Smart Living | Lifestyle

Lifestyle | 05 Oct 2023

Use apps to take charge of your health this winter

Apps and other tech can help you improve your sleep, wellbeing and overall preparedness for the coming onslaught of winter weather.

The nights are drawing in and the leaves are turning golden. You can almost smell the changing of the seasons on the wind. If, that is, your nostrils aren’t blocked. Because autumn also heralds the start of the cold and flu season. A time when we stay indoors, with the windows sealed, breathing in all those recirculating germs. A time when we exercise less, eat more treats and expose ourselves to less immunity-building, Vitamin-D-producing natural light.

If you’re determined to give yourself a fighting chance this winter against seasonal bugs, there is hope. An array of apps and digital tools are available to help you keep yourself as happy and healthy as possible while we dream of spring.


Mindfulness techniques have been shown to help manage anxiety.

So, if you find yourself turning blue, give Headspace a go. This science-backed app contains a library of different mindfulness exercises, many designed to address specific concerns (from anxiety to anger and even poor sleep). Subscription packages start at £4.17 a month.

Sleep soundly

Studies show that people who don’t get enough sleep (or good quality sleep) are more likely to fall ill when exposed to a virus like the common cold. So try to supercharge your sleep with Sleep Cycle – an app that analyses your sleep patterns, detects snoring and sleep talking, then gives you tailored advice about how to improve your slumbering hours. It’s free, with in-app purchases.

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Start the day the right way

As we wake up in a blurry haze to the sound of our alarms, and to darkness rather than light, many of us will be slamming the snooze button more frequently. As a counter to that familiar habit, try replacing your conventional alarm clock with Yoga Wake Up – an app that doesn’t just wake you up. It follows its alarm with a quick yoga or meditation sequence, personalised to your levels of experience, and designed to help you start the day with clarity and positivity. Subscriptions start at around £4.80 a month.

Sing yourself happy

Music, it turns out, is magic. Upbeat tunes spark the production of dopamine and serotonin – so called ‘happy hormones’ – in the brain, while symphonic music can lower cortisol levels (and thereby your own feelings of stress). Music can even boost your physical health – one study found that listening to classical music brings blood pressure down. So open up Spotify, YouTube Music (with your choice of either available for a low fee on some Vodafone Pay Monthly mobile plans) or your other music app of choice, and make yourself some winter playlists.

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Eat well and be merry

We all know that a balanced diet is crucial for good health, but sometimes (especially in winter) we need a little extra motivation. Noom is an app that uses psychology and behavioural science to, in their words, “help you better understand your relationship with food, how to be more mindful of your habits, and give you the knowledge and support you need for long-lasting change.” Short, personalised daily lessons work to educate and motivate you, while tools track your progress. Recipes and extra coaching are available too. It costs around £12.50 a month.

See a GP

Despite our best efforts, sometimes you just need to see a professional. But with waiting times soaring at many GP surgeries, that’s not always straight forward. Push Doctor works in partnership with the NHS to provide virtual appointments through your smartphone or computer. It only works if your surgery has partnered with the company, but around 5.8 million NHS patients do currently have free access to the service. Sign in, book a same-day appointment, and speak to an NHS-trained doctor by video, with the ability to send text and images too. Private appointments are available too, at £45 per appointment.

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Stimulate your brain with new skills

If it’s too cold wet outside, stay indoors instead and learn a new skill. Research suggests it will do wonders for your wellbeing, boosting your confidence and developing your sense of purpose. It is also great for your brain health, promoting neuroplasticity and the white matter you need for problem-solving and focus.

The Udemy website has over 210,000 online video courses in subjects ranging from web development to embroidery. Some are free. 62 million people are already learning, in 75 different languages. So, no excuses!

Keep track of your stats

If you want to have your health data close at hand (literally), then the Fitbit Charge 5 (£129) could be just the ticket. It does all the usual things we have come to expect from a wearable fitness tracker (keeping tabs on your activity levels and heart rate). It also checks for ‘irregular heart rhythms’ with ECG-like measurements, so you can have more informed conversations with your doctor about your heart health. It also monitor your sleep and uses an electrodermal activity (or EDA) sensor to help measure your body’s response to stress.

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Wear what’s right for the weather

screenshot of the Met Office weather forecast app running on an iPhone 13 mini

Getting wet and cold can lower your body temperature, thereby affecting your immune system and raising your risk of catching a cold or the flu. It’s also just miserable. Avoid it by downloading Met Office Weather Forecast – a free app that gives you highly respected weather forecasts direct from the Met Office experts. Never find yourself caught short in a rainstorm again.

Get jabbed

If you’ve over 65, have certain health conditions or meet other specific criteria, you can get vaccinated against flu on the NHS. Meeting many of the same criteria will make you eligible for a COVID-19 booster vaccination too – you may be offered both at the same time. If you’re eligible for both vaccinations, they could save not only you, but the people around you, from both temporary bedridden misery and potentially debilitating long-term illness.

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