There is no doubt that technology can improve the way we live our  lives and improve our health and wellbeing but we still have to take the  actions. I haven’t seen an app out there that can improve your health  just by installing it, I am sure some claim they can though. You have to  use the capabilities and information it provides to make decisions and  act accordingly.

Connecting the things

As a data geek I love the quantified self movement. Understanding my  body, my health and how to improve it with insights is super cool.  Having so much information can cause a signal v noise issue, but managed  properly can give real insights and help me make better decisions.

I have a simple interconnected architecture that allows me to do just that.

Diagram of smartphone applications and their data interconnections
Diagram of smartphone applications and their data interconnections

My Personal Health Application Architecture

Garmin Device

The Garmin receives real time information from four sensors when I  cycle. My heart rate in beats per minute, cadence in revolutions per  minute, speed in kph and power data in watts. These data points are  captured ever second when I am out cycling.

In addition the Garmin also records my GPS position (it has a  satellite navigation too, which is great for riding new routes) and  transmits this via my phone to the Garmin connect application on my  phone. This updates Garmin live view with the all this data so my wife  can see where I am in real time and that my heart is still beating, a  good thing for her (and me).

Strava

At the end of a ride, my Garmin notifies Garmin connect which then  uploads the completed ride and all the data points to Strava, where I am  able to track rides, connect with friends and look at various  statistics around my performance. This all happens in real time without  pressing a button. Data is also sent to My Fitness Pal to record how  many calories I have burned and transmits the same data to Apple Health  Kit.

Health Coach

This is an app that communicates with my digital scales, I just have  to stand on them with the app open and the scales transmit my weight,  body fat %, BMI, Water % and Muscle %. Health Coach sends all this data  to Apple Health Kit app. These scales cost about £20, I think I picked  them up from a Lidl. They are one of the best purchases I have made that  is health related in terms of value.

Apple Health Kit

This brings everything together as most applications now talk with it  either directly or by proxy. Although I rarely use it as anything other  than an integration hub for getting data from Health Coach into MyFitnessPal.

My Fitness Pal

This is where I manage most of my health and have a daily view. I  track what I eat and drink in this application and balance my  macronutrients levels around 40% Protein, 30% Carbohydrates and 30%  Fats. I can see my weight chart, and see how much of a calorific deficit  my body is in each day when the exercise calories burned are deducted  from my total personal permitted allowance.

Image showing all the food I ate on a given day and a log of my cycling activities
A typical day tracking my food and exercise
Apple Watch

I don’t really have much to say about this other than I have one. It  tracks my heart rate throughout the day and steps/activity levels etc  but it doesn’t really do anything for me, it adds very little in terms  of insights, causality analysis. Perhaps that is because I chose to  focus my insights on MyFitnessPal instead of Apple Health Kit but that  is because I am already there logging my food and drink intake. Others  may use it differently, for me it tells me the time when it’s not run  out of battery and interrupts me just as much as my phone.

Using tools to perform complicated tasks

All this sounds rather complex, I assure you it’s not and you can  have most of this setup fairly easily. What it gives me is such an  informed view of my body and how it reacts to changes I can predict with  a high degree of accuracy what a heavy night out will do to my body in  terms of weight gain (usually water retention due to dehydration) and  how my body responds to my cycling commutes and my cycling hobby  activities.

Over the last 5 weeks I decided to drop 10 lbs to improve my power to  weight ratio of watts per kilogram on the bike. Here is what I  achieved.

A chart showing a 9.4lb weight loss over the period of a month
Weight Loss Chart

I have decided to press on and lose another 10 lbs, so it’s just a case of adjusting my macronutrients and repeating.

If you decide to follow this path good luck, although you won’t need it, it’s science.