The quantified self, or self tracking, has attracted enthusiasm from individuals wishing to be involved with the management of their health.
There is no handbook for the human body, but we seem to have managed quite well so far; when we’re hungry we eat and when we’re tired, we sleep.
What we have learned over time, however, is that it’s becoming harder to listen to what our bodies are telling us.
That innate intuition that we had when we were children has been dulled by mental or emotional issues, eating disorders, stress, lack of sleep, or the poor quality of our food.
Add to this the fact that our medical resources are so stressed that preventative health doesn’t appear to be high on the agenda, even if we can afford it.
It’s no wonder that many people are taking their health into their own hands – quite literally.
How Can We Keep Track of Our Health?
Technology is advancing at blistering speeds and with it has come some exciting and practical innovations in the form of health tracking apps.
The global surge of interest in health tracking and health tracking apps bears out the desire that so many of us have to track and manage our own health.
It has also given rise to the phenomenon of The Quantified Self. “The Quantified Self is an international community of users and makers of self-tracking tools who share an interest in self-knowledge through numbers.”
Indeed, a growing trend, but is it necessary?
Why Do We Need to Monitor Our Health?
The body has astounding recuperative powers, but even these are not always enough to fight off creeping illnesses, many of which only manifest themselves when it’s too late to manage them effectively, or at all.
Can Self-Tracking Really Help?
Larry Smarr, Director of The California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, took his life into his own hands.
He made the decision to track and measure his health, and says, “It’s absurd that we know the ins and outs of our cars, and invest in maintaining them, in ways that we don’t with our bodies.”
In an article published in CNN Health, he talks candidly about his decision to track what’s going on inside his body, and how he’s gone about it. He makes use of a FitBit to monitor his calories and steps, a Zeo for his sleep cycles, as well as heart rate and stress checkers throughout the day.
He says, “I am trying to respect my doctor by doing my part of the homework.”
What his homework determined over a period of months was that he was suffering from early Crohn’s disease, even though his doctor dismissed the unambiguous evidence which Smarr supplied.
Prevention Is Better Than Cure
Symptoms of serious diseases may be hiding in plain sight: a little hair loss, poor sleep, inexplicable fatigue. Nothing significant on its own and easy to dismiss under the banner of stress until, well, it is serious.
But if we can’t always ‘hear’ what our bodies are telling us, then what can we do to tune in and listen?
Well, there’s an app for that!
What Health Indicators Can Smartphone Apps Track?
A better question may be, what can’t smartphone apps track? They include applications for sleep, stress, movement, diet, heartbeat/pulse, and meditation, to name just a few.
A few examples are:
- My Fitness Pal: A great all-in-one platform that tracks your sleep, diet, and exercise with goal-setting features.
- Happify: Science-based games and activities to monitor and overcome stress, and to build stronger mental health.
- Sleep Cycle: An easy-to-use app that monitors your sleep cycles and allows you to adjust your morning waking time to the best sleep phase.
- HealthTap: An app that connects you to a physician to help with questions without having to take a trip to your doctor.
Why Choose Smartphone Health Tracking Apps?
Wearable or smartphone health tracking apps offer critical health insight by harnessing the power of data – lots of it!
Our busy lives often allow us to miss the markers that matter, which is why deciphering and utilizing the flood of available data is best left to the computers. These algorithms are designed to detect patterns and details that we could not hope to uncover ourselves.
Perhaps these incredible apps will help us to finally build an efficient handbook for the human body, one uniquely ours which we can listen to in real-time.
How do you think you can benefit from cough tracking? Share your thoughts in the comment section!