5 apps for shaping up your health habits in the new year

If you’re anything like me, you start the new year confident that you can kick your bad habits to the curb, but by February, it’s those grand ambitions for self-improvement that get left behind instead.

Without external support, it can be difficult to stick to resolutions for improving your diet, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly or undertaking any other health-related routine. But a growing set of startups have launched apps to help people modify their behavior by making them more aware of their current routines and connecting them with communities of experts or networks of peers aspiring to achieve similar goals.

And these apps don’t just want to help those who want to lose weight or up their daily activity. They also take a more holistic approach, offering support for people whose goals include things like avoiding caffeine, practicing meditation, improving their posture and more.

Obviously, the apps themselves can only do so much — self-improvement strivers still need to dig in their heels and work on their own sticktoitiveness. But, if you’ve been trying to break a habit for a while, here are five apps that might help you get further in 2013 than you did in 2012.


One of the older apps of the bunch, Fitocracy combines social networking with activity tracking to help people stick to whatever fitness goals they’ve set, from running their first 5k to practicing more yoga to following a paleo diet. As people complete activities or follow routines, they log their progress on the app but the most valuable feature is the ability to join groups of people engaged in similar activities. Newbie fitness nerds, for example, can find support in a group called “Nah, I’ll take the stairs” or regular marathoners can swap tips in a group on long-distance running.  (iOS only)


Since launching last year, HealthTap’s goal has been to help patients connect with a network of 30,000 doctors willing to answer questions online. But, this month, the startup launched a new section focused on new year’s resolutions to support people who are interested in improving their general health but don’t have a pressing medical issue.  Through the app, people can browse information on a range of topics –from diet and exercise to lowering stress and improving relationships. And, for each topic, HealthTap enables people to follow and ask questions of the doctors most familiar with those issues, as well as view videos recorded by those doctors. (iOS and Android)


Endorsed by the U.S. Surgeon General, Healthy Habits coaches people along the path to forming healthier behavior patterns by reminding them about the activities they should (and shouldn’t) complete and giving them a place to record their progress.  Users can select from a “Habit Library” or create their own custom habits and then indicate how frequently they want to receive reminders related to each. For motivation, users can include a picture and/or quote related to why they want to change the habit as well as an image or quote related to the reward they’ll give themselves when they succeed. It’s one of the more basic-looking apps – the aesthetic isn’t anything to write home about – but it gets the job done. (iOS only)


juice appAll the way on other end of the design spectrum, Bloom and Juice (both made by Mindbloom) use inspiring images and sophisticated graphics to motivate people to healthier living. Bloom, which launched last year, lets people select from several “Life Areas,” including health, relationships, lifestyle and creativity, and then create “Blooms” that weave motivational images, music and quotes into reminders about specific activities.  For example, if you need to drink more water, you can choose a picture from their gallery (of beautiful images) and a song (from your music library or iTunes) to remind you at a specific time. Juice launched last month and similarly uses engaging aesthetics to help people track their exercise, sleep and diet to improve their energy level.  Each day, users log their mood, energy and activities and, over time, the app generates custom expert-submitted tips for improvement. (iOS only)


Backed by Obvious Corp., the startup incubator-type venture created by Twitter founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone, Lift aims to encourage good habits by letting people “check-in” to healthy and positive activities and find motivation in the progress of peers. It supports health-related activities, like taking multivitamins and maintaining good posture, but also includes productivity and general lifestyle habits, like blogging more and waking up early. The app displays all the people following each habit and, as people check in, it shares the activity with the group. Members of each group can share comments about their own progress or give “props” and encouragement to their peers. (iOS only)