The Five Best Free Apps to Maintain Healthy Habits this Semester
Issue   |   Wed, 09/13/2017 - 01:18
Graphic by Justin Barry ’18
Plant Nanny, Walkr, Strava, Calm, and Spotify are some of the many apps that can help with developing and maintaining mental, physical and emotional health.

Returning to school after a relaxing summer break is hard, and it can be easy to let the healthy practices you developed over the summer fall to the wayside once you’re back on campus. That’s where your phone comes in to save the day. With engaging graphics and daily challenges, these apps may feel like games but they can make a huge difference in encouraging you to keep healthy habits and maybe even avoid the next campus wide cold.

Plant Nanny: To help you drink more water and less coffee.
This app is a personal favorite of mine, as I love plants (but can never keep them alive) and also never drink enough water. The premise of this app is simple: plant yourself a floral friend and every time you drink a glass of water your plant gets some water as well. Set a goal for how much water you want to drink and watch as your plant grows and blooms until it’s ready to be put in your virtual garden. But beware, if you don’t drink enough water your plant will start to wilt and die. Drinking enough water is essential to many aspects of your health, but it can be hard to make yourself drink water when presented with the plethora of sodas, juices and teas at Val. However, the satisfaction I get from reaching my goal everyday and seeing my plant grow keeps me chugging good old water.

Walkr: To help you reach your 10,000 steps a day.
Jump onto the Walkr spaceship and prepare to explore an extraordinary universe, complete with over 100 planets like “Sushi Mountain,” “Soccer Sphere” and “Botanical Garden.” The Walkr spaceship isn’t powered by fuel, however, but rather your steps. The more steps you take every day, the further you can venture into the cosmos, so you can use your daily pilgrimage to class to help you catch ’em all! Made by the makers of Plant Nanny, this app is another favorite of mine because of the whimsical and detailed graphics of the planets you can discover. Also, knowing that I’m only 100 steps away from discovering a new planet has me choosing the stairs over the elevator more often than not.

Strava: For the future Boston Marathon or Tour de France participant.
Strava instantly turns your phone into the world’s most advanced pedometer. Just press record when you hit the trail and Strava will tell you the distance of your ride or run, your current and average speed, elevation gained and total time. By using Strava every time you ride or run, you can easily track your progress over time and set goals for yourself on the app. Strava will also create an interactive map of your workout that you can refer to later or even share with friends to create some friendly competition. I’m a big bike rider and appreciate Strava for its easy-to-use interface and how simple it makes it to challenge yourself to either go faster or further on your next ride. All the data is right at your fingertips. Encouraging yourself to exercise more is not only obviously great for your physical health, it can also make a huge difference in your mental health as well, so next time you’re feeling overwhelmed go try and beat your best speed!

Calm: For when you need to chill out.
The app opens by instructing you to take a deep breath. From there you can choose a goal with which you’d like the app to help you with, with options including reducing stress, sleeping better, increasing happiness and reducing anxiety. There are music tracks within the app to help you relax and “sleep stories” specifically designed to make falling asleep easier. However, the main feature of the app is the guided meditations, which include audio and images to help calm your nerves before that big test or performance. Taking care of your mental health is just as important as caring for your physical health, and the stress of starting a new school year can be intense. Taking some time to de-stress is beneficial to your emotional health, but it can be hard to know exactly how to do it ­­­— we aren’t exactly born with the skills to meditate. Thankfully, this app is here to make de-stressing as relaxing as possible.

Spotify: The music app that does more.
OK, here’s one you probably already have on your phone, but Spotify is good for a lot more than just listening to your favorite musicians. I’m a big fan of Spotify, and I always enjoy discovering new features that make the app even better. For example, I love using the Spotify Running feature, which tracks how fast you are running and plays a song that matches your tempo according to the genre you’ve selected. Along with this, Spotify has dozens of pre-made workout playlists for everything from biking to weightlifting. However, my favorite under-the-radar feature is the treasure trove of “chill” playlists on Spotify that are perfect for listening to when relaxing and also help me calm down when studying for a big test or writing an important essay.

Next time you get out your phone, instead of using it to check Instagram, use it to help you take care of your mental and physical health. Whether you want to drink more water, exercise more or relieve some stress: there’s an app for that!

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