It’s something almost everyone carries with them, and uses on a daily basis. We hear a lot about smartphones, usually the negative aspects: The dangers of texting and driving, the way that smartphones often diminish the ability to have conversations, how checking email and social media at all hours of the night disrupts sleep and causes stress.
For all of the negative aspects of smartphones, though, they are a part of modern life and not going anywhere any time soon. And with the right approach — and a few adjustments — your smartphone can actually become an important part of your strategy for maintaining good health.
Benefit #1: There’s an App for That
Considering that there are apps for everything from adding facial hair to your snapshots to those that tell you exactly how high you’re holding your device, it shouldn’t be a surprise that there are literally hundreds of apps that help you manage your health. Consider adding some of these types of apps to your phone:
Your Health Insurer’s Official App. Most major health insurance carriers have applications that customers can use to manage their accounts, see the status of claims, find providers, and look up health information.
Workout Apps. Want to run a 5K this fall? Try downloading one of the many training apps, which will help you get in tiptop shape — or at least not collapse in a heap after the first mile. Other apps provide suggestions for stretching and strength training, or help you keep track of your workouts so you can meet your goals.
Food Apps. One of the best ways to stay on track with your eating is to keep track of what you eat and when, and there are apps that will help you do that. From food journals to directories of nutritional information, there’s an app that will help you manage your diet effectively.
Medication Management. If you have trouble remembering to take your medicine each day, or you need to monitor certain vital information, such as your blood sugar levels, to determine your medication dosage, there are apps that can help. Many allow you to keep track of not only the medications you’re taking, but will send an alarm or alert when it’s time for your dose — and if you miss a dose, notify a friend, family member, or health care provider who can check up on you.
Benefit #2: Online Access
One of the reasons smartphones have taken over the mobile market is their ability to provide Internet access just about wherever you are, whenever you need it. When it comes to your health, this can save you time and money — or even save your life. For example, when filling prescriptions, you can compare your local pharmacy’s prices with an online pharmacy to find the best value, while also looking at the pharmacy’s FAQ page to make sure that it’s reputable and will meet your needs. Your phone can also help you look up the information you need while on the go. If you’re not feeling well or having symptoms, using your phone to access an online symptom checker can help you decide whether to see a doctor immediately, or if you can afford to wait. If there’s a medical emergency? Your phone can help you determine the right course of action — and call for help.
Benefit #3: It Takes a Village
According to one study, people who have large groups of friends tend to outlive those who do not by as much as 22 percent. As we get older, though, it becomes more difficult to maintain social relationships. Work and family responsibilities make it difficult to find time to connect with friends, and as we age, social isolation due to death, illness, and changes in families tends to be common.
A smartphone, though, can help keep social connections intact, and encourage you to be more social and enjoy the health benefits that come with that. Social media is one option, as connecting with friends and family from all over the world and from all of your roles in life (school, work, church etc.) is easy in that environment. However, staying connected via phone calls, texts, and emails is also easier with a smartphone. Just a quick message to say hello can brighten someone’s day and create endorphins that reduce stress for hours.
If you’re attempting to reach a health goal, those social connections can be invaluable as well. An online group of others who are trying to lose weight, quit smoking, eat healthier, or manage a health condition can go a long way toward providing encouragement and support during your journey. Not only can they help you get through tough times, like cravings, they will also celebrate your accomplishments — and it’s all there with just a few keystrokes.
So while you might curse your smartphone when it rings during dinner, or when you simply can’t seem to reach the next level on Candy Crush, keep in mind that it can also be a very useful tool for staying healthy. Just remember to put the phone away occasionally, to turn it off when you go to bed, and never use it while driving.