Tag: technology

hands holding a nutrtion app scanning a bowl of salad

#EatingHealthy: Can Nutrition Apps Do the Job?

We’ve all seen the increase in the number of available apps to monitor lifestyle behaviors such as physical activity, sleep and stress. There is also clear interest in apps that monitor diet and nutrition. So, how do you know if a nutrition app will be helpful? In the last few years, millions of users have downloaded and installed nutrition-related apps. The latest research supports that “if the shoe fits” then maybe it is worth using! Mobile apps can provide an opportunity for assessing and improving nutrition by providing personalized information and instant feedback.

What are the benefits?

Apps can be an effective tool to evaluate and monitor eating behavior and diet-related health risk factors. Apps can provide autonomy and help people take charge of their nutrition choices. Monitoring food intake, setting goals, and viewing progress can all occur privately which may be appealing for those who desire less in-person contact with health care providers.

What type of apps are available?

The number and type of nutrition apps are only growing and with many being free, apps have the potential to reach large numbers of people world-wide. Here are some of the most common types of nutrition apps available.

  • Calorie Trackers/Food Tracking/Food Diary Programs
  • Macronutrient (carb, protein and fat) and Micronutrient (vitamins/minerals) tracking
  • Recipe Builders or Meal Planning
  • Restaurant and Grocery Finders
  • Diet Specialty – Example: carb counting for people with Type 2 diabetes
  • Food Allergy or Food Intolerances
  • Hydration
  • Grocery and Money Saving
  • Prompts or Timing
  • Nutrition Counseling and Education
  • Mindfulness/Intuitive Eating
  • Diet Specific – Example: Weight loss or Low sodium
  • Condition specific – Example: Pregnancy nutrition

Apps can offer a wide range of personalization and unique features that may help in managing conditions or reaching personal goals.

What are the cons?

It takes effort to enter in every bite of food. It can be hard to remember to enter your food intake and to remember what exactly you ate. In addition, some apps don’t contain all products in their database. Rather, they may include broad categories of foods. For instance, some apps are unable to distinguish between Kraft’s macaroni and cheese and Annie’s brand macaroni and cheese.

Nutrition apps are also generally harder to use than physical activity monitors. Unlike the automatic activity tracking (passive data input) that comes with a Fitbit, Apple watch or a pedometer, entering food into an app requires time and energy.

Another consideration is the cost. Some diet-tracking apps may not be transparent about extra fees and may not provide satisfactory customer support. Many are subscription based and require full price to unlock useful features.

A major downside to using apps is that you miss out on professional insight/advice that comes from interacting with a well-trained health care provider. Depending on the app and your specific goals, communication with a professional may not be included. Further, some apps fail to provide long-term and in-depth support, which are key for sustaining behavior change.

Finally, not all apps are evidence or science based. If an app promises to help you lose 20 pounds in one week, chances are the quality is poor. Apps tailored to specific needs are more promising for prolonged use and effectiveness. Lifestyle changes take time and while the short-term use of apps can be effective, the long term use is largely unstudied.

The bottom line

Apps can be a great tool to improve health through better eating and planning. Smartphones offer inexpensive options allowing for more engagement, empowerment, self-monitoring and communication with health care providers. Research has shown that apps can be superior to traditional methods at helping track food intake, making better food choices and losing weight.

So if you come across a helpful app, walk it around and it give it a try! Nutrition apps can help make life easier. A great place to start is with the MyPlate App that allows you to pick daily food goals, see real-time progress and earn fun badges through a simple program to start building healthy eating habits one goal at a time!

Additional information on eating healthy, meal planning, tools and resources can be found at www.myplate.gov.

Author:  Laura Young, Ph.D., American College of Sports Medicine

woman wearing headphones, walking and checking an activity tracker on her wrist

Knowledge is Power: Wearable Heart Health Monitoring

February is heart month, and wearable devices are becoming a larger part of heart health promotion and cardiovascular care. Wearable devices incorporated into clothing or an accessory allow for real-time data collection and monitoring. Data monitoring allows physicians to practice medicine in a post-COVID-19 world where remote, decentralized and personalized patient care are becoming commonplace. As Navy researcher Rachel Markwald said, “you can’t manage what you’re not monitoring.” It is important to monitor sleep, activity, heart rate, blood pressure, etc. if someone wants to make a change to benefit performance or health.

