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Good health and fitness apps for your smartphone

Smartphone apps can’t make you lose weight, eat healthy, or exercise. But they sure can help. And there are hundreds of health and wellness apps to choose from. Some encourage you to run, others tell you about ingredients in foods, a few will show you exercise routines. They’ll even give you instant medical advice or remind you to take medicine. Some are among the most popular apps online, and few are new enough for you to be among the first to test them.

RunKeeper

  • This popular fitness app is for anyone who runs — or walks, bikes, and hikes, for that matter — and carries a smartphone. The app records your route as well as your progress along the way. It can tell how fast you’re running and how many calories you have burned, and it helps you set distance and weight loss goals. And if you want, the free app even lets you share how well you’ve done with friends on Twitter and Facebook. Available for iPhone and Android.


Nightingale

  • Forgetting to take medication is huge and growing problem. But there’s an app for that, too. Nightingale is a free app designed to remind people when to take their medication based on prescription requirements. It can also synch with other health apps, including those that record blood pressure and other vital stats, to store and share health data. Caregivers can use Nightingale to remind patients to take their meds. Available for iPhone and Android.

INRFood

  • If you want to know more about a particular ingredient before buying food, this app will tell you. The free INRFood app uses a smartphone’s camera to scan the bar code of a product and lists the ingredients. Don’t know what alpha tocopheryl acetate is? INRFood will tell you it’s an additive to boost nutritional value. The app can also inform you if there’s anything potentially harmful in the food you’re about to eat or if it poses allergy risks based on your personal dietary concerns. Available for iPhone and Android.

Lose It

  • Like the name implies, this app is all about losing weight. It was one of the first weight loss apps available for the smartphone and is the number one app on the iTunes App Store’s Health and Fitness category. The makers of the free app say they have helped people lose more than 26 million pounds. It works by tracking everything you eat, and telling you how many calories are contained in that tuna sandwich or cheeseburger. You can also connect with friends through the app to lose weight together. Available for iPhone and Android.

Ginger.io

  • Ginger.io has come up with one of the most cutting-edge health care apps available today. It aims to use sophisticated sensors in smartphones to measure your movements and use that information to determine how you’re feeling. For instance, if you aren’t moving around much one day, something might be wrong. The app uses technology developed by MIT scientists and engineers and is currently being used in several health care studies. You can’t download it yet directly from the App Store or Google Play, but can get access to it by visiting the Ginger.io website.

Cardiio

  • Cardiio is a simple app for measuring heart rate. It does so by detecting the heart beat when someone places a finger on the phone and looks into the smartphone’s camera. It uses that information plus weight and age to give users an idea of their overall health. You might not want to know this, but it’ll even reveal your potential life expectancy. Cardiio is available only for the iPhone and costs $1.99.

Sleep Cycle

  • Sleep Cycle promises to give you a better alarm clock so you can get a good night’s sleep. By placing an iPhone near your head while you’re in bed, the app uses the phone’s accelerometer to detect movements. Tossing and turning? You’re in a light sleep phase. If you are moving around less, you are in a deep sleep. The app’s alarm goes off when you are in the light sleep phase, so it’s easier to wake up. The app makers claim waking up from deep sleep turns an average day into “one long zombie marathon.” Nobody wants that. Sleep Cycle is available only for iPhone and costs $1.99.

Skimble

  • It’s a personal trainer inside a smartphone. The free Skimble app for iPhone or Android includes thousands of workouts led by experts. If you want to do a quick workout to help lose weight or increase flexibility, the app shows videos of personal trainers leading you through the routine. You can share progress with friends, or keep the workouts you’ve done private. The app is free but you can upgrade to a pro version that offers more videos, and lets you avoid the ads.

Michael B. Farrell can be reached at michael.farrell@globe.com.
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