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If you want to exercise more, lose weight, manage stress, curb your alcohol intake or take charge of your health in other ways, chances are there’s an app for that. But not all apps are created equal. While there are plenty of quality wellness apps out there, others may promise unrealistic changes, share unreliable information or have questionable security standards.

How do you weed out the duds and find a wellness app with merit? It can be a daunting task, but asking these questions can help you find some contenders.

What features does the wellness app offer?

African american man sitting outdoors before his training. He is holding mobile phone and looking at it.

Think about what you want out of the app. Decide if you’re looking for something that merely provides  information, or if you would rather have an interactive experience. Here are some features to consider:

  •       Daily step or activity tracking
  •       Sleep monitoring
  •       Nutrition or water intake tracking
  •       Access to a detailed food database that lets you easily select foods to track your calories
  •       Connection to, or even compete with other users who have similar goals
  •       Access to coaching or exercise and nutrition plans

Some basic apps have a limited number of features, while others are a one-stop-shop with a host of capabilities. Figuring out your must have features can help whittle down the wellness app marketplace.

Where does the information in the wellness app come from?

Preparation for the training. Runner women tying running shoes laces getting ready for race on run track with smartphones.

General wellness apps are not required to prove that the health content or advice offered is accurate or medically sound, safe or up-to-date. To help determine if an app is rooted in evidence-based science, find out where the health information or advice comes from. Look for a general wellness app that has reliable sources for all of its health content, preferably written or reviewed by people in the medical field. Some trustworthy sources include government organizations, professional societies and educational institutions, like colleges and universities. Also, make sure the information is current. Health information should be updated at least every three years.

Does the wellness app guarantee any results?

Top view shot of woman training outdoors and using a smartphone to monitor her fitness progress.

Steer clear of apps that promise grand results instantly. These likely won’t produce the health outcomes you want. Changing your habits requires hard work, and it doesn’t happen overnight. Search for an app that uses behavior-change strategies that you have heard of before and that are supported by research as effective. These are techniques your doctor would likely recommend, such as short- and long-term goal setting, self-monitoring, social support, problem solving, reminders and rewards for making healthy choices.

Is your personal and health information secure?

Beautiful young woman in the city with smart phone, smartwatch and earphones, listening music. Using a fitness app for tracking weight loss progress, running goal or summary of her run. Rear view.

Carefully read the app’s privacy policy before you sign on. Be wary of any apps without a privacy policy. It’s common for wellness apps to ask for personal and health information. Try to find out where your personal information and any additional data goes, from activity-tracking to personal messages. Sometimes data from apps is collected and shared.

What do others say about the app?

Close up shot of young sportswoman looking at smartwatch. Fitness female monitoring her progress on smartwatch.

Check out app reviews and ratings before making a purchase. An app with a handful of reviews and a one- or two-star rating likely won’t work for as many people as an app with thousands of reviews and four or five stars. Ask around to see what wellness apps friends and family members use. If you’re looking for an app that offers group chat or competitions, it can be extra motivating to connect with your loved ones on the same platform.

Can you take the app for a test drive?

Young woman checking her running results at the smartphone

Many apps give you the opportunity to try it before you buy it. Some apps have preview versions with limited features, while others offer free trial periods of the full version of the apps. Make sure you enjoy it and that it’s easy to use. If it’s not user-friendly, you likely won’t continue to use the app. And as a result, you won’t meet your health goals.

Continue to shop around until you find the app that meets your needs. Keep in mind that new apps come out all the time, and many older apps are updated often. With some patience, persistence and possibly trial and error, you can find the best wellness app for you.

Jenilee Matz, MPH is a Medical Writer at Walgreens, where you can find a variety of vitamins and supplements to help fill gaps in your diet and that may support your immune system health. She is an avid runner and enjoys helping others to adopt healthier lifestyles.   

Although it is intended to be accurate, neither Walgreen Co., its subsidiaries or affiliates, nor any other party assumes for loss or damage due to reliance on this material. Walgreens does not recommend or endorse any products, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned in the article. Reliance on any information provided by this article is solely at your own risk.

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