Northern Alberta Institute of Technology

7 cool apps to help you find balance this school year

NAIT experts share their favourite recommendations

Back to school, back to a routine. When you’re balancing classes, studying, jobs and a social life, your commitment to health and wellness can slide. It happens to the best of us.

Good news! There are apps that can make life a little bit easier. We asked NAIT experts for their favourites.

fitness app1. Best fitness app: MyFitnessPal

What it’s for: Tracking your physical activity and caloric food intake.

Why we like it: “It’s the one I recommend the most,” says health and wellness coordinator Amy Eversley (Personal Fitness Trainer ’10). MyFitnessPal has a great fitness component.

“You can track exercise based on cardiovascular and weights, and you can create your own exercises,” she says. “It connects with other apps and devices like Fitbit and Apple Watch, which makes life easy.”

2. Best nutrition app: Fooducate

What it’s for: Helps you make healthy food choices, providing healthy food alternatives and recipes while encouraging discussion about nutrition.

“I like it because it grades thousands and thousands of food labels.”

Why we like it: “I like it because it grades thousands and thousands of food labels,” says NAIT’s dietitian Nick Creelman. “You scan the barcode of a product and it will give a quick assessment and provide a letter grade. This can then help give you an idea of whether or not the product is on the healthy or less-healthy side.”

As an added bonus, Fooducate will also provide alternatives to the product you’re scanning so you can make a healthier choice.

Money management app3. Best overall wellness app: Headspace

What it’s for: Helps you relax through guided meditations and courses for different moods.

Why we like it: “It is a gateway to help remind yourself of what is important to you and to use your time and energy on things that matter,” says student recreation coordinator Curtis Dell.

Headspace covers several areas of wellness.

“The basic program is free,” he says. “You can subscribe and have access to sessions on anything from stress, to compassion, to anger – for a fee, but often offered at a 40% reduction in price.”

4. Best budgeting app: Mint

What it’s for: Managing money, tracking bills and creating custom budgets.

“It provides one place to track all your spending, from bank accounts to credit cards.”

Why we like it: “It provides one place to track all your spending, from bank accounts to credit cards,” says Finance instructor Max Varela Arevalo. “It allows you to set up budgets for every month and sends you spending alerts.”

Mint will also let you analyze trends based on your habits and check your credit score for free.

5. Best mindfulness app: Calm

What it’s for: Relaxation through guided meditations, mindfulness audio classes, calming music tracks and sleep stories.

mindfulness app “The app has meditations for anxiety, managing stress and depression.”

Why we like it: “The Calm app is one that I have on my phone,” says counsellor Caren Anderson. “I really like how it engages your senses right away. When I opened it today, it had the sound of water and birds. The app has meditations for anxiety, managing stress and depression and can be a positive way to start or end your day.”

Another reason Anderson likes Calm is the collection of sleep stories. It’s a nice alternative to counting sheep, and you can choose from a selection of narratives to help you fall into a slumber.

6. Best app for staying focused: Forest

What it’s for: An anti-distraction app that motivates you to stay on task.

Why we like it: “I get the most positive feedback about it,” says learning strategist Maral Sahaguian. Forest provides some visual stimulation, plus it’s low cost. The app encourages you to stay off your smartphone by growing a virtual tree. If you get distracted by an app, your tree dies. The more you use the app and study distraction free, the more credits you earn so that Forest plants a real tree somewhere in the world.

“It’s an engaging way to stay focused and study,” she says.

7. Most random and fun app: Zombies, Run!

What it’s for: Encourages physical activity with a fun exer-game.

Why we like it: Eversley recommended Zombies, Run! as a way to blow off steam at the end of a long work or school day. Go for a walk or jog while listening to the stories about zombies. If the narration tells you they’re getting closer, you must speed up to avoid being taken down by the undead.

“It’s like an audiobook, running challenge and interactive game in one,” she says. “It’s very cool.”


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