Functions of Wearables:

As technology evolves, the capability and accuracy of smart devices advances. Output from wearable technology is becoming integrated into daily life. The global Wearable Medical Devices Market was valued at $14.6 billion USD in 2019. The compound market growth rate of wearable devices is expected to grow by 24.8% per year. Having 24/7 available data are helping the sports and fitness industries push the boundaries of human performance.

Wearable devices currently on the market perform the following functions:

  • Activity tracking – duration, pace, type
  • Calorie burning
  • Sleep tracking
  • Measure heart rate (HR) – resting HR and HR variability
  • Measure blood pressure
  • Electrocardiogram looking at heart rhythm
  • Pulse oximeter
  • Body temperature
  • BMI
  • Body posture
  • Fall detection

Wearables allow for direct access to strategies for:

  • Mindfulness
  • Meditation
  • Cognitive strength

Challenges of wearables for monitoring heart health in the medical setting:

  • Data accuracy – Inaccurate data is more harmful than no data.
  • Behavioral change – Can wearables actually guide behavior change?
  • Cost – Those who may benefit the most from wearable technology and continuous data monitoring may not be able to afford the devices.
  • Data security – Health-related data may not be able to be securely shared with physicians.

What is the best wearable for you (or your patients)?

You should consider your health and fitness goals, your ability to sift through large amounts of data, the data you believe are most beneficial to you, and the ease of use of the device. As technology continues to advance, the accuracy and capabilities of wearable devices will continue to improve. Overall, wearable devices are good at tracking physical activity parameters, but the technology for monitoring some cardiovascular vital signs, such as blood pressure, is still in its infancy.

A list of wearable devices, their biological measurements, and description of research studies and FDA approval status can be found here.

Authors: Allison N. Schroeder, MD and Chad A. Asplund, MD, MPH, FACSM

fitness equipment including tennis shoes, a water bottle, fitness tracker, hand weights and headphones

New Year, New You? Resources to Support an Active Lifestyle

If you’re among  the millions of Americans who want to start moving more in the new year, finding resources to exercise safely can be challenging. Whether you’re just getting started or a gym pro, ACSM has resources to help you move more and sit less!

Turn on the Tech

ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal® has announced the top fitness trends for 2022: Wearable technology tops the list for the 3rd time in four years, followed by home exercise gyms and outdoor activities.  Learn about the top 10 trends and access free resources!

Wearable technology like smart watches and heart rate monitors can measure your steps, calories, heart rate, respiration, oxygen saturation and much more. Regardless of device or brand, using fitness tracker technology can help motivate you and can keep you accountable to your goals.

Home Sweet Home

If you’re looking to stay active at home,  ACSM offers free on-demand exercise classes, help selecting a virtual fitness class, as well as tips for equipping a home gym.

ACSM Summit Workouts | YouTube Playlist Need a full at-home workout? Check out these  workouts that were presented at previous ACSM Health & Fitness Summit events!

Exercise at Home: Options for People with Disability or Chronic Health Conditions | Video from ACSM partner NCHPAD

Virtual Fitness: Choosing A Program That Is Right for You | From  ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal®

Home Weight Room Equipment  | Infographic

3 Essentials for Building a Home Gym  | Blog Looking to outfit your home gym? Here are tips for optimizing your set up, regardless of your budget, and a  breakdown of the most common equipment that you can purchase so you can determine which items are best for you!

Pandemic Safety

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to challenge communities around the world. Getting and staying active is a great way to strengthen your immune system, reduce anxiety, and improve sleep quality. In fact,  adults that were inactive before diagnosis were 2.49 times more likely to die of COVID-19 than those that met the physical activity guidelines1.

Staying Physically Active During the COVID-19 Pandemic |  Explore ACSM’s curated resources to help you and your family stay physically active during the pandemic.

Safe Return to Physical Activity After COVID-19  | Read Dr. Meredith Turner’s recommendations for returning to physical activity following a COVID-19 diagnosis based on the severity of infection and duration of symptoms.

Tips to Get Moving Again After COVID-19  | Infographic from the EIM Clinical Practice Committee


  1. Sallis R, Young DR, Tartof SY, et al. Physical inactivity is associated with a higher risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes: a study in 48 440 adult patients. British Journal of Sports Medicine  2021; 55: 1099-1105.