There's an app for that! Using technology to promote healthy aging

The Bottom Line

  • Devices and gadgets that monitor and track progress can help motivate people to reach their health and fitness goals.
  • Options are available for all preferences and budgets. The “best” ones are those you will use consistently!

Whether you’re the type that can’t wait for the release of the newest electronic device, or you long for the ‘good old days’ when life was simpler with less screen time, the fact remains that technology now impacts almost every aspect of life – including health and wellness. Embracing technology can be to our benefit, particularly when it comes to a living a healthy lifestyle.

When we resolve (again) to exercise more or to eat better, there are more options than ever for tracking our progress including “smart wearables,” computer applications, activity monitors and a wide range of devices, gadgets and doodads to help us meet our goals.

So how come we’re not all at our ideal weight and fitness level!? Are these devices just another collection of pricey electronic toys – destined to be lost and forgotten when the novelty has worn off – or do they really help people become healthier and more active?

Useful tools or high tech toys? What the research tells us

Research evidence from recent systematic reviews sheds light on the value of some of the current technology-based options for improving health, promoting lifestyle changes that aim to protect against heart disease and other chronic conditions. Click on the titles to read more, including details about the research findings.

You wear it well

Portable and wearable technology – from simple pedometers to high-tech digital monitors – have been shown to increase physical activity in at-risk populations including those who are overweight or obese, sedentary older adults and people with chronic diseases such as diabetes.

LOL - a motivational text message

Texting is not just for the kids anymore – adults of all ages have taken to this mode of relaying short messages instantly. Studies show that motivational/educational messages delivered via text help people in their efforts to quit smoking and may also support those who need to stick to their treatments and increase their activity levels.

You’ve got to move it, move it…

A lot of people are self-proclaimed “couch potatoes” but too much sitting time can be dangerous to our health. Turns out, it’s not enough to exercise more if we still sit for the same amount of time each day. Changing daily habits, using simple step counters and setting goals (eg. steps per day) can help people reduce the time they spend sitting.

Wii – or rather YOU – are the champions

Virtual reality computer-based games and activities are fun, but they can also encourage physical activity. The latest research shows that Wii-based exercise programs can help older adults improve their balance.

Making lifestyle changes for the good of our health is wise and can help us feel better, live longer and maintain mobility and independence as we age. But it isn’t always easy to get started or to stay motivated. A cool new gadget could be the answer, particularly when it comes to recording all the good things you do and seeing the steady progress you make. For many people, that goes a long way toward keeping up the momentum and sticking with the plan.

Thinking about investing in a new tracker or monitoring device? Start by deciding what you want it for based on your goals, habits and preferences and taking into account your budget and technical “comfort level.” Some higher priced options are loaded with functions, but if you don’t use them – or you spend more time trying to figure them out than exercising – they may not be a good choice.

Ultimately, the best fitness device for you is one you continue to use every day and one that supports you in your quest to live a healthy, active lifestyle.

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DISCLAIMER: These summaries are provided for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for advice from your own health care professional. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal (

Many of our Blog Posts were written before the COVID-19 pandemic and thus do not necessarily reflect the latest public health recommendations. While the content of new and old blogs identify activities that support optimal aging, it is important to defer to the most current public health recommendations. Some of the activities suggested within these blogs may need to be modified or avoided altogether to comply with changing public health recommendations. To view the latest updates from the Public Health Agency of Canada, please visit their website.