos to coach you through deep-breathing exercises.

Rage Eraser. This one sounds like fun. There's a "Rant" feature that records your diatribe (good for those impulsive types that might need to calm down before they actually mouth off to someone and then later regret it). Little men and women hidden inside will talk you down from your upcoming meltdown and even give you tips for transforming your anger.

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