Technology can provide really useful tools for improving your health and fitness and, importantly, can help you track your progress to help maintain your motivation. It can also be really helpful when managing a condition like ankylosing spondylitis to limit symptoms you experience and monitor them. I’d like to share some apps that may be useful for you to improve your health and work towards your goals.
Firstly, you need to get your goal clear in your mind and set realistic expectations. Then when you’re progressing towards your goal, it’s handy to have gentle reminders and motivators. There are a couple of apps I’ve found that provide just that:
Strides: Goal & Habit Tracker (Free).
This app is great for setting goals including exercise, weight loss, hydration, sleep, meditation and finances. You can set the goal, change the duration and how often you want to log your progress.
Balanced (Free and In-App Purchases).
A simple way to track your goals each day; you can set custom goals or use the ones in the app. I love the visuals of this app and how easy it is to use.
AS Symptom Tracker (Free).
This app uses the Bath Ankylosing Spondylitis questionnaire to track your AS symptoms for your information and to share with your doctor. It can be helpful to view your symptoms over time and serve as a reminder of how things have felt between checkups. It can also be beneficial to monitor changes over time after starting a new medication or fitness regime.
In the world of diets, fads and trends it can be difficult to find the right kind of app. Depending on your goal, there are a number to choose from. If you’re looking to lose weight, I’d recommend:
Lose It! (Free and In-App Purchases).
This isn’t just a calorie-counting app, those can have quite limited effects, Lose It! also tracks nutrients. A fun feature is being able to track meals by taking photos of them, for those of us who enjoy doing that..!
Noom Coach: Healthy Weight Loss, Diabetes & More (Free).
This app is more specific and offers programmes for people managing chronic health conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes. I’d advise checking with your Nurse or Doctor before starting one of these plans to ensure it’s right for you.
My Fitness Pal (Free and In-App Purchases).
This is another great food-tracking app, but it also has a barcode scanner for food products and syncs with other fitness apps such as Fitbit and Strava.
If you’re aiming to improve your nutrition, try:
Forks Over Knives (£4.99).
Find over 300 plant-based, whole-food recipes that will inspire you to be more adventurous with meals and improve your nutrition too.
LifeSum (Free and In-App Purchases).
You can create a personalised plan, including recipes, to keep you inspired and motivated.
Fitbit (Free app, you have to purchase the wearables).
Depending on what you want to achieve, there are a number of different options for the wearables. If you only want to walk more, a simple step counter would be sufficient. If you want more detailed analysis, some Fitbit devices offer lots of options including heart rate and sleep monitoring.
As always, with starting new exercises take care and start gently to gradually build up over time. If you have an injury or pre-existing problem, check with your Physiotherapist, Osteopath or Doctor prior to starting. There are various different apps providing workouts you can follow, here are my favourite ones that I’ve found.
Back to Action (NASS) App (Free).
NASS have produced a great app full of workouts that are safe and helpful for people with AS. The plans work on improving mobility, cardiovascular health, strength, flexibility and breathing. It also has information you can show to your personal trainer in the gym to advise them about AS.
Couch to 5K App- Public Health England (Free).
This app helps people with no running routine reach the point where they can walk/run 5k in nine weeks. It gives you planned runs with celebrity trainers (!) to guide you with information of when to run and walk. It also provides plenty of tips for new runners to make it easier and safer if running is new to you.
Strava Running and Cycling (Free and Premium Available).
The app uses your phone GPS to record the distance, time and speed. You can also set reminders for workouts so you remember to record them with the Strava app. Premium members can set goals and track weekly and annual progress.
Fitnet App (Free).
Use the app linked to your phone to track your steps and calories burned throughout the day. Then choose from one of the many workouts recorded on the app, with three categories of intensity.
Brooks PT Core Challenge (Subscription).
This app guides you through specific core workouts to help you lose weight and improve your core fitness. I use this app to help build my strength and I recommend it for people experiencing back pain, but as always, check with your healthcare provider before starting a new fitness routine. Contact Kyle at www.brookspt.co.uk for more information.
Spotify Running (Free and Subscription).
You can link your Spotify account to this app so when you’re running it will play tracks that match your pace!
Yoga Wake Up (Free).
This is my idea of a perfect start to the day! The app provides a morning yoga reminder at your wake up time with a 10-minute yoga routine using the Yoga Wake Up app.
Freeletics (Free and Subscription).
I’m always advising patients to use their body weight for exercise to strengthen muscles and reduce body fat. This app provides just that! The free account has plenty of workout routines with video guides, while the subscription gives full access and coaches.
Nike+ Run Club (Free).
This is like a social media and running tracker hybrid!
7-Min Workout Challenge (Free and In-App Purchases).
Perfect when you’re short for time, as the name suggests, this app provides 7-minute workouts that you can do anywhere!
You often can’t change the stressful situations in your life, but sometimes you can reduce the physical and emotional impact of them. Try these apps and see if they help you.
Calm (Free and Premium).
This app provides guided meditations, including specific ones for stress, anxiety, helping sleep and promoting happiness.
Another great guided meditation app!
Mind shift (Free).
Created by Anxiety BC, a non-profit, Mind Shift guides you through different ways to manage anxiety and panic attacks. It has practical guides for acute phases as well as a symptom checker and advice for longer-term improvements.
H*nest Meditation App (£1.99).
I’ll admit, this isn’t for everyone… In their own words, H*nest is “mindfulness for the rest of us. This is a guided meditation that contains 2, 5, 10 and 15 minutes versions of the popular online video, combining peaceful meditation with a pinch of salty language”. It goes without saying, wear headphones for this one!
Power Nap App.
Oh the joys of a good power nap! If you regularly feel sleepy in the day, it’s always best to take a look at your sleep patterns, diet and lifestyle to see if there’s an underlying cause. If it’s fatigue related to your AS and you’re in need of the occasional power nap, the Power Nap App is great!
Hopefully these will provide some inspiration to help you increase your activity, improve your fitness or mental health and track your AS. Please leave a comment if there’s an app you’d recommend that I haven’t mentioned. If you have any questions, please get in touch!
Zoë Clark is an Osteopath and Naturopath living with Psoriatic Arthritis and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. You can find her on twitter or on facebook. Visit her blog for even more useful info: zoeclarkosteopathy.co.uk/blog