Smartphones and wearable devices are now making it possible to monitor your health and fitness anytime and anywhere.

iphone-healthIn 2014, technology industry commentator Flurry studied the usage of over 6,800 iPhone and iPad apps listed in the health and fitness category.  It found these apps had experienced a 62% increase in usage. This compared to a 33% increase in usage, measured in sessions, for the mobile app industry in general. This meant that growth in health and fitness category was 87% faster than the industry in general, which is itself growing at an astounding rate.

What is responsible for all this growth?  First, a glance at wellness and fitness accessories retailed by Apple in the US is a good indication on how many health, fitness and vital sign tracking devices that smartphones can replace. These accessories come with applications that are designed for daily use. Second, there has been a lot of innovation in the apps themselves over the past two years, especially when it comes to integration with Facebook and other prominent social networks. Friends can cheer each other on, like and share their achievements and even start competing against each other. This innovation has increased the distribution of these apps through the social networking channel.

running-with-phoneMost of the growth in the health and fitness category appears to be coming from a  segment of mobile consumers which Flurry calls “Fitness Fanatics.”  These are predominantly mothers age 25 to 54 who are sports fans and lead healthy lifestyles.

Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a leading venture capital firm, has predicted that by 2017, 30% of US consumers will be wearing a device to track food, exercise, heart rate and other critical vital signs. Since Fitness Fanatics are the heavy users of these applications on smartphones and tablets, this segment will probably be among the early adopters for wearables, especially watches and bands.

Here are some examples of mobile health apps in use today:

  • HealthTap is creating a mobile “triage” system, where consumers can ask doctors questions and find out the most effective way to get specific care.
  • Diabetic? Welldoc recently rolled out BlueStar, a doctor-prescribed app that offers coaching.
  • Have asthma? Try the Asthmapolis sensor which passively logs your data via Bluetooth LE and gives you personalized feedback and education on how to control your asthma.
  • Kaiser Permanente has a great mobile app for its members to store all their health records, make appointments, email with their doctors, view test results, and fill prescriptions. More than 4 million of Kaiser’s 9 million members are online.
  • MyFitnessPal is teaching consumers a new way to track their nutritional intake and lose weight. Personal trainers will tell you nutrition is 80% of the battle in maintaining a healthy lifestyle that can ward off diabetes, heart disease – even cancer.
  • There are a growing number of wearable devices including Fitbit, Jawbone UP, Nike Fuel, Misfit Shine, all of which use a 3-axis accelerometer to track your overall activity and guesstimate calorie burn. They also analyze your sleep patterns. Million of these devices have been sold. However, today’s devices are just the beginning, we will see a much greater level of accuracy with heart rate and other biometrics included in future versions.

Mobile health and fitness apps are becoming an important part of the personalized medicine revolution.

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