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These 3 health app features hold the secrets to behavior change

You’ve probably noticed that wearable devices and apps that help track your physical activity, eating and sleeping habits have really taken off in the last few years. There are tens of thousands of them out there—you may even use one yourself. But according to Heather Patrick and Melanie Hingle, two scientists whose research focuses on mobile and wireless approaches to health behavior change, the secret to your success won’t be the technology itself, but how you choose to use it.

In this article published at Next Avenue, Patrick and Hingle highlight three key features in an app or wearable device that use proven techniques for health behavior change.

  1. Self-monitoring.  The majority of apps and devices allow you to track behavior such as physical activity or food and drink consumption. While it can feel like a nuisance to regularly track your behavior (especially in the case of food intake, which can’t yet be logged automatically), doing so is essential to identifying habits, patterns and areas for improvement, as well as keeping track of your progress. 

  2. Goal-setting. Keep your eye out for apps and devices that not only make it easy to set goals, but to customize them. You’re more likely to follow through with a goal if it fits your personal needs and desires.

  3. Connecting with others. One of the best and most unique aspects of using technology to help you reach your health behavior goals is that it can connect you with others who are pursuing similar goals, whether they’re family, friends or complete strangers. Health apps and devices with a social component provide a space for motivation, encouragement, feedback and friendly competition, all of which can help you stay on track as you work toward your goals.

Technology isn’t a quick fix for long-term change—in the end, change comes from you. But when it’s used strategically, it can help you to reach goals and change your behavior (and your health!) for the better.